The 2021 season could be disastrous for the Houston Texans, as the franchise is mired in a rebuild that didn't need to happen and the franchise quarterback facing an uncertain future. Watson may not even play this year due to an ongoing off-the-field issue -- as he's facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct (Watson also asked to be traded prior to the civil lawsuits).
The Texans still have David Johnson at running back and Brandin Cooks at wide receiver, while adding Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram in the offseason to improve the running game. Tyrod Taylor is expected to be the starter, but third-round pick Davis Mills could give Taylor a run for the starting job if he struggles. Houston has a strong offensive line led by two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil and acquired Marcus Cannon in an offseason trade with the New England Patriots.
Houston was one of the more active teams in free agency, signing linebackers Christian Kirksey, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Jordan Jenkins and Kamu Grugier-Hill, along with cornerbacks Desmond King and Tavierre Thomas, and Terrance Mitchell -- all to improve a defense that allowed the third-most rushing touchdowns and the most rushing yards in the league last year (along with the fewest interceptions).
While the 2021 season doesn't look promising for the Texans, there may be players on the roster to build upon over the next several years. Here is the Texans' 53-man roster.
Note: Asterisks denote rookies.
Geron Christian Sr.
This depth chart has two running backs listed as the starters in Lindsay and Ingram (two running backs with different styles), but Lindsay can easily become the No. 1 running back in this rotation.
Cooks is the top pass-catching option, as the Texans will miss the deep-ball ability of Will Fuller. Keke Coutee was released in favor of Collins -- a third-round pick who averaged 19.7 yards per catch at Michigan last season. Look for a two tight end set with Akins and Brown, as the position improved with with addition of Jordan. He could emerge as the starter later in the year.
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The offensive line has seemingly improved. The tackle spots are solidified between Tunsil and Howard. Houston's offensive line cut four players that started three games last season and needed to improve a unit that's set on running the ball.
Taylor is the starting quarterback to open the year. He can make up to $12.5 million in 2021 for a reason.
Lonnie Johnson Jr.
The Texans have been running a 3-4 defense for a decade, but that's going to change under new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith and his Tampa-2 scheme.
Houston has depth at linebacker. Cunningham could easily play MIKE, but Kirksey has been a solid coverage linebacker throughout his career. Mercilus ends up on the line, clearing the way for Kirksey to emerge as a starter. The Texans linebackers will have a lot of responsibility this year in a 4-3 scheme, so depth will be paramount.
Houston had the fewest turnovers in the league last year and will need to be better in order to compete. Johnson played a lot of cornerback in his rookie season and is still transiting to safety. This group is athletic enough to make plays, and adding Smith as defensive coordinator could be the key to unleashing this unit.
Ka'imi Fairbairn is the kicker and Cameron Johnston is the punter. Jon Weeks is the long snapper.