NFL 2018 power rankings countdown No. 11: Houston Texans

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 01: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans celebrates after a first down reception in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 01: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans celebrates after a first down reception in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

A preview of the Houston Texans ahead of the 2018 season.

Check back every day for a new 2018 team preview in this year’s NFL power rankings countdown.

Today’s team is the Houston Texans.

11. Houston Texans

Keegan’s highest rated player: DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver

Biggest strength: Pass rush

Biggest weakness: Offensive line

Best offseason move: Signing Tyrann Mathieu

Worst offseason move: Not upgrading the offensive line

Game to circle on calendar: Week 1, at New England

Breakout candidate: D’Onta Foreman, running back

Key players in contract years: Bruce Ellington, Sammie Coates, Seantrel Henderson, Jadeveon Clowney, Kareem Jackson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Shane Lechler

Offensive preview

The Texans will have one of the league’s most improved offenses this season if Deshaun Watson stays healthy. There are reasons to be concerned about his health as it wasn’t even his first ACL tear, but if Watson is 100 percent he could be an All-Pro caliber quarterback.

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Houston has an interesting backfield situation this season. Lamar Miller is still a top NFL running back, but there is a chance that D’Onta Foreman eats into his workload. This wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to this team, as Foreman brings power that Miller doesn’t have. Either way, whoever the main Texans back is should be productive as long as Watson is healthy.

DeAndre Hopkins will be a top five receiver this season, even if Watson isn’t healthy. If you have watched Hopkins over the years it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that he’ll be productive no matter who is throwing to him. The Texans have a vacuum in their receiving corps after Hopkins, they’ll need one of their young receivers to step up if they want to be well-rounded at the position.

The Texans are among the league’s worst teams at the tight end position. The starter will most likely be Ryan Griffin, and he’s not an above-average tight end despite his experience.

Houston’s offensive line has been mediocre at best since the Duane Brown trade, and it’s hard to find reasons to believe in this line. Nobody on this offensive line is an above-average player for their position, and the starters are either unproven young players or mediocre veterans. Luckily, the Texans have a mobile quarterback with Watson.

Defensive preview

The Texans will have a strong defense this season, and this could turn out to be one of the league’s best if J.J. Watt stays healthy. The defensive line without Watt is average at best, but a healthy Watt will turn it into a force to be reckoned with.

Names such as Benardrick McKinney, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercillus are key reasons why the Texans have one of the strongest linebacking corps in football. Don’t be surprised if Clowney notches double-digit sacks in a contract year.

Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are reliable starters at cornerback. Joseph isn’t getting younger, but the Texans have a lot of depth at corner if if he regresses. Don’t underestimate the Aaron Colvin signing either, he was a key player on one of the league’s best defenses last season.

The addition of Tyrann Mathieu will have a huge impact on the secondary. It’s rare to see guys of Mathieu’s talent on the open market, and the Texans were smart to capitalize on this. The safety tandem of Andre Hal and Mathieu has a ton of potential.

Coaching staff/front office preview

Bill O’Brien could be on the hot seat if the Texans don’t live up to expectations this season, but the team would be wise to keep him around. O’Brien has had a lot of decent teams (despite mediocre quarterback play) for the vast majority of his tenure in Houston.

The Texans hired Brian Gaine to lead their personnel department this offseason, and so far he has made some good moves with this team. His free agent signings of Colvin and Mathieu will reinvigorate the secondary, and it’ll be interesting to see what he does with a normal draft class next season (the Texans gave up their 2018 first-round pick in the Deshaun Watson trade).

Overall outlook for 2018

The Texans are serious contenders for the AFC South title, and they could be a scary team to play in January with a dynamic young quarterback in Deshaun Watson and one of the best pass rushes in football.

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Previous teams:

12. Carolina Panthers
13. Tennessee Titans
14. Denver Broncos
15. Dallas Cowboys
16. Kansas City Chiefs
17. Seattle Seahawks
18. New York Giants
19. San Francisco 49ers
20. Indianapolis Colts
21. Detroit Lions
22. Arizona Cardinals
23. Chicago Bears
24. Oakland Raiders
25. Baltimore Ravens
26. Washington Redskins
27. Cleveland Browns
28. Buffalo Bills
29. New York Jets
30. Cincinnati Bengals
31. Miami Dolphins
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers