Thu, 09 Apr 2020

3 things to watch after Week 1 of free agency | Daily Brew

Houston Texans
25 Mar 2020, 18:02 GMT+10

The changes made last week by the Texans were seismic.

In the first week of free agency, Houston agreed to trade All-Pro receiver and seven-year veteran DeAndre Hopkins. Defensive lineman D.J. Reader reportedly signed with the Bengals.

In exchange for Hopkins, the Texans agreed to acquire a former All-Pro running back in David Johnson and the 40th overall pick in this year's Draft. They also announced they agreed to terms with nearly a dozen free agents.

So what is next?

Here are three things to watch in the months ahead for the Texans.

1) What moves are next? - The Texans will likely keep adding to the mix, and they could wind up plucking some key contributors that fall under the proverbial radar of the most fans and media. The last few years, Houston made its major additions after the first wave of free agency. Last year, they added tight end Darren Fells, cornerback Bradley Roby and safety Tashaun Gipson in the week or so after the start of the League year. All three wound up starting, as Fells caught seven touchdowns and Roby and Gipson were bright spots on the defense.

At the Combine in late February, general manager and head coach Bill O'Brien said he and the team would like to get deals done--"sooner rather than later"--with quarterback Deshaun Watson and left tackle Laremy Tunsil. That duo re-upping with the Texans could be on the near horizon, too.

2) When will we actually see these guys? - Like the rest of the world, the NFL is adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Free agent visits were suspended last week by the League, and there won't be any press conferences in the immediate future. Beyond that, the NFL's postponed offseason conditioning activities indefinitely. The Texans were scheduled to begin offseason training at NRG Stadium on April 20. Organized team activities (OTAs) were slated to get going in mid-May.

Getting clarity on the pandemic will in turn provide answers for when we'll get to see the new additions, as well as the Texans who re-signed with the club.

3) How different will the offense look in 2020? - A lot.

In 2019, Hopkins shared the team lead in scoring catches with Fells. He led the Texans, as he's done every year since 2014, in receptions and receiving yards. He accounted for more than twice as many targets (150) and catches (104) as Will Fuller, V, (71 and 49) who was the closest.

Fuller will obviously be counted upon, and Kenny Stills is returning. The Texans agreed to terms with slot receiver Randall Cobb last week, and he was good for 15.1 yards per catch in 2019 with the Cowboys. He wound up with 55 receptions for 828 yards last year, and over the course of his career he's also run the ball 62 times and contributed in the return game. The tight end group of Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas and Kahale Warring will contribute as well.

Johnson, meanwhile, comes to town with 49 career touchdowns under his belt. 33 came on the ground, 15 were catches, and he returned a kickoff for a score once in his career. He'll pair up with Duke Johnson in the backfield, after the latter teamed with Carlos Hyde in 2019.

Ultimately, this is still Deshaun Watson's offense to run. Entering year four, it'll be fascinating to see what he does to follow up a pair of seasons in which he was the starter under center for 21 wins in 31 contests. The offensive line in front of him was better in 2019 than the year before, and with more continuity and improved chemistry up front, it should only be better in 2020.

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