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3 Houston Texans players under pressure to bounce back after the 2023-4 season

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By: l4blitzer

Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

For these three players, 2024-25 will need to go much, much better

In one respect, the answer to this question could be “no one.” Houston exceeded all expectations, going from worst in the league to division champs and a playoff win. With ample cap space and sufficient draft picks, the squad is well set to improve for the 2024-5 season. Also, those already set on the roster should, in theory, only improve under the current system.

However, even for all the optimism, there were Texans players whose memories of 2023-4 season will not engender good feelings. They came into the season expected to either star or play positive contributing roles for the team, only for that not to happen. In particular, three players that stood out for all the wrong reasons. While they don’t necessarily figure to be immediate cuts, their futures in Houston are uncertain.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Houston Texans
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

RB Dameon Pierce: Coming into last season, Pierce figured to be one of the building blocks for the squad as it acclimated to a new coaching staff and offensive scheme. With a rookie QB in tow, having a strong running game was seen as a must. With the new regime looking to install a Kubiak/Shanahan-style offense, which is generally favorable to running backs, Pierce seemed primed for a big season. His 939 yards rushing in his rookie season gave credence to that hope.

Then the season kicked off. The running game just never seemed to get going. A big part of that was the instability along the offensive line, with injuries forcing the squad to shuffle lineups. That the team was still learning a new scheme was not helping matters either. Yet, Pierce could not seem to get going. His punishing style of running did not yield many decent runs, and his average YPC fell from 4.3 in 2022 to 2.9 in 2023.

As the season progressed, Pierce seemed lost. Devin Singletary, signed as a complementary back, eventually took over as primary starter, and Pierce found himself limited to a few token carries. While Pierce did have some success as a kickoff returner, he finished the season as perhaps the biggest example of a sophomore slump for the NFL. While only in his 3rd year, and not carrying much in the way of a cap hit, this coming season is going to be critical for Pierce if he wants to stick around. The team does not appear ready to jettison him, but cutting a 4th round pick after two years is far from unprecedented.

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys
Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

OG Kenyon Green: This site has already addressed the impact his season-ending injury had on the team. However, as a 1st round pick, he will get a bit more leeway, but there will be a lot more pressure on the young man. He was drafted to help the Texans revive a morbid ground game. His rookie season was a mixed bag at best, and like Pierce, he finished his rookie year on IR.

Unlike Pierce, there is much more invested in Green. Given team’s draft capital and cap space, the squad has the resources to strengthen their weaker areas. One of those was Green’s Left Guard spot. The team would rather not use their multitude of resources on a guard, but that is dependent on Green playing up to his draft billing. Likely he will get another chance to claim the guard spot, but Green has to stay healthy and improve significantly, or otherwise, this time next year, his status on the roster will be very, very endangered.

Indianapolis Colts v Houston Texans
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

QB Davis Mills: In one respect, it could be unfair to judge Mills in this fashion. Mills was hardly placed in the best situation for a QB, and while he had some moments in his 2 seasons, it was clear that he was never going to be the face of a franchise. When Houston drafted CJ Stroud, it was not a question of if, but when Stroud would take the mantle of starting QB. That it came to open the season was really not a surprise. At least Mills appeared set in the back-up role, and when Stroud left the field, Mills came in for relief.

Yet, when Stroud entered the concussion protocol, the Houston Texans looked to Case Keenum, the 3rd string QB, as the replacement starter. Never mind that Mills was the primary backup for most the season and that Mills had 26 starts in his career to that point, to include a win at the Titans in 2022, the location of the 1st game of the Stroud-less Texans. While the Texans used language to note Keenum’s playoff experience, there can hardly be a more damning indictment of a backup QB than when a team does not start him when the actual starter is out. While Keenum led the Texans to a 1-1 mark, the veteran QB looked all of his 37+ years the longer he played.

Maybe the Texans think of Mills like a relief pitcher, but relief pitchers in the NFL do not have a long shelf life. Like the previous two players on this list, Mills is on a rookie contract and has him for one more season. Ideally, Houston would not need to spend draft capital or free agency money on the backup QB spot. Yet, this past season showed just how valuable a backup QB can be to a contending team. If Stroud goes down for any length of time, and they won’t turn to Mills, why even keep him on the roster? Hard to say how much more Mills could show the current brain trust, but for his NFL future, he is going to have to do enough to allow the team to see him a viable #2 QB.

Thus, as the NFL calendar flips to the 2024-25 season, it will be curious to see what happens with these three players. Likely they will all be at training camp, but for the sake of their futures with Houston, to say nothing of the NFL, they are going to have to see the 2024-25 season go far better than the 2023-24 did.

Originally posted on Battle Red Blog – All Posts