The full truth as to how the Houston Texans feel about their roster will reveal itself by 3 p.m. today. If they wind up making any sort of significant trade than we get some clarity — it would mean they feel they're fighting to build a better machine for 2021 and beyond. Now, to be clear, they can feel that way about the current season, and STILL not make any deals, but trading Will Fuller, Whitney Mercilus, or — GULP — J.J. Watt would send the clear signal that they've cashed in their chips on 2020.
Sometimes, cashing in what's left of your chips is the right move, even if your stack is seriously depleted from what it was when you walked into the casino. I think it's the right move for the Texans right now, even as they enter Sunday's game in Jacksonville as seven point favorites against the Jaguars. Yes, that's how bad the Jags are. They are a touchdown underdog at home to the 1-6 Texans.
If indeed the Texans are ready to start looking ahead to next season, then there are, quite rankly, certain players we need to see more of over the second half of the season. Here are eight of those players:
6. MORE Duke Johnson, LESS David Johnson
Most of this list, as you will see, is going to be comprised by young players still on their first contracts. Duke Johnson is the rare veteran player where the team needs to find out what they have in him. He was traded for over a year ago in exchange for a third round pick, and when he touches the ball, general speaking, he has been dynamic and impactful. He was third among running backs last season in yards per touch. Yet, the Duke Johnson freeze continues even with Bill O'Brien gone. Johnson's $5 million cap hit next year comes with no dead money, if they decide to move on from him. We need to find out in these last nine games if he is worth keeping.
5. MORE Jonathan Greenard, LESS Whitney Mercilus
Greenard was this team's third round pick, taken with the 90th overall pick, in a draft moment where O'Brien famously flipped out because Detroit backed out of a trade for that pick at the last second. Greenard was injured for nearly all of training camp, so he has been paddling upstream ever since, but honestly, he can't be much worse than Whitney Mercilus or Brennan Sccarlett have been.
4. MORE John Reid, LESS Vernon Hargreaves
Speaking of rookies, throughout training camp, the rookie that drew the most praise was cornerback John Reid, who was a fixture on special teams and who provided some quality snaps at slot corner in practice. Then, the regular season started, and like the rest of the rookies, Reid was put on ice. (Fun fact — the Texans' rookies have played fewer snaps than any team's rookie group this season. Like WAY less, over 100 snaps less collectively.) Hargreaves has gotten the lion's share of the snaps at slot corner, and he is most certainly not a part of this team's future. Reid may be. We need to find out.
3. MORE Kahale Warring, LESS all other tight ends
Since being drafted in the third round in 2019, Warring has yet to take a snap in an NFL regular season game. (Side bar, what is it about the third round and the Texans?) He was drafted largely based on his athletic traits, and not so much his resume as an football player. He was more known for his water polo skills in his formative years. Injuries and an inability to grasp the playbook have done him in, so far. If he can get healthy, and the light goes on upstairs, the Texans could be sitting on a high reward stock.
2. MORE Max Scharping, LESS Senio Kelemete or Zach Fulton
Scharping's 2020 has gone about as poorly as it could for any second year player. After a promising rookie campaign that saw him become a fixture starting at left guard, he lost his starting role to journeyman veteran Senio Kelemete. Then, a week go, he became the first Texans player to test positive for COVID during the season. If the Texans are going to take a big step forward in 2021 and beyond, their talented (but underperforming) offensive line will be a big reason. Scharping's reclaiming his starting role is a must for that to happen in full.
1. MORE Keke Coutee, LESS DeAndre Carter
At his peak, Coutee is a player who accounted for two 11-catch games against the Colts in his rookie year of 2018. At his nadir, Coutee is an afterthought, mired on the inactive list every week as a healthy scratch. So, it's safe to say that Coutee's ceiling is higher than that of DeAndre Carter, whose ceiling is "making fair catches, getting 18 yards on a kickoff return, and fumbling in soul crushing fashion once a month." If you get one forgotten player on the field more these last two weeks, Romeo Crennel, please make it Keke Coutee. If the Texans end up trading one or more receivers, the good news is they will have no choice but to play Coutee more.