Speaking in generalities about the upcoming NFL season, the Houston Texans will go as far as Deshaun Watson, their second year quarterback, will take them in 2018. That much was evident last season in 2017, when they went 3-3 (could have, SHOULD have been 5-1) in his six starts with the most potent offense in football, and 1-9 in the ten games Watson did not start, with an offense resembling something between a pop gun and animal intercourse on the Nature Channel.
Yeah, it was bad.
That's how important Watson was, is, and will be to his team's fortunes. However, if we are listing players in order of importance for this team in 2018, most of the next half dozen or so come from what I will call the team's "core" veterans. I define "core" veteran as a player who, at a minimum is on his second contract, and at a maximum, will play until he is a zombie, like Shane Lechler.
Some of those older players, the ones that were brought in this season in free agency like Tyrann Mathieu or Zach Fulton, have been covered in previous "Setting Expectations" iterations. The guys on this list are multi-year Texans, most of them former draft picks from back in the 2010 through 2013 timeframe. This is the meaty part of the veteran chunk of the roster — DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, etc. THESE ARE IMPORTANT GUYS!
So let's take a look now and see what we should expect from this crew of players. Keep in mind, my forecast assumes health for those involved, since getting injured and not being able to play is an overly obvious "worst case scenario." (We like to use our brains here!) So let's get after it — here are the best and worst case 2018 scenarios for the Texans' "core" group:
SHANE LECHNER, punter, 19th season
BEST CASE: Pro Bowl punter approaching his mid-40's
WORST CASE: Age hits, and he is merely a serviceable punter
JON WEEKS, long snapper, 9th season
BEST CASE: We never mention his name ever during a broadcast
WORST CASE: One or two instances where we mention his name right after a play involving a long snap
RYAN GRIFFIN, tight end, 6th season
BEST CASE: 60 catches, 750 yards, solid pass catching option in a high flying offense
WORST CASE: Surpassed by the two drafted tight ends on the depth chart
JOHNATHAN JOSEPH, cornerback, 13th season
BEST CASE: Subtly retains his job as a starting outside corner
WORST CASE: Veteran voice in the defensive backfield's meeting room
KAREEM JACKSON, cornerback/safety, 9th season
BEST CASE: Versatile, veteran cog in numerous sub packages, possible starting safety
WORST CASE: Cap casualty
LAMAR MILLER, running back, 7th season
BEST CASE: Unspectacular 1,000 yard rusher, with occasional flashes
WORST CASE: Backup to D'Onta Foreman
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WHITNEY MERCILUS, outside linebacker, 7th season
BEST CASE: Double digit sacks, first Pro Bowl nod
WORST CASE: Solid, unspectacular starter for 16 games
J.J. WATT, defensive end, 8th season
BEST CASE: Return to form, wrecks shop, football demigod
WORST CASE: Merely solid, occasionally disruptive, try-hard defensive end
DeANDRE HOPKINS, wide receiver, 6th season
BEST CASE: First team All-Pro.... again
WORST CASE: 1,200 yards, half dozen or so touchdowns, not because he isn't elite, but because Deshaun likes to share
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