Sean Pendergast

Five Houston Texans Entering a "Make or Break" Season in 2023

Fairbairn is entering a contract year as one of the highest paid kickers in football.
Fairbairn is entering a contract year as one of the highest paid kickers in football. Photo by Eric Sauseda
The marketing of the National Football league is built around star players, foundational pieces for marquee franchises. The fact of the matter is that most of the 1,800 or so players on NFL rosters are in a constant state of "tryout," either bouncing around the league in season, year to year, or operating tenuously enough to where the film they put out there each week will be their testimonial to their worth as a player.

That "every day is a driving ground" vibe is not just during the regular season in games. It extends to the preseason, and even training camp practices, especially the practices against other NFL teams, as the Texans will conduct with the Dolphins and Saints this summer. For many Houston Texans, it's "make or break" time in 2023, either during camp or certainly by the time the season gets here.

Here are five that fit that "make or break" criteria, for various reasons:

With the signing of Robert Woods and Noah Brown, the return from injury/illness of Nico Collins and John Metchie III, and the drafting of Tank Dell and Xavier Hutchinson, Rodgers has been  forgotten man. He was signed off the street after being waived by the Packers last year, and is a former third round pick from Clemson. If he can't crack the Texans WR rotation, then there probably aren't many NFL GMs searching out Rodgers' skills.

As of right now, Heck is competing for a backup spot as the swing tackle behind Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard. In a perfect world, for the Texans, Heck is not a starter for this team in Week 1. If he is, something has gone wrong. However, as he is heading into a contract year, a big training camp and preseason could really position Heck for some interest in free agency after the year is over, or perhaps even position him as a lower cost replacement for Howard, who is also in a contract year and could command big bucks on the open market next spring.

This one may appear a bit out of place, as Fairbairn is not really fighting to keep his job. Rarely has he been asked to compete for his job at any point in his Texans career. However, Fairbairn is heading into the final year of his contract that Bill O'Brien inked with him four years ago. That deal made Fairbairn one of the highest paid kickers in football. Four years later, he is still the ninth highest paid kicker in the sport. If he wants to stay in that strata of earner, he needs a big 2023. So it's not a career "make or break" season for Fairbairn, but it is a tax bracket "make or break" season.

Like Heck, Greenard is a 2020 draft pick in the final season of his deal. He's been with the team three seasons, with his only moderately healthy season being 2021, where he had eight sacks, and got a lot of folks very excited for 2022. Instead, Greenard missed half the season and only had 1.5 sacks. Bringing in Ryans as the head coach should help all of these guys who play in the front seven, including Greenard.

Like Fairbairn, Collins is in no danger of not making the team, but he needs a healthy season in the worst way, if he wants to be viewed as a long term piece, and potentially get paid in the next couple years. Collins has missed big chunks of his first two NFL seasons, and has only played 24 games of football, period, since 2019, having skipped his 2020 season at Michigan during the pandemic. Collins' label now is "injury prone" and the only thing that erases that is playing 15 to 17 games in 2023.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast