Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans Boast Best Offensive Skill Groups in AFC South

Dalton Schultz is a candidate for the franchise tag from the Texans.
Dalton Schultz is a candidate for the franchise tag from the Texans. Photo by Eric Sauseda
It's hard to believe that just two seasons ago, the Houston Texans went into the 2022 NFL season with their offensive skill group looking like this (R stands for "rookie"):

RB: Rex Burkhead, Dameon Pierce (R)
WR: Brandin Cooks, Chris Moore, Nico Collins (not the 2023 version), Phillip Dorsett
TE: O.J. Howard, Pharaoh Brown, Brevin Jordan

That's painful to look at, and the pain is only exacerbated when you realize that the team was leaning heavily on second year quarterback Davis Mills to make a big leap from Year 1 to Year 2. Needless to say, nothing remotely resembling that leap ever came about, and that was probably okay, considering Mills' failure led to the drafting of C.J. Stroud.

Speaking of Stroud, he is now the one pulling the trigger for the Texans, and he has a supporting cast that is the polar opposite of that laughingstock we detailed above. This season's Texans offense should be among the most prolific and exciting in the NFL.

With the first primary goal being a successful defense of their AFC South crown, where do the Texans' offensive skill weapons match up with their division foes? Let's take a look, and count it down, from fourth to first. Here is a ranking of the primary skill position players for each team in the AFC South:

RB: Tony Pollard
WR: Calvin Ridley, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyler Boyd
TE: Chigoziem Okonkwo

For a team with, in one man's opinion, the weakest of the skill groups in the division, the Titans' support group for QB Will Levis is not bad. They invested heavy in running back with Pollard (3 years, $21 million) and Ridley (4 years, $92 million) in free agency. Ridley and Hopkins are an experienced pass catching duo whose skillsets complement each other well, and Boyd is a solid number three wideout, as we saw in Cincinnati the last few seasons.

RB: Jonathan Taylor
WR: Michael Pittman, Josh Downs, Adonai Mitchell
TE: Kylen Granson

The linchpin here is Taylor, who led the NFL in rushing a few seasons ago, but has had trouble staying fully healthy the last couple years. When healthy, he is a top five running back in the sport. Pittman got a big contract this offseason, but to me, remains a little overrated. There's nothing scary about Pittman. The rookie Mitchell is the X-factor, as he was expected to go about 20 to 25 picks higher than he did in the draft (52nd overall). If he approaches his potential, Mitchell is a much scarier proposition to cover than Pittman.

RB: Travis Etienne
WR: Christian Kirk, Gabe Davis, Brian Thomas
TE: Evan Engram

There are no world beaters in this group, at least until we see what the rookie Thomas turns into, but these are five solid to above average players. Etienne provides a nice dual threat out of the backfield, and Davis is a nice addition to complement Kirk as a veteran top two wideouts. Engram is one of the more talented pass catching tight ends in football.

RB: Joe Mixon
WR: Nico Collins, Stefon Diggs, Tank Dell
TE: Dalton Schultz

Okay, now scroll back up to the top of this post and look at the lineup two years ago compared to this one. Actually, don't scroll. I'll reprise it right here. You've upgraded from Rex Burkhead to Joe Mixon at running back. You've gone from Cooks, Moore, and Nico Collins, Year 2 to Diggs (four time Pro Bowlers), Dell, and Collins, Year 4 (practically a Pro bowler). Dalton Schultz is light years better than any of the tight ends listed at the top of the article. These are the times that are good, Texan fans.

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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