Sean Pendergast

The Biggest Concern Texans Fans Should Have About Lovie Smith

Jalen Pitre's rookie season has shown some promise, but also a need for improvement.
Jalen Pitre's rookie season has shown some promise, but also a need for improvement. Photo by Eric Sauseda
For me, the Houston Texans' 2022 season was never going to be judged by the number of wins the team generated. Unless they found themselves in the midst of a miracle run where they were contending for a playoff spot (which most assuredly is NOT happening), the Texans were always going to be better off, in the long run, losing a bunch of games and securing the first pick in the 2023 draft (which most assuredly appears to be happening).

Instead, my determination of success for the Texans' 2022 season was always going to be based on the number of young players that develop into foundational pieces, or at least give an inkling that they can be foundational pieces. Specifically, how are the players that Nick Caserio drafted in 2021 and 2022 developing under Lovie Smith and this coaching staff.

Right now, the futures of these two classes are murky, at best, and highly concerning, at worst. In short, other than a couple of names, you could argue that nearly every player in those two draft classes have regressed this season or made no impact at all. Let's go through this rapid fire style and assess where we are with each player (numbers are round and overall selection):

2021 DRAFT CLASS

3/67. DAVIS MILLS, QB
Mills was handed the starting job and captaincy of the team before the season. However, a bad start became a horrific middle of the season, and finally, Lovie Smith benched Mills last week. At this point, the best case scenario for Mills is the Texans pass on a QB in the draft, and give him a chance to win the starting job again next season. I highly doubt that happens.

3/90. NICO COLLINS, WR
Collins is easily the most improved of the 2021 draftees. In nine games, he's matched his totals for 14 games in his rookie season with 34 catches for 446 yards. Collins looks to be worth hanging onto, and can be a solid piece of a good wide receiving corps.

5/147. BREVIN JORDAN, TE
Jordan had a promising nine game rookie season, with 20 catches, generating hope he could be a good "run after catch" weapon. However, he has just six catches for 32 yards, and has been a healthy scratch the last month's worth of games.

5/170. GARRETT WALLOW, LB
Wallow was someone who Nick Caserio mentioned unsolicited in the preseason as an example of a hard worker in the offseason. However, injuries in camp slowed his ascent, and he was a healthy scratch this past Sunday.

6/ 195. ROY LOPEZ, DT
Lopez was a pleasant surprise as a sixth round rookie in 2021, starting 15 games. This season, he hasn't really improved much, and remains a rotational piece in a bad defensive front. For a sixth round pick, though, he's exceeded expectations.

2022 DRAFT CLASS

1/3. DEREK STINGLEY, Jr., CB
Stingley's rookie season has been a disappointment in two respects. First, his physical gifts are being underutilized in Lovie Smith's zone defense. Second, the injury bug has snared him the last two weeks with a hamstring injury. It hasn't helped that the player taken right after Stingley, Jets CB Sauce Gardner, will likely win Rookie of the Year.

1/15. KENYON GREEN, LG
Green showed some promise early in the season, but then he hit a patch of schedule where he was facing Pro Bowlers every week, and he's been a disaster, to put it mildly, since the bye week. Green getting his act together is a massive need for Caserio, considering this was one of the picks received in the Watson trade.

2/37. JALEN PITRE, S
Pitre got off to a fast start, with a two interception game versus Chicago in Week 3. However, missed tackles have been a major theme of his rookie season. That must improve if Pitre is going to live up to his draft billing.

2/44. JOHN METCHIE III, WR
Metchie was diagnosed with a very treatable form of leukemia before the season, and will miss all of 2022, with hope he's back in 2023.

3/75. CHRISTIAN HARRIS, LB
Harris suffered a hamstring injury in training camp, and didn't see the field until after the bye week. He was making major progress over the last few weeks, but left the loss to the Dolphins with a shoulder injury on Sunday, and di not return.

4/107. DAMEON PIERCE, RB
Pierce was among the league leaders in rushing yards, until the most recent two games yielded just eight yards rushing in each contest from the rookie out of Florida. Pierce has been one fo the few good reasons to watch this team in 2022.

5/150. THOMAS BOOKER, DT
Booker has played in seven games, and picked up 11 tackles. He's been a healthy scratch the last two games.

5/170. TEAGAN QUITORIANO, TE
Quitoriano missed the first couple months of the season with injuries, and made his debut in Week 9 against the Eagles, where he scored a touchdown on his first career catch.

6/205. AUSTIN DECULUS, OL
Deculus has yet to take an NFL snap, and has been injured of late.

CONCLUSION
Right now, the only players trending in a significant upward manner are Collins and Pierce. I'll give Pierce a pass on the most recent two games, because he's been SO good all season. I'm still optimistic about Stingley and Pitre. Metchie is a wild card, as he returns from cancer. The biggest concern is Green, who looks completely overwhelmed playing against men.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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