Sean Pendergast

Where Are They Now? Examining This 2018 Houston Texans Poster

Where are they now?
Where are they now? Poster art
The Houston Texans made the release of Whitney Mercilus official on Tuesday afternoon. The edge rusher (whose edge rushing skills had seriously eroded over the last couple seasons) would be moving on, in what he called a "mutual decision" between him and the team, and now we will see where he lands. While Mercilus was far from the most impactful Texan to be sent packing over the last couple years, his leaving does represent some significant doors being symbolically closed.

With Mercilus now gone, the only remaining former first round picks of the Texans on this roster are QB Deshaun Watson (more on him in a minute) and offensive lineman Tytus Howard, who is veering closer to "see ya later" territory with each passing game. Additionally, the number of O'Brien Era Texans still with the team has dwindled to an alarmingly low number, to where you can practically count on one hand for either side of the ball how many still remain.

This team has undergone the most rapid facelift that I can ever remember an NFL team undergoing, and unfortunately, it's not the kind of facelift where, afterward, you look at the patient and say "WOW, you look amazing!" This is more like a botched tummy tuck and Botox treatment done in some underground, rogue surgery center in a bad part of town.

To wit, the poster in the tweet below is from just THREE seasons ago. Take a look:
With Mercilus now gone and with Deshaun Watson, for all intents and purposes, gone, there are no Houston Texans on the 2021 squad that remain from this 2018 poster. Mind you, this was a team in 2018 that went 11-5 and made the playoffs, too! For some context, let's do an examination of where all nine players from this poster are today (left to right):

Clowney is on his fourth team in four seasons, on a one-year deal in Cleveland, and he is actually playing some solid football for the Browns. He has three sacks, which matches his total over the last two seasons combined (in Seattle and Tennessee). He is rated 14th out of 105 edge defenders on Pro Football Focus. Clowney is still seeking the big money contract the Texans refused to give him back before the 2019 season.

After his best season as a pro in 2018, the Texans didn't even bother offering Jackson a contract, so he left for Denver in free agency, where he is in his third season as a Bronco. Jackson is currently rated 34th out of 86 safeties on PFF.

McKinney was traded by the Texans before the season to the Dolphins for Shaq Lawson. Neither Lawson nor McKinney even made it to the regular season as a member of the team they were traded to. Lawson was subsequently traded to the Jets, and the Dolphins cut McKinney, who signed with the Giants practice squad a couple days ago.

Miller's Texans career ended with an ACL tear in the 2019 preseason against the Cowboys. Since then, Miller has bounced around various benches and practice squads in the NFL, with the latest one being his signing with New Orleans Saints practice squad this past week.

We know Whitney's story. Cut by the Texans on Tuesday, and now awaiting his next destination. Good luck and good bye, Whitney.

99 J.J. WATT, DE
I'll group these two together, since they both face off against the Texans this weekend as members of the Arizona Cardinals. Hopkins was traded there in 2020 in, arguably, the worst trade in NFL history — Hopkins for David Johnson and a second round pick. Watt came to a mutual agreement with the Texans to move on, and chose to sign in Arizona. The Cardinals are 6-0, the only undefeated team in the NFL. The Texans are 1-5, and don't have a single player whose jersey fans want to buy.

Mathieu was here in 2018 on a one-year, "prove it" deal, and he proved enough for the Chiefs to make him the highest paid safety in the league. He has since been named All Pro twice, and won a Super Bowl ring. Not bad.

The one guy TECHNICALLY still remaining on this roster, Watson awaits the fallout from his legal situation (22 civil lawsuits) to subside, so that the Texans can trade him for a bounty of first round picks and possibly a few players.

My big takeaway from this exercise — it was fun having players I cared about!

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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 afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast