LAST YEAR: Used nine-game winning streak to dig out of early hole and become first team since 1998 to reach playoffs after 0-3 start before falling to Colts in wild-card round. Deshaun Watson returned from season-ending knee surgery in 2017 to start every game and give team confidence he will be franchise quarterback it has long searched for. DeAndre Hopkins continued to show he’s one of league’s elite receivers. Three-time Defensive Player of Year J.J. Watt shook off two years of injuries with All-Pro season to pair with 2014 top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and lead defense.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: OTs Tytus Howard and Max Scharping, LT Matt Kalil, S Tashaun Gipson, CBs Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Bradley Roby and Lonnie Johnson, Jr., QB AJ McCarron, TE Kahale Warring.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB/S Kareem Jackson, S Tyrann Mathieu, TE Ryan Griffin, CB Kevin Johnson, WR Demaryius Thomas, S Andre Hal.
CAMP NEEDS: Texans need to see which linemen will be best combination to protect Watson after he was sacked NFL-high 62 times last season. Houston drafted Howard in first round and believe versatile player could start at several positions on line, but need to determine where he’ll be most effective. Houston also needs to see if Kalil can be productive after sitting out since 2017 because of knee injury, and if RT Seantrel Henderson is back to form after breaking ankle in Week 1 last season. Texans will also need to evaluate depth at DE with Clowney expected to skip camp after not signing franchise tender and failing to get long-term deal, and see how new members of secondary fit together.
EXPECTATIONS: After bouncing back from 2017’s 4-12 record to make playoffs for third time in four seasons, Texans expect to return to postseason again in 2019. To do that they must find way to better protect Watson so he can take another step forward in third season. Hopkins should help Watson lead offense after ranking third in NFL with career-high 1,572 yards receiving. On defense, healthy Watt should lead front which will also feature Clowney, who likely won’t continue holdout into season. New members of secondary will need to shore up group that allowed 260 yards passing per game.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL