Major injuries doom Texans' season

Jan 4, 2018 - 5:39 AM HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans had a miserable season plagued by injuries, including the losses of quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive end J.J. Watt, linebacker Whitney Mercilus, center Nick Martin, running back D'Onta Foreman and a 10-game performance-enhancing drug policy suspension for Brian Cushing.

This season's disaster, which followed two consecutive AFC South division titles, resulted in a 4-12 campaign that ended with a six-game losing streak and nine losses in the final 10 games. The Texans couldn't stop the pass without a consistent pass rush or pass coverage, falling to last in the NFL in points allowed after finishing first in total defense the previous year.

The offense didn't have a consistent running game once Watson got hurt. The Texans are expected to retain head coach Bill O'Brien with a contract extension despite the downward spiral. Executive vice president Rick Smith is no longer the general manager because he is taking a leave of absence to care for his wife as she battles breast cancer. The Texans are in flux and entering an uncertain offseason.

Owner Bob McNair is planning to hire a new general manager to replace Smith. Among the candidates: Patriots executive Nick Caserio, Bills executive Brian Gaine, Texans executive Jimmy Raye and Packers executive Brian Gutekunst.

The Texans need to upgrade their offensive line and secondary. They may need four new starters on the offensive line and as many as three new defensive backs. This is a team that could have a quick turnaround once it is fully healthy, but there are roster deficiencies that are fairly obvious, too.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Pro-Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins led the NFL with 13 touchdown catches and was one of the most dangerous players in the NFL. Hopkins is a master of the toe-tap catch along the sideline. Pro-Bowl outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, despite double-team blocking, had a career-high 9.5 sacks and 20 tackles for losses.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL when he was on pace for 43 touchdown passes. The Texans never recovered from his loss. J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus were ruled out for the season after suffering injuries during the same drive against the Kansas City Chiefs. The lack of a pass rush affected the defense in a major way.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Former first-round cornerback Kevin Johnson couldn't stay healthy or play consistently. Johnson sprained his knee and missed four games. When he returned, he got picked on in single coverage and didn't tackle well. He was also prone to penalties.

MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Wide receiver Will Fuller V caught seven touchdown passes in his second NFL season. Fuller is very fast and capable of making big plays. However, he has durability issues that prevented him from making even more of a splash.

ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel is in demand as a head coaching candidate. He is schedule to interview with the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts. Vrabel is a former New England Patriots All-Pro outside linebacker.

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