HOUSTON TEXANS (11-7)
New faces: RB David Johnson, WRs Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb, SSs Eric Murray and Jaylen Watkins, OTs Roderick Johnson and Brent Qvale, LB Tyrell Adams, DT Ross Blacklock, DE Jonathan Greenard.
Key losses: WR DeAndre Hopkins, RBs Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller, CB Johnathan Joseph, NT D.J. Reader.
Strengths: Quarterback Deshaun Watson has improved in each of three seasons since Texans traded up to select him with 12th overall pick in 2017 draft, and should continue development this season. He’s the undisputed star of unit after off-season trade of receiver DeAndre Hopkins. He will play behind line that was much better last season with addition of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who should be more comfortable in second season in system.
Weaknesses: Three-time Defensive Player of the Year end J.J. Watt continues to play at high level when healthy as he enters 10th season. But Texans have struggled to generate much pass rush outside of his production. New co-ordinator Anthony Weaver will look for ways to get to quarterbacks more after Houston managed just 31 sacks last season. Secondary gave up too many big plays and Texans will need young safety Justin Reid and cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. to improve.
Pandemic Development: Texans won’t have fans at home opener against Baltimore on Sept. 20 because of coronavirus. They haven’t yet decided if fans can attend later games and team officials say that will depend on threat level of virus in city, which is currently at highest level.
Fantasy Player To Watch: Will Fuller will be team’s featured receiver with Hopkins gone to Arizona. Fuller, 26, has had some big games in first four NFL seasons, but has yet to play full schedule while struggling with various injuries.
Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl: 50-1. Over/under wins: 7 1/2.
Expectations: Coach Bill O’Brien knows that simply getting to playoffs or winning first-round game is not enough for this franchise anymore. Next step will be tall task without Hopkins, who has carried offence for years, but Texans could still be dangerous behind Watson and with defence featuring healthy Watt.
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The Associated Press