Skip to main content

State of the Houston Texans: What will C.J. Stroud and Co. do for an encore after 2023's breakthrough?

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 约炮app season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Texans organization, Texans fans around the world and those who love the inclusion of H-Town Blue (not ) in the Texans' new color rush uniforms ...

Last year was pretty cool. The decision to hire DeMeco Ryans as head coach immediately looked amazing. And Houston nailed the 2023 NFL Draft, selecting C.J. Stroud (who won Offensive Rookie of the Year) and Will Anderson Jr. (who won Defensive Rookie of the Year) second and third overall, respectively. Did I mention the Texans pulled out a division title and logged a rousing playoff win one year after going 3-13-1? No team can feel better about the 2023 season -- well, other than Kansas City, of course. The question now: Can Houston prove it's more than a one-hit wonder? Let's take a look.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
Head coach DeMeco Ryans
General manager Nick Caserio
Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik
Defensive coordinator Matt Burke
Special teams coordinator Frank Ross

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Texans' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Kamari Lassiter, CB, Georgia (2-42) Joe Mixon, RB Devin Singletary, RB
Blake Fisher, OT, Notre Dame (2-59) Stefon Diggs, WR George Fant, OT
Calen Bullock, S, USC (3-78) Ben Skowronek, WR Josh Jones, OT
Cade Stover, TE, Ohio State (4-123) Denico Autry, DE Michael Deiter, OG
Jamal Hill, LB, Oregon (6-188) Derek Barnett, DE Scott Quessenberry, C
Jawhar Jordan, RB, Louisville (6-205) Danielle Hunter, DE Jonathan Greenard, DE
Solomon Byrd, DE, USC (7-238) Foley Fatukasi, DT Jerry Hughes, DE
Marcus Harris, DT, Auburn (7-247) Azeez Al-Shaair, LB Maliek Collins, DT
LaDarius Henderson, OG, Michigan (7-249) Myles Bryant, CB Sheldon Rankins, DT
C.J. Henderson, CB Teair Tart, DT
Jeff Okudah, CB Blake Cashman, LB
Tommy Townsend, P Denzel Perryman, LB
Steven Nelson, CB
Tavierre Thomas, CB
DeAndre Houston-Carson, S
Cameron Johnston, P

New faces to know

Stefon Diggs
WR · Year 10

Nico Collins (who absolutely feasted last year, earning a three-year, $72.5 million extension this offseason) and rookie Tank Dell formed a pretty good WR combo in 2023, but the Texans weren't content to stand pat. In April, they shipped a second-round pick to Buffalo for Diggs, a four-time Pro Bowler fresh off his sixth straight 1,000-yard season. It is notable that Diggs is on his third NFL team despite being one of the best receivers in the league. But whether or not his Houston tenure ultimately comes to a smooth end is not a huge concern right now. The key takeaway here is that the Texans boast one of the best receiver trios around.

Danielle Hunter
DE · Year 10

After logging a career-best 16.5 sacks in Minnesota last season, Hunter inked a two-year deal worth $49 million ($48 million of which is guaranteed) with Houston. Stepping in for Jonathan Greenard (who, ironically, signed with the Vikings this offseason), Hunter will pair nicely with Will Anderson Jr. I know there can be risk in paying someone who produced at a high level in a contract year, but to me, it's worth it for Hunter, who has posted double-digit sacks five times over nine years in the league. Oh, and Hunter wasn't the only sack producer added to the defense, with Denico Autry joining the line after collecting a career-best 11.5 sacks in Tennessee last season.

Joe Mixon
RB · Year 8

The Bengals were ready to release Mixon, but then the Texans swooped in to trade for a guy who should be a pretty good fit for this team. We all went nuts last year thinking Dameon Pierce was going to be Houston's RB1 after an eye-catching rookie season in 2022, but that role ended up going to Devin Singletary, who put up 71.5 rushing yards per game in his 10 starts, then signed with the Giants this offseason. Mixon is an upgrade for a Texans offense that averaged 96.9 rushing yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry in 2023 -- with both marks ranking in the lower third of the league. Though Mixon's per-game rushing production (59.6 yards) over the past two seasons was down compared to what he'd managed in the previous four years (75.7 yards), he has continued to find the end zone at an excellent rate. Since 2021, he's totaled 37 scrimmage TDs, the second-most by a running back in that span, trailing only Austin Ekeler (44).

State of the QB room

C.J. Stroud's outstanding debut campaign surprised many. (I mean, , but many.) Not only did he become the youngest player to lead the NFL in TD-to-INT ratio (23:5) in a season, but he registered the second-most passing yards per game (273.9) by a rookie in league history. And he was just the third quarterback in the Super Bowl era to pace the league in both of those categories in the same year, according to my friends over at NFL Research. The other two guys were Joe Montana (who did it in 1989) and Tom Brady (2007), both of whom were pretty good, from what I can gather. Perhaps the best part about all this is that the Texans went out and made significant additions to the supporting cast, bringing in the aforementioned Diggs and Mixon to help continue Stroud's development.

I would also like to zero in on this fun stat: Stroud threw three of his five picks during one outlier of a game, in Week 11 against Arizona, and one of those interceptions deflected off the hands of his receiver. Stroud didn't throw another INT over the rest of the season, playoffs included. I'm not sure we truly realize just how good he was in Year 1.

Most important non-QB

Will Anderson Jr.
DE · Year 2

It's got to be Anderson, who generated 22 quarterback hits, the fourth-highest total by a rookie in the past 10 seasons, behind Micah Parsons (30 in 2021), Nick Bosa (25 in 2019) and (23 in 2019). He was awesome, putting up 64 pressures (most among rookies in 2023) and a pressure rate of 17.3% (ninth among all players with 300-plus pass-rush snaps) for a Texans defense that allowed just 20.8 points per game (11th in the NFL). Might Anderson be bothered about all the buzz surrounding Stroud, given his own outsized impact as a first-year pro? Probably not, since they both took home hardware at NFL Honors. But maybe there's some kind of villain origin story in there? I kid. Bottom line: Don't overlook Anderson's dynamic debut.

My HOTTEST Texans fantasy take:

Give me all the shares of Tank Dell.

The Texans gave up a second-round pick to acquire Stefon Diggs, and Nico Collins was great last year, but I think Dell -- who finished second on the team with 709 receiving yards and seven touchdowns despite missing Week 6 with a concussion and then suffering a season-ending broken fibula in Week 13 -- is in for an Amon-Ra St. Brown-like Year 2 breakout. Stroud obviously likes going to Dell, who collected the most targets (75) and TD catches (seven) in Houston between Weeks 1 and 12. Dell also matched Rams receiver Puka Nacua with two games of 140-plus receiving yards and at least one receiving TD, the most among rookies in 2023. Diggs' presence should open up some more opportunities for Dell. Give the 24-year-old a full season in the lineup and watch out.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 2 (SNF): . The Bears would love for Caleb Williams to follow the Stroud blueprint and spark a franchise breakthrough as a rookie QB. There's no better way for Stroud to remind everyone how special he is than by winning this prime-time showdown at home.
  • Week 5: vs. Buffalo Bills. The Stefon Diggs REVENGE GAME could also serve as one of those passing-of-the-torch moments in the AFC, with the Texans taking the Bills' spot as one of the main-event teams.
  • Week 15: vs. Miami Dolphins. This is the first in a daunting stretch of games to close out the regular season, followed by contests at the Chiefs, vs. the Ravens and at the Titans. If the Texans are to secure a playoff berth again, they're going to earn it.

For 2024 to be a success, the Texans MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: B) Make a playoff run. We see it every season: A team coming off an encouraging playoff appearance is dubbed by many pundits as a Super Bowl contender, only to regress. That could be the Texans' fate. Then again, they could take a path that's more similar to that of the Lions, who followed up on a promising 2022 by winning the NFC North and reaching the 2023 conference title game. I know it's not revolutionary to try to build around a good young quarterback on his first contract, but Houston has done a masterful job of constructing this team, with two seasons to go before Stroud is eligible for an extension. Winning a playoff game was a pleasant surprise last season; this time around, getting deep into January has to be viewed as the floor.

Related Content