By spending some $98 million to revamp their offense, owner Bob McNair and head coach Bill O’Brien are making a statement, that the time for waiting is over, and the Texans’ days as a middling franchise are in the rearview mirror.
Throughout their history, the Texans have tried, and failed to develop a consistent franchise quarterback. David Carr had some early success, but ultimately took a beating and failed to fully commit before fizzling out. Matt Schuab was acquired in a trade with Atlanta, but never became the star the team envisioned for the cost of two second-round draft picks.
Entering his third season in Houston, head coach Bill O’Brien has managed to get the most out of a group of stop-gap signal-callers, like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer and T.J. Yates. O’Brien formerly served as the quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots, and has a strong reputation for developing young throwers- including current NFL back-up Matt McGloin and incoming rookie Christian Hackenberg-while he was head coach at Penn State from 2012-13.
Now O’Brien will have the chance to develop his own hand-chosen, young quarterback. Brock Osweiler, 25, started seven games for the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, completing 61.8% of his passes for 1967 yards and contributing 11 total touchdowns (1 rush) versus six interceptions.
The Broncos posted a 5-2 mark in those seven games, but Osweiler was ultimately benched in favor of a well-past-his-prime Peyton Manning, who went on to lead the club to a victory in Super Bowl 50. While Osweiler’s play did cool off as opposing teams acquired film and he struggled with secondary reads, Pro Football Focus graded him as the NFL’s 20th-ranked quarterback, while Manning finished the season nine spot lower, at 29th.
While signing a top-three available option at quarterback is exciting enough, the Texans also managed to wrangle in one of the most-coveted free agent running backs in the first few minutes of the free agency period.
After jettisoning longtime stand-out Arian Foster, the Texans signed 24-year-old running back Lamar Miller to a four-year, $26 million dollar deal to take over the featured back duties for the club, and give Houston the early crown of the biggest free agent winners of 2016.
Miller, who graded out as the fourth-best ball-carrier at Pro Football Focus in 2015, was criminally under-utilized in Miami. Despite being a stellar rusher, Miller exceeded 15 carries only 12 times in four seasons playing for the Dolphins. Meanwhile, starting running backs for Bill O’Brien have averaged over 16 totes per game.Miller is also an excellent pass-catcher and should be a three-down, featured back in Houston’s new-look offense.
Standing on the sidelines in Miami last year, O’Brien got an up-close look at just how effective Lamar Miller can be as both a rusher and receiver. Despite touching the ball just 17 times, Miller pummeled the Texans defense for 236 total yards and two touchdowns.[the_ad id=”61432″]With Arian Foster’s release, the last remnants of Gary Kubiak‘s zone-blocking scheme will be gone from Houston’s offense. O’Brien favors a gap-blocking scheme that will fit Miller quite well. And despite his stellar play when healthy, Foster has missed 25 games for Houston over the past three seasons, while Miller has never missed a game in his four-year career.
By shelling out just under $100 million on the opening minutes of the 2016 NFL free agency period, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair is making a bold statement that the time is now for his club. This comes as great news for the club’s loyal fans, who had fears that the team would waste the prime years of All-Pro defensive end JJ Watt in similar fashion as they did for wide receiver Andre Johnson.
With the bold acquisition of Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller, McNair has given third-year head coach Bill O’Brien two huge pieces to a puzzle that they hope will be completed when the Texans become the first team in NFL history to celebrate a Super Bowl championship in their own home stadium.
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