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Original Issue

2 Houston Texans

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No one would be surprised if DESHAUN WATSON got on the field as a first-round rookie coming off a national title at Clemson—but we shouldn't expect it. BILL O'BRIEN'S offense is not easy to learn. The quarterback is responsible for multiple checks at the line of scrimmage, and many of his reads postsnap are highly contingent on the coverage. The Texans like to run routes, both underneath and downfield, in which the receiver reacts to the position of the safeties. It takes both field-reading acumen and confidence to make those throws. Brock Osweiler couldn't manage it last season. But let's remember that TOM SAVAGE has been in Houston for four years and has a bona fide NFL arm. He has a good shot at starting for all of 2017.

• Savage will attempt throws into tight windows, which is important when your top receiver is DEANDRE HOPKINS. The five-year pro lacks the speed, quickness and twitch to consistently separate from defensive backs. But Hopkins compensates with strong hands and body control that make him the best contested-catch artist in football.

• The Texans had one of the best defenses in football last season, and now they get back arguably the best defensive player of all time in J.J. WATT. Assistant head coach ROMEO CRENNEL and coordinator MIKE VRABEL are great at using presnap alignments to create favorable matchups for pass rushers. They have three linemen who can't be blocked one-on-one: Watt, JADEVEON CLOWNEY and WHITNEY MERCILUS.

• Clowney is a great physical specimen who, at 24, is developing as a player. This will be the year he fully carves out his NFL niche. He's explosive going north-south and east-west, but the catch is, he can only go in one direction at a time. He doesn't have the flexibility to turn his body low and bend around the edge. That's why, in obvious pass-rushing situations, he's better inside than outside.

• There may not be a more cohesive secondary than Houston's. Cornerbacks KEVIN JOHNSON, KAREEM JACKSON and JOHNATHAN JOSEPH are all proficient in matchup schemes, and safety ANDRE HAL is a converted corner with great coverage prowess in the middle of the field.

"THE TEXANS HAD ARGUABLY THE TOP DEFENSE, AND NOW THEY GET BACK ARGUABLY THE BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER EVER."

SI'S 2017 PREDICTION

9--7

2016 RECORD

9--7

SEPT. 10

VS. JAC

SEPT. 14

THURSDAY

AT CIN

SEPT. 24

AT NE

OCT. 1

VS. TEN

OCT. 8

VS. KC

OCT. 15

VS. CLE

BYE

OCT. 29

AT SEA

NOV. 5

VS. IND

NOV. 12

AT LAR

NOV. 19

VS. ARI

NOV. 27

MONDAY

AT BAL

DEC. 3

AT TEN

DEC. 10

VS. SF

DEC. 17

AT JAC

DEC. 25

MONDAY

VS. PIT

DEC. 31

AT IND

Position Rankings

QB

28

SKILL

27

OL

32

FRONT 7

1

Strength

DBs

11

ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400

2 J.J. WATT DE

48 JADEVEON CLOWNEY DE

64 WHITNEY MERCILUS OLB

159 DEANDRE HOPKINS WR

196 KEVIN JOHNSON CB

299 KAREEM JACKSON CB

304 JOHNATHAN JOSEPH CB

322 ANDRE HAL FS

337 LAMAR MILLER RB

358 DUANE BROWN T

374 D.J. READER DT