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Did the Texans do enough on defense this offseason to get back to the playoffs?

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Houston needed to address its pass rush and secondary so Deshaun Watson and the offense don’t have to do it all.

New England Patriots v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Houston Texans had a pretty successful 2019 season. They won the AFC South and went on to beat the Buffalo Bills in overtime in the Wild Card Round. But then they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round, blowing a 24-0 second-quarter lead.

That alone probably should have been enough to get head coach Bill O’Brien fired, even though it wasn’t. Instead, the Texans promoted O’Brien to be general manager, replacing Brian Gaine, who was fired last summer. The good news for Houston is at least it still has quarterback Deshaun Watson. He can’t do it alone, though.

Houston Texans (10-6), lost in the Divisional Round

The Texans don’t have any first-round draft picks this year thanks to their trade with Miami to get offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills. However, they could get a lot out of free agency, especially with the $62 million in cap space they had going into the offseason.

Before free agency:

  1. Defensive end: The Texans traded Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks right before the 2019 season started. J.J. Watt missed half of the season after suffering a torn pectoral, but he did return for Houston’s two playoff games. As such, the defense lacked some major production on the other side of Watt — defensive ends Angelo Blackson and Charles Omenihu combined for just three sacks on the year. Getting help during free agency or on Day 2 of the draft will be big for the Texans.
  2. Cornerback: The Texans released Vernon Hargreaves III, whom they acquired from Tampa Bay in the middle of the season. No. 1 corner Bradley Roby is a free agent, as is veteran Johnathan Joseph.
  3. Running back: The Texans’ offense could’ve been a lot more explosive with a consistent running game in 2019. Houston’s leading rusher was Carlos Hyde, who had 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. Its second leading rusher? Watson. While Hyde is a free agent this offseason, Houston could target a running back, such as LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, in the second round of the draft.

What Battle Red Blog wants most this offseason: The needs for the 2020 Houston Texans are stark and unambiguous — cornerback and pass rush (likely via defensive end). If there’s a saving grace to having virtually no premium draft picks until 2064, it’s that there’s little doubt the only reasonable way to address these glaring holes is via free agency. O’Brien is going to have to be extremely aggressive when the gates open, or the Texans will be severely handicapped in their efforts to improve upon their 2019 campaign. — Tim McHale

After free agency:

Welp, O’Brien made quite possibly one of the worst trades in NFL history when he sent No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals. In exchange, Houston got running back David Johnson, a second-round pick for 2020, and a fourth in 2021. Not great! Later, the Texans traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, which was ... maybe fine? However, it cost them one of their second-round picks.

At cornerback, Houston re-signed Hargreaves to a one-year deal. The Texans also re-signed Roby, their best corner from 2019. They added Phillip Gaines, who will provide some depth for the position.

1. Defensive end: The Texans didn’t address this in free agency, so expect them to do this during the draft.

2. Defensive tackle: After losing top rush defender D.J. Reader in free agency, the Texans could use some more beef on the interior of their line.

3. Offensive tackle: Houston brought in Brent Qvale and re-signed Roderick Johnson, who will both be swing tackles this season. Still, the Texans could use more help along the line this draft to give Watson some more protection in 2020.

After the draft:

The Texans only had five picks in the draft, and they used all of them on positions of need. First up was second-round pick TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock, who should help the run defense. Next came Florida edge Jonathan Greenard in the third round. He could be the exact pass-rushing presence they need.

After that, Houston went with UNC offensive tackle Charlie Heck and Penn State cornerback John Reid, a former O’Brien recruit, in the fourth round. Finishing up the class was Rhode Island’s first draft pick since 1986, fifth-round wide receiver Isaiah Coulter. The biggest problem with Texans’ draft was that they just didn’t have many picks thanks to O’Briens maneuvering.

Dan Kadar’s draft grade: B