Without Watt, Watson, little reason for optimism for Texans

HOUSTON TEXANS (4-12)

New faces: Coach David Culley, defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Mark Ingram, C Justin Britt, LB Christian Kirksey, RB Phillip Lindsay, WR Anthony Miller, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis.

Key losses: DE J.J. Watt, WR Will Fuller, WR Randall Cobb, ILB Benardrick McKinney, C Nick Martin, RB Duke Johnson, P Bryan Anger, TE Darren Fells.

Strengths: Houston beefed up its running game this offseason after ranking 31st in the NFL by averaging just 91.6 yards rushing a game. David Johnson returns, looking to bounce back in his second season in Houston after a subpar 2020. He’s joined by new additions Lindsay, Ingram, and Rex Burkhead, giving the Texans plenty of options in the backfield.

Weaknesses: The passing game will certainly take a major hit with Watson not expected to play for Houston this season amid 22 lawsuits alleging sexual assault or harassment, plus a trade request. Veteran Tyrod Taylor is expected to start in his place and although he’s looked comfortable in camp, he’s nowhere near the playmaker Watson is. Taylor could struggle with a receiving group that lost star Fuller in free agency. Houston’s secondary is also suspect and won’t have top cornerback Bradley Roby in the opener against No. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars. Roby will be serving the last game of a six-game suspension for performance enhancers he received last season.

Camp Development: Watson reported to camp to avoid being fined and participated in individual drills but never practiced with the team, watching as Taylor ran the offense.

Fantasy Player To Watch: WR Brandin Cooks could be a solid pick to put up good numbers this season as one of the most experienced receivers on the roster. He had 1,150 yards receiving last year for his fifth 1,000-yard receiving year in the last six seasons. Cooks had six touchdowns last season and averaged 14.2 yards a catch.

FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 250-1. Over/under wins: 4.

Expectations: This once star-studded franchise has lost virtually all its big names in recent years and those departures, coupled with Watson’s situation could make this the worst team in franchise history. After winning just four games last season with Watson and the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Watt playing, it’s hard to imagine the Texans winning more than that this year without either of them.

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