2021 looks to be a bleak year for the Houston Texans football team. The Texans offense is a mess with Deshaun Watson, and has moved on from most other weapons. This should put the Houston defense on the field for a lot of snaps. Rookie head coach David Culley has been tasked with rebuilding a franchise in disarray.
Long-time defensive stalwart JJ Watt was amicably released in the offseason. Replacing the three time Defensive Player of the Year will be no easy task. That daunting task has been placed on veteran coach Lovie Smith.
Smith, a Tampa Two proponent since his days coaching under Tony Dungy will have his hands full trying to mold this Texans 3-4 group into a viable unit. It remains to be seen is Smith can mold his defensive philosophy to fit the players on the roster.
The Texans IDP productivity starts with ILB Zach Cunningham. He isn’t going to provide a lot of big plays like sacks or interceptions, but in tackle heavy formats Cunningham is solid gold. With the Texans offense looking like it will struggle Cunningham should rack up the tackles in 2021.
IDP123 scoring is my new preferred IDP scoring, I have played in a league with a very similar scoring format for a few years. In that league Cunningham finished as LB1 and was the 22nd highest scoring player overall. On par with QB12 and WR3.
In conventional IDP scoring formats Cunningham was the LB3.
The best of the rest
After getting injured and missing 12 games long-time standout Benardrick McKinney has moved onto Miami and one-year wonder Tyrell Adams is in Buffalo. That leaves oft-injured Christian Kirksey, and free agent signees Kamu Grugier-Hill and Neville Hewett to fight for snaps next to Cunningham. I am taking a wait-and-see approach with these players. If one can win the job there could be IDP production to be had. If not, the three of them will be rotating and unreliable on a week-to-week basis.
2020 DL2 JJ Watt was granted his release in the offseason and signed in Arizona. While Watt is getting older, he still clearly was the best defensive lineman in Houston.
Whitney Mercilus, Charles Omenihu, and Shaq Lawson look to improve on an anemic pass rush that saw the Texans get just 34 sacks and the sixth fewest QB pressures with 127. The odds on the defensive line starting to produce big plays are…
The Texans defensive line lacks an impact player heading into 2021. I am not counting on any of them to provide any IDP impact.
Justin Reid and Lonnie Johnson Jr. man the safety position for Houston. Reid finished 2020 as S31 placing him as a depth player for fantasy purposes. Reid is the more versatile of the two safeties and will move back to free safety in 2021.
Lonnie Johnson Jr. started five games in 2020 but played in 64% of the defensive snaps for Houston. 2021 looks to be a year where the Texans are playing from behind. I expect opposing offenses to try to run the ball often versus Houston and strong safety Johnson should be in a position to improve on his 56 solo and 76 total tackles in 2020.
There are a couple of players that look to be reliable – Cunningham, Johnson, and Reid. Cunningham is the only high-end player. While the defense will be on the field plenty, figuring out where the production will come from outside of the three guys already listed will be a weekly issue.
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