PHOENIX – It’s almost mind-boggling to think how consistently bad the Texans’ offense was for the last two seasons. Two different head coaches and two different coordinators but the same old dreadful results by an offense that struggled to be even mediocre.
After the 2021 season, David Culley and Tim Kelly were fired. A year later, Lovie Smith and Pep Hamilton got their pink slips, too. Kelly is the only coach who got a job. The others are living off the McNair millions.
In their first season as a head coach and play-caller, DeMeco Ryans and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik have to do what’s been almost impossible since quarterback Deshaun Watson’s last season in 2020 – provide the Texans with a consistently productive offense that shows dramatic improvement over the last two seasons.
Here’s how bad the Texans’ offense was in 2021 and 2022. Of 12 key offensive statistics -- including points, yards, rushing, rushing yards per attempt, passing, first downs and third down conversions -- the Texans finished 30th or worse in eight of them. In 2021, they were 30th or worse in six of the statistics.
For example, last season, the Texans were tied for 30th in points, 31st in yards, 32nd in yards per play, 31st in rushing, 31st in yards per attempt, 30th in interception percentage, tied for 31st in first downs and 31st in third down conversions.
The biggest improvement the Texans made last season was going from 24th to 12th in percentage of sacks per pass play and 27th to tied for 17th in fourth down conversions. How embarrassing is that?
Fans better hope Ryans and Slowik are coming to the rescue. General manager Nick Caserio is doing just about everything possible to help them improve the offense.
Caserio is expected to use the second overall pick in the draft on a quarterback, either Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. So far, he’s acquired three veterans who are expected to start – right guard Shaq Mason, tight end Dalton Schultz and wide receiver Robert Woods. Caserio also signed running back Devin Singletary to share playing time with Dameon Pierce, the leading rusher who missed the last four games with an ankle injury. And Caserio used free agency to add depth and competition on offense.
Ryans and Slowik don’t care what the offense did or didn’t do the last two seasons. They know what kind of players they want for the offense they’re going to utilize.
“Our offense will be multiple,” Ryans said Monday at the NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. “There’ll always be a balance between the run and pass. We want to run the ball effectively. We want to work our play-action pass game and take some shots deep down the field.”
When Ryans played linebacker for the Texans for six years under Gary Kubiak, they usually had a terrific running game. Once Pierce was lost in 2022, the Texans had no running game. If Pierce can stay healthy to go with the addition of Singletary and improvement in the offensive line, the running game could become a strength for the first time since 2019.
“(Pierce) showed toughness (and) competitive fight,” Ryans said. “I love the way he runs. I love his style, and I really want to continue to feed him. I think that style of running excites the entire team. He runs with an attitude I really like, and I'm excited to see his growth from year one to year two.
"We’re excited to have both those guys."
Singletary played his first four seasons at Buffalo, including the last 3 ½ as a starter. He rushed for 819 yards and five touchdowns and averaged 4.6 yards a carry last season. In 2021, Singletary ran for 870 yards and seven touchdowns. He never caught fewer than 38 passes in each of the last three seasons.
“We really like what we saw from Devin on tape,” Ryans said. “An explosive guy and a proven NFL veteran who’s done it, and he’s hungry to show he can do more. They’ll be a really nice one-two punch.”
Slowik should also have a tight end who can be productive and possibly prolific. In his last three seasons as a starter for the Cowboys, Schultz averaged 66 catches, 667 yards and six touchdowns. Jordan Akins, who signed with Cleveland, was the Texans’ most productive tight end last season with 37 receptions for 495 yards and five touchdowns.
“I think Dalton has shown he can make plays in the passing game -- in the vertical passing game -- so I'm excited to add him,” Ryans said. “I think tight end is a very quarterback-friendly position, easy completions. Dalton has done a good job of expanding his game (and) becoming a better blocker, as well. We’ve got a quality starting tight end in Dalton.”
Last week was a good one for the Texans. Not only did they sign Singletary and Schultz, but they gave left tackle Laremy Tunsil a three-year extension worth $75 million, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history for the second time since he was traded to the Texans in 2019.
“He’s one of the best tackles in the NFL,” Ryans said. “When you play this game, you have to win on the line of scrimmage, so any time you can shore up an important position like left tackle with a top player like Laremy, it’s beneficial for our entire team.”
And all the moves Caserio and Ryans have made better benefit an offense that doesn’t want to be doomed as one of the league’s worst for a third consecutive season.
John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on SportsRadio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He writes three times a week and does two Houtopia Podcasts for SportsRadio610.com. He also can be read four times a week on GallerySports.com.