5 Houston Texans Bound to Break Out in 2014
For all of the Houston Texans' problems last year, lacking talent wasn't one of them.
Last April, the Texans had every right to feel pretty good about their drafting. They even did pretty well in free agency, replacing Glover Quin's absence with Ed Reed, even though none of that worked out.
Out of the entire Texans' 2013 roster, it's hard to spot many breakout players, aside from maybe DeAndre Hopkins and a few others. That one was to be expected, but there's a lot left to be desired for a team that arguably has the most talented roster among the NFL's bottom five organizations. Unfortunately, a lot of that responsibility falls on players already filling a starting role.
A new draft class is on the way, sure, but there's a handful of guys on this roster that are set for a bigger and better 2014. Some of them already showed signs of it last season while others simply have higher expectations.
Brooks Reed, OLB
Brooks Reed is on this list every season only because he shows so much potential but never seems to hit his full stride.
The time may be up for Reed to break out, and even if he remains a mediocre player, the Texans still have a reliable linebacker who can range from anywhere between three to five sacks in a season.
Now entering his fourth year, Reed is capable of so much more, and maybe new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel can spark something in him.
If Reed works on his hand technique and tackling during the offseason, he might have one more year left to be that breakout guy. He's in no danger of losing his starting job anytime soon, but a simple tune of his mechanics in training camp could earn him a few more sacks next season.
Reed showed potential in his rookie year against the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. He finished with 2.5 sacks, six tackles and a forced fumble in that game, and at times, he was just as competitive as J.J. Watt.
He just needs to get back to that kind of form and mop up some of the undisciplined play we saw from him late last season.
D.J. Swearinger, SS
D.J. Swearinger's rookie year was good and bad. By the end of the season, he'd earned the right to say he was the firm starter, but it came after a few hiccups and blown coverages on experienced receivers.
If Swearinger is going to have a big 2014, he'll simply need to work on his point of attack at the line and learn to become more physical with receivers in the air. Last season, Swearinger was good for only one interception, but on that play, he kept close contact with Arizona's Rob Housler and showed good vision to pick off the deep pass.
Out of the rest of the Texans' garbage secondary, Swearinger is probably the most promising of all the players. He contributed to the struggles in the red zone with only seven tackles all year, but another season under his belt should give him more of an understanding of the Texans' scheme.
That, plus some much better corner help, probably makes Swearinger's life a lot easier.
Ryan Griffin, TE
With a rookie quarterback taking over things, it's great that the Texans are so stacked at tight end.
Ryan Griffin makes this list because of how well he played toward the end of last season. His best performance came against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15 where he had 62 yards on six catches, but there's more to Griffin's emergence than just some minor late-season heroics.
The depth at the position will probably limit Griffin again next season, although that doesn't mean he won't be the primary backup at some stage. With money an issue, Owen Daniels could be on the bubble, and if you line up all three tight ends including Garrett Graham, Griffin looks to be the strongest blocker of them all.
Entering his second year, Griffin would slide into the backup role nicely. He's the tallest of the group, and he deserves a chance to really prove himself next year.
Shiloh Keo, FS
Shiloh Keo was the Texans' answer to the Ed Reed mess, and it panned out pretty nicely.
Keo finished with 63 combined tackles and a pick last season, but those stats don't do him justice, because his coverage skills were close to outstanding for most of the year.
By far the most impressive part of Keo's game is his decision-making and knowing when to bring some help over the top and assist his fellow defenders. Going into his fourth season, Keo will finally have a chance to play a complete year in the secondary, meaning the Texans' safety corps will feature a ton of youth.
There's not much Keo may need to work on, either. He showed good tackling ability close to the sidelines, and he is fast enough to keep up with tricky wide receivers. It's just a matter of giving him a proper chance.
Keshawn Martin, WR
Keshawn Martin had a lifetime's worth of unlucky plays in 2013, and some fans might cringe at the thought of him ever returning another kick or punt return again.
Keep in mind, though, the Texans are still in need of a serious third receiver, and with DeVier Posey perhaps not ready yet, Martin still looks to be the favorable guy to jump in at the slot position and offer the quarterback an extra target.
As trade bait, Martin might be a hot commodity later in the offseason, but it would be no surprise to see Bill O'Brien try and condition him a little more now that he is in his third season. At 5'11" and 194 pounds, Martin isn't the ideal target, although he does fare quite well in short-yardage situations near the goal line.
If Martin has another lousy season of fumbles, he probably won't be back. In 2014, it's definitely his chance to prove himself.