I could spend forever talking about the mistakes made on Sunday, but you guys watched the game, you know what the Texans did wrong. Unfortunately yesterday's result was a very predictable outcome based off of their recent slide. The result on Sunday was not a fluke; the Texans have several things to address to make the jump from playoff team to Super Bowl team. Here is where I would start.
Knowing When To Let Go
Connor Barwin, Antoine Caldwell, Shaun Cody, Bradie James, Brice McCain, and Glover Quin are all free-agents. They can't afford to re-sign all of them and they should let most of them walk. If it was up to me, I'd try to re-sign McCain and Quin and let the rest of them go. With limited cap space they can't afford to give any of them a raise and frankly their performance doesn't merit one. On top of that, Brian Cushing (1 year left) and J.J. Watt (2 years left) are due for a new contract soon so they need to make sure they have room for their pay bumps.
To the guys I'd let go, I think Mercilus can step in and replace Barwin, Caldwell has already lost his job, Earl Mitchell outplayed Cody recently, and Bradie James is just awful. Take a lesson from the Astros, holding on to veteran players who aren't producing can kill your team over the long run. On top of letting those guys walk, I'd also consider cutting Antonio Smith and Kevin Walter; there are cheaper options available for their level of production. This current group can't and won't get the job done, its time to move on from older guys who aren't making plays to free up cap space to sign free-agents and re-sign the guys they want to build around.
Should be pretty clear, they need to go after offensive lineman and defense; specifically the right side of the line and pass rushers. Over the last two off-seasons they've lost a Pro-Bowl fullback, a great blocking tight end, and two good run blocking offensive lineman; no wonder Arian Foster has struggled at times this season to find running lanes. I think they can get away with not having a true fullback, but they have to draft a couple of lineman early and a tight end later on to get this running game back to an elite level.
Their biggest defensive problem was the lack of a pass rush outside of J.J. Watt. Their secondary wasn't perfect, but an improved pass rush would make them look a lot better. The seemingly non-stop pressure from last season changed to Watt or bust and that can't continue. Watt will still get his, but when teams decide to double team him or have a tight end or running back chip him on their way out into a route, they have to have other guys capable of getting to the quarterback. Tom Brady had all day to find open guys for the majority of the game on Sunday, but that problem has been going on all season. Watt nearly tripled the sacks of Antonio Smith who finished second on the team with seven. Watt is a great player, but only 9 players in the history of the NFL have posted 20 or more sacks in a season, it's doubtful that he can single-handedly carry the load in that department again next year. The NFL all-time career leader in sacks Bruce Smith never had a 20 sack season, the great Reggie White only had one; Watt needs help around him in the front seven to get after the quarterback.