As the off-season rolls on, the Houston Texans are one of the NFL teams who have been no strangers to appearing on the front pages in 2021. This is largely due to the rumors surrounding and the subsequent legal action that has been taken against their superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson. With the legal process ongoing, the front office has attempted to prepare for the worst possible scenario, evidenced by their recruitment strategy to sign Tyrod Taylor and draft Davis Mills in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The turnover throughout the roster means there will be many new faces stepping onto the NRG Stadium field this September. Amongst all the comings and going, who can we say are the three faces of the 2021 Houston Texans?
2021 Houston Texans: Faces of the Team
A nine-year veteran in the league, Whitney Mercilus has spent his entire career with the Texans. He’s been through the highs of five post-season teams and the lows of playing on the worst team in the NFL in 2013. The position Houston is in now: coming off a 4-12 campaign, a coaching change, and being in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, seems even more desperate than that 2013 squad.
However, Mercilus remains a constant, a reliable leader in the locker room to ease the transition this off-season. He’s played his entire career in the shadow of the greatest Houston Texan in history, J.J. Watt. However, Mercilus has 54 career sacks to his name as an outside linebacker. His best year came in 2015 when Mercilus racked up 12 sacks, the only double-digit sack season of his career. Mercilus is the name the majority of Texans fans will be most familiar with on their defense in 2021.
Perhaps in normal circumstances, naming a left tackle as the face of a franchise would indicate a lack of talent on the roster. While the latter half of that sentence may still ring true for the Texans, Laremy Tunsil would be one of the best players on many rosters in the league. In Houston, his superior talent to the players he shares a locker room with stands out.
Forever synonymous with one of the most fascinating draft night dramas of this century, Tunsil is also familiar to most fans for the trade that landed him in Houston. The Miami Dolphins received an absolute haul from the Texans to send the left tackle to Houston in a 2019 trade. Regardless, Tunsil remains one of the best-left tackles in the league. He’s an excellent pass blocker; PFF ranked him the 4th best pass-blocking offensive tackle in the league for 2020. The trade for Tunsil hasn’t worked out from an organizational standpoint. However, Tunsil remains one of the best players on the roster. He is a face of the franchise left tackle for the 2021 Houston Texans. In fact, left tackle is one of the few spots on the roster Houston doesn’t have to worry about. As long as they keep Tunsil in the building. that is.
This is the most difficult decision to make: to include or not to include Deshaun Watson as the face of a franchise he could very well not play for in 2021. However, the argument for this decision is twofold. One, if Watson is cleared of his legal issues but his trade stock is at an all-time low, there’s a small chance he still plays in Houston this fall. It’s a very small chance, but it’s a chance. The quarterback is coming off a career statistical year in terms of passing yards (4823) and passing touchdowns (33). He even threw a career-low seven interceptions surrounded by one of the worst offensive units in the league. Watson’s quality of play was still on an upward trajectory.
The second argument is more interesting but alludes to the more likely scenario. If Watson is traded away this off-season or doesn’t play at all in the NFL this year, the Houston Texans franchise will still be tied to Watson, forever associated with the legal troubles their formerly beloved quarterback is going through. No fan will be able to mention the Texans in a passing discussion with another fan without mentioning Watson. No broadcast will be able to avoid the subject for all four quarters, nor should they. Watson might not play for Houston again. However, the two are forever tied together by what has transpired and will continue to develop off the field in 2021.
It’s an unfortunate turn of events for Houston. One of the Houston Texans faces of 2021 might not take the field for the team.
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