2022 didn't go the way the Texans wanted, but the players remain optimistic about the future. From rookies to eight-year veterans, several see sunny days on the horizon.
Running back Dameon Pierce's 2022 campaign ended with a sprained ankle in the Week 14 road loss at Dallas. Before that, however, the rookie galloped for 939 yards. Houston failed to win six games in which they entered the fourth quarter tied or with a lead, and Pierce pointed to those thin margins in tight games as something the club could reverse.
"We were what, two or three plays away a game just from being in a different conversation right now," Pierce said. "So it's some minimal stuff that can be fixed."
One of the linemen who helped clear the way for Pierce's breakout season was A.J. Cann. He signed with the Texans last offseason after spending the first seven years of his career in Jacksonville. Like his young teammate, Cann is hopeful about the future based on the way the team played toward the end of the year.
"If we go out there and compete like we're supposed to, we'll come back next year knowing what we are capable of," Cann said. "Taking this energy into next year, we should be ready to go."
Last March, Houston traded a 2023 sixth-round pick for linebacker Blake Cashman. He turned in a career-best three sacks and was a key member of the special teams unit. While disappointed in the won-loss results, he explained why the Texans should be aiming for much more.
"With everyone in this organization, the expectations should be high," Cashman said. "Guys like (defensive back) Jalen Pitre, (linebacker) Christian Harris, these rookies are great football players who are going to have long careers. And obviously with the Draft coming up, continuing to build this franchise, it's very promising."
Wide Receiver Amari Rodgers was claimed off waivers from Green Bay on November 16, and wound up playing in Houston's final six games. He caught 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown, and saw a significant amount of snaps on offense. Like Cashman, he's excited about what's to come with the Texans, and also pointed to Harris, Pitre and Pierce as reasons why.
"We've got a lot of young ballers on this team," Rodgers said. "Especially on defense, with Christian Harris and Jalen Pitre, and our running back. I'm excited for the future for sure. We got a lot of young players that are going to step up next year and be leaders. We got a lot of picks in the draft, so we're going to have a lot of help coming in as well."
Harris missed the first six games of the season with injury, returned in Week 7 at Las Vegas, and was impactful from that point through the end of the season. It was a good year, individually, but Harris is focused on what must happen next for the Texans to achieve their goal of winning.
"You got to come in to work, regardless of the circumstances," Harris said. "Ready to work and continue with pushing, keeping everybody to bring it with you. Keep that same mindset for next year and get everybody on that same page and we'll be good."
Because the Texans will have a new head coach this year, they can start offseason conditioning as a team as early as April 3. General Manager Nick Caserio has begun the process of pinpointing who will lead the team on the field. Regardless of who he and Texans Chair and CEO Cal McNair hire, Pierce explained what that new leader must mean to the club and its fans.
"Someone that's going to move Houston in a positive direction and give them the team that they deserve," Pierce said. "We've got some loyal fans. We've got fans from 2002 that are still sticking with us. We just want to give them something that they can be proud of."