J.J. Watt is on injured reserve, and for the first time since the 2010 season, the Texans will play a regular season game without the 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
The defensive end re-injured his back and will be unable to play for awhile.
Head coach Bill O'Brien was disappointed the Texans will be without the 2015 NFL sacks leader, but
pointed to the strength of the collective.
"We are a team," O'Brien said. "We have a number of good players in all three phasses of the game."
O'Brien said he had "no idea" if Watt would need another surgery on his injured back.
Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel echoed O'Brien, and emphasized the Texans will prosper only as a unit.
"It's not just one guy," Crennel said. "It's everybody doing their job and fitting."
The team signed veteran defensive end and former Texan Antonio Smith. He practiced with the team inside NRG Stadium on Wednesday. Inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who returned to practice Wednesday after being out with a knee injury, said when Watt comes back he'll be the same disruptive force.
"I know he'll be back, and he'll be back as good as he was before," Cushing said.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler said Watt will be missed, but that the Texans will pick up the slack in his absence.
"J.J.'s a guy that you can't replace," Osweiler said. "Every single team will face adversity in their season. It really boils down to the 'next man up' mentality."
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said he has no doubt Watt's "going to do what he has to do to come back and help this team", and that the Texans will be without a "heck of a player." But he's also disappointed for Watt in another way.
"Any time a friend can't do what they love to do, you feel for them," Hopkins said.
Christian Covington, Devon Still and Joel Heath are the other defensive ends on the 53-man roster in addition to Smith.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 12/29/2020)