HOUSTON -- As they tried to sweep up the shattered pieces of their 2018 season after Saturday's wild-card loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Houston Texans clung to one word to soothe the crushing disappointment.
"I think it's bright," rookie wide receiver Keke Coutee said. "I do. I think we all feel that way. The future is bright, real bright."
"Bright" was the word of choice, as the Texans see a young, dynamic quarterback (Deshaun Watson) who just finished his second season and a rookie class that was a significant part of the team's rebound from an 0-3 start to an 11-5 regular season.
The Texans finished the season with 13 rookies on their 53-player roster, or 24.5 percent. There were 10 in uniform for the wild-card game and three (Coutee, safety Justin Reid and tight end Jordan Thomas) in the starting lineup against the Colts.
"The future is always going to be bright, regardless of who's here," Watson said. "... It didn't end the way we wanted it to end, but at the end of the day, looking at the full season, you should have some smiles, some more positivity than a lot of negative stuff. ... Hopefully I'm a part of it, for sure, for a long time."
The Texans' rookie class was a testament to work done down the board, given that the team didn't pick until drafting Reid with the first of three third-round selections in April. Tackle Martinas Rankin and tight end Jordan Akins, who started six games, also arrived in the third round.
Coutee, who battled a hamstring injury for much of the season, was a fourth-round pick. He finished Saturday's game with 11 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Reid, who left Saturday's game with a rib injury, started 13 games in the regular season, the most of any Texans rookie. He finished the season with 88 tackles and 10 pass breakups, and he had a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown in Houston's Week 11 win against Washington.
"He had a helluva year," Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph said of Reid. "Coming in as a rookie, on a talented defense like we have, a lot of big names on defense coming in, and just doing his job each and every day and just handling himself as a professional."
"I think that this organization has a very bright future," O'Brien said. "We have a great, young quarterback. We've got a lot of really great guys in the locker room. ... These guys work hard. They love to play. They have a passion for the game. I'm saying it -- I don't really care whatever you guys [say] -- I think there is a bright future for the organization when you have the players we have here."
The Texans will need a similar performance in the draft in April and might have to give their defense some attention, given the age of the secondary and the fact that they have three defensive starters scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in March: defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, cornerback Kareem Jackson and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
Reid is the outlier in the current secondary that includes Joseph (34), Jackson (30) and cornerback Shareece Wright (31).
To be sure, much of the Texans' optimism revolves around Watson, who is 23. The Colts were able to unsettle Watson in the pocket at times with a variety of coverage looks, especially after wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins suffered a right shoulder injury in the first half. But Watson finished with 311 total yards, including 76 rushing, and was the NFL's only quarterback to top 4,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing this season.
"My future's bright," Watson said. "I mean, I'm not going to lose any confidence in myself, what I can do ... you got to look at the season, how it is. I'm not going to lose confidence. Just go back to work, keep this feeling in the back of my mind, go back to work this offseason, regroup next year."