HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans hope injuries are to blame for their disappointing 4-12 mark last season, as they were without quarterback Deshaun Watson, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus for a significant portion of the season.
Still, Houston entered the offseason with many holes on both sides of the ball and without a first- or second-round draft pick. But with about $68 million in salary-cap space, the Texans were poised to make moves in free agency. They have done just that, addressing needs in the secondary and strengthening the offensive line to protect Watson.
Here’s a look at the depth chart:
QB: Deshaun Watson. It remains to be seen how Watson will recover from a torn right ACL, but if he can play anything like he did in his six starts during his rookie season, the Texans will have a dynamic offense.
RB: Lamar Miller. Miller will enter offseason workouts as the starter, but if 2017 third-round pick D'Onta Foreman is healthy, he will compete for the majority of touches in the Texans backfield to begin the season.
WR: DeAndre Hopkins. The sixth-year receiver was one of the best in the NFL last season and could have an even bigger 2018 if Watson can stay healthy.
WR: Will Fuller. When healthy, the speedy Fuller complemented Hopkins well last season and thrived with Watson under center. Fuller missed six games last season, but in four with Watson, he caught seven touchdowns.
WR: Braxton Miller. The Texans hope Miller can turn the corner and be a productive option in the slot. In his first two seasons, Miller played in 21 games and had 34 catches for 261 yards and a touchdown. Bruce Ellington and Sammie Coates will compete for a complementary role on the outside.
TE: Ryan Griffin. The Texans still could add a tight end after C.J. Fiedorowicz retired last week, but if not, Griffin likely will start. Stephen Anderson has potential to become a reliable pass-catcher, but Griffin's experience gives him the edge. Houston dealt with plenty of injuries in what was a terrible 2017 at the position; Texans tight ends caught 53 percent of their targets last season, which was the worst in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The group had just two combined receiving touchdowns, which was tied for last.
LT: To be determined. Houston started five players at left tackle last season, two of whom -- Chris Clark and Duane Brown -- are no longer on the team. Ideally, 2017 fourth-round pick Julien Davenport and free-agent addition Seantrel Henderson will compete at right tackle, but if the Texans don’t add anyone else, the other might have to protect Watson’s blind side.
LG: Zach Fulton. Along with Henderson and Senio Kelemete, Fulton is one of three additions the Texans have made on the offensive line. Fulton was Pro Football Focus’ 14th-ranked guard last season and will take over for Xavier Su'a-Filo, who started every game at left guard in 2017 and is now a free agent.
C: Nick Martin. Martin is the only offensive lineman whose starting spot is solid. He is recovering from season-ending ankle surgery but should be ready to go by training camp.
RG: Jeff Allen, for now. With Fulton likely to start at left guard, Kelemete will compete with Allen on the right side. Kelemete started at both guard spots and center last season for the Saints.
RT: Davenport/Henderson. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Houston’s offensive tackles were particularly bad in the running game in 2017; the Texans ranked 29th in average yards before first contact on rushes outside the tackles (2.31). Houston will hope Davenport takes a step forward in his second season, and if the Texans don't add another offensive lineman, they'll need him to.
DE: J.J. Watt. He has played only eight games over the past two seasons as he dealt with a back injury in 2016 and a broken leg in Week 5 last season. Watt is still rehabbing from his leg injury and might not be back on the field by OTAs this spring, but he said he will be ready for the 2018 opener.
NT: D.J. Reader. The 2016 fifth-round pick took over at nose tackle after Vince Wilfork retired before last season and was ranked 22nd among interior defenders in 2017 by PFF.
DE: Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans exercised Clowney’s fifth-year option before the season, but he is in line for a huge payday -- perhaps becoming the NFL’s highest-paid non-quarterback either later this offseason or next year. Clowney has an injury history but played his first 16-game season in 2017. The 2014 No. 1 pick plays all over the field and the Texans love his versatility.
OLB: Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus tore a pectoral muscle in Week 5 and the Texans missed him up front. Will 2018 be the year when Watt, Clowney and Mercilus can stay healthy, reach their potential and become the NFL's best pass rush?
ILB: Benardrick McKinney. McKinney is an excellent tackler and has missed just 14 tackles in 188 attempts in the past two seasons, according to PFF. In that time, McKinney has 224 total tackles, 19 quarterback hits, 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
ILB: Zach Cunningham. Cunningham and fellow rookie Dylan Cole really stepped up when Brian Cushing was suspended 10 games for violating the NFL’s policy for performance-enhancing drugs last season. The two will compete to start alongside McKinney, and both are likely to see plenty of the field in 2018.
OLB: To be determined. As of right now, the Texans don't have much depth at outside linebacker, but Brennan Scarlett could see more time at the position.
CB: Johnathan Joseph. Joseph will be 34 when the 2018 season starts, but he was the Texans’ best cornerback last season. Until he shows significant signs of regression, Houston will be relying on Joseph in the secondary.
CB: Aaron Colvin. Colvin was a slot corner for Jacksonville but comes to Houston with the opportunity to start on the outside alongside Joseph. It will be interesting to see how the Texans handle nickel formations this season, as Kareem Jackson has been their slot corner.
SS: Tyrann Mathieu. The former Arizona Cardinals safety made a big splash when he agreed to a one-year, $7 million deal with Houston. Although Mathieu has dealt with injuries in his first five NFL seasons, he is coming off his first-ever 16-game season, in which he played more snaps than anyone else in the NFL.
FS: Andre Hal. After signing a three-year, $15 million contract before last season, Hal led the Texans with three interceptions in 2017.