The Texans won three games last season. Houston already has six wins thanks in part to rookie standout Will Anderson Jr.'s pass rushing prowess, C.J. Stroud's exceptional quarterback play and first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans' alibility to guide the team from the sidelines.
The Texans probably took a rebuilding approach to the 2023 NFL season, but their current winning record gives the team a realistic chance of qualifying for the postseason.
Stroud and Anderson were the second and third overall selections in the draft earlier this year. Although the Texans are in the midst of a surprising season, things did not go smoothly early on. Houston opened the season by dropping their first two regular season games.
But, Anderson said, they never panicked.
"We definitely would have liked to get off to a better start back in September, but there was never a sense that our season was going to completely fall apart," Anderson told Fox News Digital. "We pretty much continued to be confident… we kept doing what he doing on a weekly basis when it came to how we practiced and prepared for our next game. Keep a consistent… confident mindset I think is always important."
Some of the doubts about this year's Texans team likely stemmed from the franchise's lack of success over the past couple of seasons. Houston finished the 2021 campaign with a 4-13 record and followed that up with a 3-13-1 record.
This past offseason, Texans ownership hired Ryans, the team's third head coach in three years. Ryans spent the past few seasons as the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator.
For Anderson, past failures do not concern him.
"The past is the past. We’re not worried about, ‘Oh, this happened last year,’ even the guys that were here last year," the former Alabama standout and two-time SEC defensive player of the year said.
"We’re so, like, focused on this year’s Texans, the 2023 Texans, we don’t even talk about what happened last year. We’re only worried about, these are the strides that we’re making, this is what’s going on right now, this is how we’re going to continue to be great, and it’s just been the consistency, and I think that’s just been the beauty of it."
Anderson recently teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star Greater Houston to encourage mentorship. Anderson expressed excitement about having the opportunity to give back and said he always strives to be a blessing to others.
"Houston… I can't thank you guys enough. All the fans, the people, the community thank you for all the love and support. I'm super excited to be here and super excited to give back to this wonderful community," Anderson said.
"It's a blessing, you gotta give all glory to God… he puts you in these positions to be able to be a blessing." Anderson said. "That's one thing I always prayed for like ‘God, let me always be a blessing and a servant to someone and shine my light to somebody and help them'… of course on the field that's just a credit to guys in the locker room… everybody just being on it, having fun and just getting doing what they love to do…. I can't say enough good things about on and off the field and everything that's going on, it's just nothing but God."
With the majority of the NFL season now in the rearview mirror, Anderson shared his mindset down the stretch.
"Just continue to be me. Continue to grow. That’s all areas of my game. I’m not perfect at all. But the guys in the room have been helping," the budding NFL star noted. "The coaches have been helping. Of course, I’m doing my part of trying to help myself, so it’s really about just being willing to learn and just going out there, keep trying to perfect my craft and get better every day in all areas."
This year's Texans team has been playing with a distinct edge, something Anderson attributed to their overall desire to achieve greatness.
"Man oh man, I can’t say enough good things about this group of guys I get to play with on a week in and week out basis…. for real because it just gives me chills. Everybody’s so hungry and so eager just for the opportunity to keep going out there and getting better each week."
The 22-year-old also issued high praise for his coach and quarterback, saying the two's good energy is resonating with the entire team.
"Coach Ryans and C.J., their energy is contagious. They spread along so much positivity and so much enthusiasm around the locker room, around the building, on the practice field, everything, and people feed off that. It’s just been a blessing to be able to be a part of that and to be able to see the culture that’s being set here," Anderson recently told the NFL Network.
"I wouldn’t rather play with any other coach, I wouldn’t rather have any other quarterback than C.J., and I know the other guys feel the exact same way."
Stroud has racked up 3,266 passing yards and 19 touchdowns over 11 games so far this season. The 22-year-old said he is trying to remain "even-keeled" amid the chatter about being in contention for the NFL MVP.
"It’s been cool to be able to be in the [MVP] talk, but just like they love me this week, they’ll hate me the next," Stroud said in November. "So, I don’t try to look at that stuff. I try to stay even-keeled and just stay on the straight and narrow, and just work really hard and make my teammates around me better."
Following Houston’s five-point victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 19, Ryans praised Anderson for his impact on the team’s defense.
"Will has been very impactful for our defense," Ryans said. "He's an impact player. Will plays the game with a relentless mindset. I love the way he gets after each and every snap. You talk about effort, you talk about him disrupting the quarterback."
The Texans have won three out of their last four games. At 6-5, Houston is two games behind the AFC South division-leading Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite a Week 12 loss to Jacksonville, the Texans' playoff hopes remain alive.
The Texans host the resurgent Broncos in Week 13. Denver enters Dec. 3 matchup on a five-game winning streak.