- Tania Ganguli, ESPN Staff Writer
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HOUSTON -- Minutes after their young quarterback stood at the podium in Indianapolis and heaped blame on himself for the Texans' least productive offensive game of the season, his teammates stood up for him in the locker room.
Players like left tackle Duane Brown and receiver Andre Johnson acknowledged that Case Keenum was going through a rough patch. They expressed their belief that he would get through it and they talked about what they could do to help.
They might be right. There's no question Keenum has struggled to transition into his role as an NFL starting quarterback, but the learning process can take longer for some than others.
Even if they are right, the Texans will need to address the position in this year's draft. They'll need another option because Keenum's development is still in question.
That's exactly what ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has been doing in his first mock draft of the season (yes, it's that time again). McShay has the Texans, right now positioned for the first overall pick in the draft, taking Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater makes sense for the Texans if they think he's a surefire franchise quarterback, which is the best-case scenario for a No. 1 overall pick. If they don't, a pass-rusher like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney or UCLA's Anthony Barr could make an impact.
Regardless of what defense awaits them with the next head coach and his staff, the Texans will need another pass-rusher. They'll lose defensive end Antonio Smith and haven't gotten much pressure from their outside linebackers this season. A premium pass-rusher means a lot to a team, and pairing one with interior pass-rusher J.J. Watt would give the Texans' defense a rare luxury.
There might still be a decent quarterback available in the second round if the Texans go that route. There's also the option of signing a veteran free agent or trading for a veteran. It might not be a perfect solution, but the Texans can make a dramatic improvement from last season even without the perfect quarterback. Drafting the wrong quarterback too high, meanwhile, can be a bigger problem.
This isn't an unfamiliar dilemma in Houston.
For many years, AFC South teams built themselves to counter Peyton Manning, trying to create a productive pass rush and a time-consuming running game that would keep Manning off the field.
That dynamic impacted the Texans' choice the last time they had the No. 1 overall draft pick. Instead of taking hometown hero Vince Young (which has since shown itself to be a brilliant decision) or Heisman winner Reggie Bush (another solid move) in 2006, the Texans looked to the other side of the ball and took defensive end Mario Williams.
This is a different team with different needs, but making the right call remains no less crucial.