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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Houston Texans 2010: Schaub Looking for Help on the Ground

Last Years Record            9-7
Wins: Titans, Raiders, Bengals, 49ers, Bills, Seahawks, Rams, Dolphins, Patriots
Losses: Jets, Jaguars (x2), Cardinals, Colts (x2), Titans
Biggest Playmaker            Andre Johnson
WR, Miami, Drafted #3, 8th Year
Andre Johnson is widely regarded as the top wide receiver in the game, and rightfully so.  He has led the league in receiving yards each of the past two years and was recently rewarded with a nice, big contract extension, making him the highest paid receiver in the NFL.   
Impact Player            Mario Williams
DE, NC State, Drafted #1, 5th Year
Mario Williams had “bust” potential after his rookie season but turned things around, amassing 35 sacks over the past three seasons.  He has great size for a DE at 6’6” and 285, has not missed a game in four years and has 8 forced fumbles the past three seasons.
Biggest Offseason Addition            Kareem Jackson
CB, Alabama, Drafted #20, Rookie
Kareem Jackson was the Texans first round pick, filling a huge need for them.  With the loss of starting CB Dunta Robinson to free agency the Texans needed someone to step up as the starting corner, and Jackson has been the guy since day 1.  Many questioned taking Jackson over Boise State CB Kyle Wilson, but Jackson is ready to be an NFL starter.  He may endure some growing pains in year one, but time will tell whether taking him over Wilson was a good move.
Biggest Offseason Loss            Dunta Robinson
CB, South Carolina, Drafted #10, 7th year
After playing his first six years with the Texans, Robinson was not signed due to injury concerns.  The Texans did not want to risk a long-term contract with a guy who has missed 12 games over the past three seasons.  Robinson is considered a very solid #1 corner, and if Jackson can step in early and play well the loss of Robinson will not affect them.  Robinson has failed to produce the turnovers the Texans would have liked to see with only 13 interceptions in six years of work.
Biggest Draft Steal            Dorin Dickerson
WR, Pittsburgh, Drafted #227, Rookie
Dorin Dickerson was a tight end at the NFL combine and blew all of the other tight ends out of the water.  He ran a 4.40 40 yard dash (better than all but one WR), vertical jumped 43.5 inches and broad jumped 10’5.”  He has recently dropped weight and switched to WR, now coming in around 6’2” and 222 pounds.  He has good hands and is big and strong enough to create mismatches against defensive backs but fast enough to play well on LB’s.
Biggest Draft Reach            None
The Texans had a solid draft.  I really like the Dickerson and RB Ben Tate picks, but was a little hesitant about drafting Darryl Sharpton early in the fourth round.  However, it appears that he has impressed the coaches during camp and is fighting for a starting spot, a tremendous value as a fourth rounder.
Offseason Grade            A-
The Texans had a very good offseason this year.  They address their, in my opinion, two biggest needs at CB and RB with their first two picks in the draft.  Ben Tate was expected to compete for the starting spot until he was placed on injured reserve.  They even brought in competition for their kicker, signing Neil Rackers, who will likely be the Texans’ kicker this year.  Finally, they addressed the loss of G Chester Pitts by signing the versatile G/C Wade Smith.
X-Factor            Run Game
Given the injury to rookie RB Ben Tate, the Texans’ rushing attack is looking very similar to last year.  The Texans were carried by their passing attack last year, rushing for only 1,475 yards and 3.5 yards per carry (with 11 fumbles).  If the Texans want to overthrow the Colts from their reign at the top of AFC South they will need a much improved rushing attack.
Name You Should Know            Demeco Ryans
ILB, Alabama, Drafted #33, 5th Year
Demeco Ryans has been sensational for the Texans, yet does not get a tremendous amount of publicity.  Ryans has made two pro bowls in his fours years and has started every game since he was drafted.  He had an unbelievable rookie season, being names Defensive ROY, accumulating 155 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an interception, and has recorded 112 tackles or more every year since then.
Rising Star            Matt Schaub
QB, Virginia, Drafted #90, 7th Year
Matt Schaub is a star.  A year ago he led the league in passing yards, was named to his first pro bowl and was the MVP of that game.  Most importantly, he has improved in almost every statistical category over the past three years.  He essentially carried the Texans to a 9-7 record with the third worst running attack in the NFL.  His major concern is his health, as he missed 10 games the two seasons before this past one. 
Offensive Outlook            B+
The Texans boast a dynamic passing attack, thanks largely due to the Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson connection.  They averaged 383 yards per game in 2009, fourth in the NFL, despite the third worst rushing attack in the league.  The injury to rookie RB Ben Tate is a major setback for the Texans, as they must improve their rushing attack with the same crew as last year.  The offensive line is solid in pass protection, allowing 25 sacks a year ago, but must open some big holes to get Arian Foster and Steve Slaton through.  The performance of WR Kevin Walter and TE Owen Daniel’s return from injury will be important to watch to take some pressure (and double teams) off of Andre Johnson.
Defensive Outlook            B-
The Texans defense is powered by their linebackers, featuring two former defensive rookie of the years, Demeco Ryans and Brian Cushing.  Cushing will be out four games for “overtraining” and Xavier Adibi will need to step up in his place.  The secondary is a concern for the Texans, feature young corners and an injury prone Eugene Wilson.  Mario Williams has been very strong the past three seasons and the Texans are looking for Amobi Okoye to live up to his first-round potential.
Special Teams Outlook            B
After a miserable season by K Kris Brown the team signed veteran Neil Rackers to “challenge” him.  Veteran Matt Turk is consistent, with 24 punts pinned inside the 20 to only 6 touchbacks in 2009.  Speedy rookie WR Trindon Holliday may be the punt and kick returner this season.
Projected 2010 Record            10-6
I would have loved to see how the Texans’ run game would fare with the addition of rookie RB Ben Tate, but we will have to wait another year.  The Texans will certainly contend for a playoff spot and I think they will get there as long as they get a bit more production on the ground.  I can definitely see them as a wild card team with Schaub and Johnson carrying them.  The success of the defense depends a lot on the young corners.

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