>\n\nWorst to First: 20. Houston Texans \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 20. Houston Texans

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/16/2010

Time for the "other" team in Texas, the Houston Texans to book in for a breakdown. Last season almost promised so much for the Texans and thanks to 2 gift victories for the Jets, it's a team I have a lot of sympathy for. They should have been in the playoffs. Andre Johnson has been a star WR for a few years now but the guy throwing him the ball really upped his game to a new level last year too. But the rushing game took a major step backwards and their star RB from 2008 must have at least some fears for his career. The Defense is a work in progress but showed some good signs and their LB corps are probably the envy of 4-3 teams the league over. Bigger things will be expected of the Texans this year, but they won't have that element of suprise and anything less than a Playoff berth will probably mean the end of the line for coach Gary Kubiak. It's a tough proposition too as they share a division with Peyton Manning and the Colts. I'm not sure the Texans are quite ready to shoot down the Colts yet so they may have to gun for a wildcard. But stranger things happen in this league every year. So how many pieces of the jigsaw are the Texans missing?

Let's take a look....

2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
Rex Grossman QB (Redskins,UFA), Dunta Robinson CB (Falcons,UFA)

Wade Smith G (Chiefs,UFA), Neil Rackers K (Cardinals,UFA)
2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
Chris Brown RB (UFA), John Busing FS (RFA), Rashad Butler T (RFA), Khary Campbell LB (UFA), Owen Daniels TE (RFA), Nick Ferguson FS (UFA), Bryan Pittman LS (UFA), Chester Pitts G (UFA), Tutan Reyes G (UFA), Brian Russell DB (UFA), Ephraim Salaam T (UFA), Chaun Thompson LB (UFA), Toddrick Verdell LB (UFA-cut), Chris White G (RFA), Jeff Zgonina DT (UFA)

Fred Bennett DB (RFA), Kevin Bentley LB (UFA), Tim Bulman DL (UFA), Shaun Cody DL (UFA), Zach Diles LB (RFA), Arian Foster RB (RFA), Jacoby Jones WR (RFA), Vonta Leach RB (UFA), Ryan Moats RB (UFA), Bernard Pollard S (UFA), Deljuan Robinson DL (RFA), Kasey Studdard OG (RFA), Matt Turk P )UFA)
Quarterbacks Minor Need
If Matt Schaub wasn't an elite NFL quarterback before 2009, after it he most certainly is. And at 28 years old he should be entering his prime years. Naturally any QB with Andre Johnson to throw to has a great chance to succeed. Maybe the Texans are a little too dependent on Johnson. Last year AJ was mostly shut down in only a couple of games, unsurprisingly against the 2 guys I rate as the best cover corners in the NFL, Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders). Schaub completed under 55% of his passes in both games. The only time that happened all year. In fact Schaub completed over 60% of his passes in every other game. What that means? Well it's too small a survey to really be sure of anything. But there's still this nagging question over Schaub's effectiveness if Johnson is out. We'll look at the WRs later but I'd say looking a a backup depth chart of Dan Orlovsky and John David Booty that there is scope to bring in a developmental type guy in this draft. Schaub is signed through 2013 though, and at considerably less of a cap hit (should a new CBA be worked out) than a lot of his contemporaries. So he won't be going anywhere. They could certainly use that competition behind him though.

Runningbacks Major Need
Any team with Steve Slaton should be sweet shouldn't they? Well no. Not as it turns out. Coming some kind of Cervical Fusion surgery to his neck you have to wonder if Slaton will ever be 100% ever again. Even before the surgery last year he'd been benched for an alarming number of fumbles (which coaches have suggested may have been related to the neck problem). Arian Foster was actually pretty successful as the starter in the last 2 games, enough to give you some hope they can get by with what they have but various members of the Texans organisation have hinted they could be seeking a RB early on in this draft. There's a collection of other journeymen RBs on the roster like Ryan Moats and Chris Henry who flashed early in their careers then fizzled out, so you can see where they're coming from. This is a team loaded with Offensive Talent and a star RB is probably the last missing ingredient. Even if Slaton does return to full health it's doubtful he'd be looked on as anything more than a complimentary back now and to be frank, his body probably can't take another season of 20 carries a game. So who could they be looking at? Well they've had Fresno State star Ryan Mathews in for a visit. He should be a good fit, though he might fall through the cracks. He's probably not a first rounder but should really be gone by the time Houston picks again in round 2. I have a hard time seeing guys like C.J. Spiller and Jahvid Best fitting with what the Texans will be after, so maybe a guy like Jonathan Dwyer on round 2 or 3? Personally I think Arian Foster's last 2 games warrant him being given a shot but I'm also not 100% sure what 2 good games against Miami in December and a Patriots team with nothing on the line tell us. They're probably right to be looking for something better.

Wide Receivers No Need
I mentioned earlier Schaub's struggles when Andre Johnson is hurt or shut down. A lot of that comes down to a group of wideouts underneath Johnson who all have talent, but lack big play ability on the depth chart. Kevin Walter's a good possession WR but last season but in past seasons with a similar number of targets and catches he'd made a lot more yards. Partly that will be because of the emergence of Jacoby Jones on some of the deeper routes. Another reason is that despite the Texans passing more last year than in recent years, Owen Daniels took a lot of balls in the first half of the year. As long as Jones continues to emerge and Daniels is healthy, Walter will be doing all he needs to be doing. Moving the chains. Any time a position loses it's star turn things are going to drop off but I think the Texans will be hoping with Jones getting better and better, and making some big plays, he'll step and take some of the slack. With David Anderson a capable WR as well they certainly more legit NFL receivers than most teams so I see little need to upgrade here now they have Walter wrapped up to a new deal. The only thing to be wary of would be a new CBA. They could find themselves over a barrel if Jones has a breakout year. He's currently slated to be a restricted free agent in 2011, but a new CBA would see him probably being unrestricted. And expensive.

Tight Ends No Need
Owen Daniels is an often underappreciated TE around the NFL. You'll rarely hear his name mentioned in the same breath as guys like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez but last season he was on course to deliver a season either of those guys would have been proud of. Until he got hurt at midseasons. He could've been up for 80 grabs, over a 1000 yards and 10TDs. As it was he had to settle for half of that. Coming off ACL surgery he should still be a top level contributor. ACL surgery conjures up nasty images and once upon a time it was a career ender. These days if they have it early in one season players seem to be able to rehab fast enough to be back to top level inside 12 months. So normally there wouldn't be much of an issue with Daniel's comeback, but I was a bit disturbed to find out this is his 3rd ACL tear and surgery. Underneath Joel Dreesen is nowhere near Daniels' class as a receiver and James Casey (last year's 5th rounder) is a development project out of Rice. But with Daniels rehabbing Casey's going to see a lot of snaps with the first team offense in the offseason. As such I see little need here.

Offensive Line Major Need
Clearly the 2009 Offensive Line didn't put up a world beating performance but they didn't allow many sacks and Schaub compiled an excellent stat line behind it. I look with worry over the 93 QB hits allowed though, that's right up there with the worst in the league and speaks volumes for Schaub's calmness in the pocket. Still, 3.5 yards a carry in the running game, that's not all on the RBs. There's some work to be done here. Duane Brown is a valuable starter but it's noticable that they've chosen to sign Wade Smith to join an interior line situation I'd call messy at best. There's no shortage of players with the likes of Kasey Studdard, Mike Brisiel (injured last year), Chris Myers (starting Center, had high ankle sprain last year) and Antoine Caldwell but you know, I wouldn't like to pick which 3 start and I wouldn't honestly want whichever one I did pick run blocking for me, or pass protecting for me. There's a lot of scope for upgrades here and Maurkice Pouncey and Mike Iupati would be interesting thoughts if either made it to #20 (which I don't think they will). But I have this niggling feeling that Wade Smith might be all they think they need. One of the beauties of the zone blocking scheme is the ability to pick up small but mobile guys later on in the draft. I hope they can do a little of that because whoever ends up running behind these guys currently on the roster is going to have a long season and probably not many long runs. I'll give the benefit of the doubt to Myers, high ankle sprains linger and linger. He probably wasn't 100% all season. There's just too many unknowns with the rest for me to have much confidence. Outside things probably aren't quite so bad, there's some good ZOne Blocking possibles at Tackle in round 1.But I'd say Interior OL is still a Major Need but probably one that'll go unfilled until Day 3, maybe late Day 2 (by the way, I still can't get my head round this 3 Day Draft stuff!).

Defensive Tackles Major Need
Whilst the Texans did finish around the top 10 in rushing yards per game, a rush average of 4.3ypc isn't that great, neither is 17 rushing TDs given up. This smacks of a team a little soft up the middle of the DL, but hold on, let's break it down further. In the first 3 games the Texans gave up 615 yards and 7TDs on the ground. In the remaining 13 games they gave up 10 TDs and about 1100yards. That's some improvement and it also includes a 151 yard blip trying to defend Chris Johnson . So they got a lot better inseason.But, if teams can run on you, they will. You've got to force them into passing situations so you can let your pass rushers and secondary make plays. Passing is inherently more risky than rushing. So you've got to plug those running lanes, and the best way to do that is with a big wide load of a Nose Tackle type somewhere on your DL. Now I think Amobi Okoye has plenty in him to like but he's never going to be that big plug in the middle. He's more explosive. But I'm sure he'd benefit from having the big fella alongside him too. So you have to look at some of the big guys in the draft here. In round 1 that probably means Dan Williams or ultra big boy Terrence Cody. If they're prepared to wait Cam Thomas in round 3 perhaps? That big disruptive presence in the middle is going to make everyone else on the DL better as well. Worst comes to worst they need to keep doing what they were doing from weeks 4-17 but I think this run defense is 1 guy away from being dominant rather than just good. With all that big Nose Tackle type stuff said, the Texans don't really seem to have much time for the big guy. Maybe it's because I'm a fan of a 3-4 team and 3-4 teams rule the roost in defending the run, mostly by having that 1 great fat guy in the middle, but whilst I'd pick Dan Williams in a heartbeat for the Texans, I can't help thinking Brian Price or Jared Odrick might be more to the Texans tastes. Smaller, quicker, more of a penetrator than a dominator. We shall see.
Defensive Ends Minor Need
OK so Super Mario was more like Pretty Good Mario last year and the Texans on the whole did not worry opposing QBs enough. With that said they have a tonne of money and a couple of high draft picks invested in their Defensive Ends. $35m man Antonio Smith cost about $1m per big play last year. He's going to need to do a lot more to justify his pay packet. And to expect huge returns out of undersized rookie Connor Barwin in year 1 would have been asking a lot. Barwin is simply too small right now to be an every down DE, they could just use him as a situational pass rusher, at which his athletic ability would be best suited, or they could ask him to bulk up to become an every down guy. That would probably reduce his speed though. This could be just a case of hoping what they have turns up better this year. Depth below those 3 isn't outstanding, there is scope for a mid/low round guy to come in and improve the depth. There's always a chance he could surprise too. 30 sacks just isn't enough and the Texans have struggled finding anyone at all to get to the QB other than Mario Williams. It's not doing much for their secondary and one of Barwin or Smith simply has to step it up.
Linebackers Minimal Need
Pretty safe to say the Texans struck gold with Brian Cushing. And it's a case of the rich getting richer because they already had one of the best young LBs in the league in DeMeco Ryans. Zach Diles holds down the other spot and he's the weak link. But who wouldn't be the weak link when Cushing and Ryans are you colleagues? Could the Texans look to draft another LB to displace Diles? They could... but it would probably be a waste of a pick. Diles may not be awe inspiring but he gets the job done and they would be much better off looking to beef up their DT situation. That would put these LBs in an even better position to make big plays. Still, they may look at Linebacker later on in the draft to push Diles and his backup Xavier Adibi.
Cornerbacks Major Need
With Dunta Robinson gone it leaves a huge hole in the Cornerbacks, but for a rookie Glover Quin played pretty damn well. As things stand he figures to be the #1 CB. And he'll have the chance to make some big plays because QBs are going to target him early in the season. I figure the other starting guy right now should be Jacques Reeves who had a very good 2008 season before a broken leg derailed his 2009 season. He never quite made it all the way back onto the horse but with a full offseason this year he should be at least a capable #2. There's not so much cause for optimism under those 2. You probably don't want to expose Brice McCain or Fred Bennett to starting again. They may make for decent depth as a 4th and 5th CB but even at the nickel slot may be too much for either at this point. Which brings us to what rookies they might be able to snag. Well Round 1 is probably going to be too late for Joe Haden. Kyle Wilson and Patrick Robinson might fit at #20 and I Note they've had Dominique Franks in for a look who could be a good fit for their second rounder. When you have the Colts in your division, you better damn well be 3 deep at Corner. So I've got to call this a Major Need.

Safeties Minor Need
Eugene Wilson is a nice player when he's healthy. Which sadly isn't too often these days. Bernard Pollard was something of a revelation having come over from the Chiefs (yes the Chiefs actually had a good player in D in 2008!) and they've got to be looking to get him tied up longterm soon. But with Wilson's injury issues and just a couple of real late round backups they could definitely upgrade here. Dominique Barber should be good depth but Troy Nolan is a borderline player. But picking at #20 is almost certainly too low to get Texas' Earl Thomas. Thomas would be a starter at FS, probably as early as week 1 but he has good coverage skills and could potentially play Nickel corner for them too. But it's probably a moot point. They have had multiple safeties in to visit though with Morgan Burnett probably being a good fit for their second rounder. I'm going to call this Minor Need but I'm tempted to call it Major based on Wilson's health...

Specialists No Need
Some day you'll be able to combine the DNA of two humans to make one superhuman. Texans fans probably wish that day was already here so they could combine Kris Brown and Neil Rackers to make one surefire superKicker. Which one wins the job is open to question but they won't be looking for anyone else in the offseason. Matt Turk is a 40 year old punter. Which pretty much makes him a baby. He's a baby with a pretty impressive record too. Not likely to be going anywhere but at his age I'm sure they'll bring in someone to take the pressure off that 40 year old hamstring. Probably an undrafted type though.

Return Game No Need
Jacoby Jones - No Need. 'Nuff said.

Dream Day One
1.20 Dan Williams DT Tennessee
2.50 Kareem Jackson CB Alabama 
Player Visits
Jordan Lake S Baylor
Ryan Mathews RB Fresno State
Morgan Burnett S Georgia Tech
Brandon LaFell WR Louisiana State
Robert McClain CB Connecticut
Robert Johnson S Utah
Armanti Edwards QB Appalachian State
Dominique Franks CB Oklahoma
Mike Iupati OG Idaho
Dexter McCluster WR
Andre Sexton S Oklahoma State
Kristian Matte OL Concordia


Last Edited: 04/14/2010

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