Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On the Moove: Houston Texans Season Preview

2008 Record: 8-8

The Texans followed up their first 8-win season in franchise history with another 8-8 season. This team has been doing a good job of putting pieces together over the past few years and has been showing some improvement. Many have this season pegged as their "breakthrough" year where they make a run at the playoffs. Head Coach Gary Kubiak needs to hope the Texans put together a winning season, as his job may be on the line if they don't.

The Texans have one of the top two receivers in the league in Andre Johnson. As far as we're concerned, Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are 1a and 1b in the receiver ranks. Matt Schaub was an excellent pickup in free agency a few years ago and has shown that, when healthy, he has the tools to lead the offense. Schaub has missed 10 games in the last 2 seasons due to injury, and needs to prove he can stay healthy for a whole season for the Texans to be contenders. Rex Grossman and Dan Orlovsky were brought in to backup Schaub this season, and will likely see time on the field.

Steve Slaton, WVU product, had a great rookie season last year, putting up almost 1300 yards and 9 TDs. Slaton should continue to have solid production this year as a Willie Parker-type back, and with Ahman Green gone, will be the feature back in the Texans offense. Kevin Walter is a capable #2 receiver who had a good year with 60 catches, 899 yds, and 8 TDs and Owen Daniels is a solid pass-catching tight end who put up 70 catches, 862 yds, and 2 TDs last year. Johnson, as we've already stated, is a beast. He had 115 catches for 1575 yards and 8 TDs in an All-Pro season.

One of the biggest reasons for the Texans success last season was that their 5 offensive linemen started all 16 games together. The same group of 5 is back this season, and will continue to build on the chemistry they have developed. The Texans had the 13th best rushing offense last year, coupled with the #4 passing offense and #3 total offense, one would have thought they would have managed better than a 17th-ranked scoring offense. However, the Texans were 30th in the league in turnovers, with 32 on the season, including 20 interceptions (only 10 of which were thrown by Schaub in his 11 games). The Texans will need to cut down on turnovers and find the end zone more frequently this season to get over the 8-8 hump.

On defense, Houston still has some room for improvement. Former #1 overall pick Mario Williams is a stud at DE, but the Texans finished last season ranked 23rd in run defense, 17th in pass defense, 22nd in total defense, and 27th in total defense. DeMeco Ryans has grown into a solid middle linebacker, but the Texans need more out of former first round pick Amobi Okoye and Travis Johnson at the DT spot.

The Texans brought in DE Antonio Smith from Arizona to book-end Williams, and he should provide some production. First round pick Brian Cushing from USC figures to step into the linebacker rotation from day 1, and will be a great addition to the unit. In the secondary, Dunta Robinson is in a battle with Fred Bennett for the starting corner position, and Nick Ferguson and Eugene Wilson return to the secondary. As bad as their pass defense ranking was, they gave up over 300 yards only once, and that was to Peyton Manning and the Colts.

Houston's 2008 season was marred by an 0-4 start, and they were a 3-minute meltdown against Indy (or their Week 16 crapfest against Oakland) away from breaking .500. The Texans finished the season on a 5-1 run, and look to carry that momentum into 2009. The Texans have a favorable schedule this year, with the NFC West and AFC East, and the pieces seem to be in place for them to break the 9-win plateau this season.

Ian's Prediction: 9-7

This team is up-and-coming, but they're still not quite playoff caliber. The defense is a huge gap, and in a division with a pass-happy team (the Colts) and a run-happy team (the Titans), Houston has the propensity to get exposed. In two games last year, they gave up 258 rush yards to Tennessee, and 555 pass yards to the Colts. The Texans should be able to rack up at least 5 wins before their bye. After the bye week, they have 3 in a row against division opponents before finishing with Seattle, St. Louis, Miami, and New England. The Texans were 5-4 in games decided by 1 possession last season, and they have the offense to improve that mark.

John's Prediction:

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