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2007 Season Previews
Houston Texans (Last Year: 6-10)
Veteran Additions:
QB Matt Schaub, RB Ahman Green, WR Andre' Davis, OT Jordan Black, DT Jeff Zgonina, OLB Shawn Barber, MLB Danny Clark, CB Jamar Fletcher.
Draft Picks:
RB Darius Walker, WR Jacoby Jones, OT Brandon Frye, G Kasey Studdard, DT Amobi Okoye, OLB Zach Diles, CB Fred Bennett, S Brandon Harrison.
Major Subtractions:
QB David Carr (CAR), RB Domanick Davis-Williams, WR Eric Moulds, OT Zach Wiegert, OT Brad Bedell, DE Antwan Peek (CLE), DT Seth Payne, DT Lional Dalton, OLB Troy Evans (NO), OLB Charlie Anderson, MLB DaShon Polk, MLB Wali Rainer, CB Lewis Sanders (ATL), S Michael Stone (NYG),

Offense This Year: I really have to give Gary Kubiak a lot of credit. He somehow took a group of no-talents, has-beens and fat slobs, and actually made them somewhat productive. The Texans scored more than 20 points on six occasions in 2006, which is four more than the amount of times they did so with Dom Capers the year before. However, a 16.7-points-per-game average was the most anyone could have gotten out of the no-talents (David Carr, Wali Lundy, Kevin Walter, half of the offensive line), has-beens (Eric Moulds) and fat slobs (Ron Dayne, the other half of the line), meaning Kubiak needed management to pursue valuable upgrades through free agency and the draft.

Despite the apparent optimism I've observed from a few e-mailers and ranters on various message boards throughout the internet, I don't think the Texans have done enough to substantially improve themselves. The most prominent acquisition was Matt Schaub, whom Houston obtained from Atlanta. Schaub may seem like an upgrade over Carr, but does anyone really know that? Schaub has two career starts, and has thrown the same amount of interceptions (6) as touchdowns. While it may seem that Carr restricted the Texans' offense, he never really had time to scan the field and find his receivers downfield. Why should we assume that Schaub will be able to do so? It wouldn't surprise me at all if Carr, the Texans' scapegoat, found success in Carolina behind an offensive line that is actually comprised of NFL-caliber players.

Houston's other "prized" offseason acquisition was Green Bay's Ahman Green, who rushed for 1,883 yards in 2003. However, he hasn't done much since then. The former Pro Bowler garnered only 255 yards in 2005 and 1,059 yards in 2006. It has to be noted that Green failed to notch more than 3.7 yards per carry in any game after Nov. 5, save for one - and that was behind a decent offensive line; not the garbage that will fail to open running lanes for him. At age 30, Green simply has too much wear and tear on his body.

Want to see some numbers proving the ineptness of Houston's offensive front? Never mind the 42 sacks it allowed despite the fact Kubiak installed a quick-throw offense for Carr; no regular running back averaged more than 4.1 yards per carry. I'm excluding Chris Taylor (4.4), of course because he only saw action against Cleveland and Indianapolis, two of the worst ground defenses in the NFL. Even Vernand Morency had a much higher average in Green Bay (4.5) than he did with the Texans (2.6). The team managed to sign offensive tackle Jordan Black, who was always the weakest link on Kansas City's line until Willie Roaf retired a year ago.

There are two bright spots on Houston's offense. Andre Johnson (103 catches, 1,147 yards, 5 TDs) is one of the top receivers in the NFL. Tight end Owen Daniels emerged in the middle of the season to have nine receptions at Tennessee and five catches against the Jets. Unfortunately, the Texans lack any sort of talent beyond Johnson at wide out. Kevin Walter? Jacoby Jones? Jerome Mathis? Andre Davis? Please.

Defense This Year: As bad as I think Houston's offense will be this year, it could be better than the defense. I just don't understand: With the amount of sacks the Texans have surrendered over their brief existence, you'd think that they would learn how to get to the quarterback themselves. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened; they accumulated only 28 sacks in 2006, led by Jason Babin (5) and pass-rusher-extraordinaire Mario Williams (4.5). As dead wrong as I was about Vince Young, I was right on regarding Williams. I was baffled when Charley Casserly called the N.C. State alumnus an elite pass-rusher. Williams himself said that his "bread and butter" is stopping the run. I saw Williams as more of a Phillip Daniels or a Paul Spicer; definitely not a Julius Peppers clone.

With opposing signal callers having all day to throw, it's no wonder why guys like Mark Brunell and J.P. Losman set personal records against the Texans. Dunta Robinson is the only member of the secondary who could start for at least a dozen other teams in the NFL. Demarcus Faggins is more of a No. 3, Dexter McCleon belongs in the CFL at this point, while newly acquired Jamar Fletcher couldn't even find a home with the Lions. Houston drafted Fred Bennett, who could find his way into the starting lineup soon, but he's merely a rookie and won't be much of a factor until 2008. Meanwhile, C.C. Brown and Glenn Earl form the worst safety tandem in the entire league. And there's nothing behind them.

As I said, the Texans couldn't stop the pass, although their season-long stats don't show it. Why? Because everyone simply ran against them. The only talented veteran in the front seven is second-year middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who may emerge as one of the best players at his position down the road. However, he was protected by a group of defensive tackles who couldn't hold up their end of the bargain. Houston consequently selected Amobi Okoye 10th overall. I like Okoye, and I think he's going to be a tremendous NFL player. That said, he just turned 20 years old. How can he possibly contend with what Indianapolis and Jacksonville will undoubtedly throw at him?

Schedule and Intangibles: The Texans surrendered two returns for touchdowns and failed to score one themselves. There's no excuse for the former statistic, but the latter can be attributed to the fact that Jerome Mathis missed 14 games in 2006. There are rumors out there saying that he still might be hurt. I'm not sure who's going to return kicks if that's the case. ... Houston is 14-26 at home since the franchise was born in 2002, although the team went 4-4 last year. Kubiak needs to develop the type of home-field advantage the Broncos have. ... Although he hasn't hit 80 percent of his field goals since 2003, Kris "Good Grief" Brown nailed 11-of-15 attempts from beyond 40 yards last year. However, I still don't trust him in big-game situations. ... In addition to battling the Colts and Jaguars twice each, the Texans will have to go through Carolina, San Diego, New Orleans and Denver. Some beatable opponents include Atlanta, Miami, Oakland, Cleveland and Tampa Bay.

Additional Reading: Endless Banter coming soon.

Positional Rankings (0-4 stars):
Quarterbacks
Offensive Line
Secondary
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams
Receivers
Linebackers
Coaching


Divisional Rival History:
Indianapolis Colts: Prior to last year's meeting in Houston, the Texans had never beaten the Colts in their brief existence. Something tells me Peyton Manning and company will keep that in the back of their head.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Texans have won four of the previous six meetings. The Jaguars are often guilty of playing to the level of their competition.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans have won the last three matchups. Think Vince Young wants to beat the team that passed on him?

Fantasy Football:
Matt Schaub: I can't really say whether or not Matt Schaub will work out with the Texans, but I can confidently state that he'll have problems putting up big numbers with only Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels to throw to. No. 2 receiver desperately needed.
Projected Stats: 3,050 passing yards. 16 passing TDs. 150 rushing yards. 2 rushing TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 276.

Ahman Green: Over the hill and running behind a very poor offensive line. Let someone else take him.
Projected Stats: 700 rushing yards. 325 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 144.

Owen Daniels: Had a pretty solid rookie campaign. Caught nine passes for 99 yards at Tennessee. Registered five receptions for 36 yards against the Jets. Only had three catches in December, however. A flash in the pan like Billy Miller? For the sake of Houston, I hope not.
Projected Stats: 450 receiving yards. 5 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 75.

Andre Johnson: If only Andre Johnson had a quarterback who actually had the time to throw him deep passes downfield. If only...
Projected Stats: 1,125 receiving yards. 6 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 148.

Kevin Walter: This guy is Houston's No. 2 receiver? What!? Why!?
Projected Stats: 475 receiving yards. 2 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 59.

Jacoby Jones: Could be worth a late-round pick in keeper leagues, but don't expect anything from this rookie wide out this season.
Projected Stats: 150 receiving yards. 0 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 15.

Kris Brown: Hasn't hit two or more 50-yarders in a single season since 2002. Didn't nail any last year. He did, however, have 11 from 40-49, which has to be a statistical anomaly.
Projected Stats: 22-30 FG (0-2 50+). 30 XP.
Projected Fantasy Points: 104.

Houston Defense: Nothing to like here.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Bottom 5 Defense.

Analysis: I really hope I'm wrong about this season preview, because the city of Houston deserves a winner after the Oilers moved to Tennessee. That said, I just don't see how the Texans can possibly finish close to .500. Perhaps if Matt Schaub turns out to be great, Ahman Green finds the Fountain of Youth and Mario Williams somehow manages to collect 10 or more sacks...

Projection: 6-10 (4th in the AFC South)


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