Jeff Risdon. 30th August, 2006 - 8:57 pm
Last season: 2-14
Coming: TE Jeb Putzier, WR Eric Moulds, C Mike Flanagan, DE Anthony Weaver, LB Sam Cowart, WR Kevin Walter, DE N.D. Kalu, RB Antowain Smith
Going: WR Corey Bradford, WR Jabar Gaffney, G Milford Brown, DE Gary Walker, QB Tony Banks, C Tyson Walter, RB Jonathan Wells
Rookies of note: DE Mario Williams, LB Demeco Ryans, OL Charles Spencer, RB Wali Lundy
What I like: There?s really not much in the present that looks good, but this team is building for the future and has taken some nice steps in that direction. QB David Carr should look a lot better with upgrades at C (Flanagan) and LT (Spencer, a very promising rookie). WR Andre Johnson has all the physical tools, and now he has help and a veteran mentor with Eric Moulds. TE Jeb Putzier is a sorely needed receiving threat as well. They have the makings of a decent secondary, and CB Dunta Robinson is a legit #1 cover man. They switched to a 4-3 on defense, which diminishes the lack of speed and overall talent at LB and also plays to the strengths of guys like Jason Babin and Mario Williams. The Texans could have a pretty solid pass rush if Williams, the #1 overall draft pick, has immediate impact. They do have some intriguing depth at DT and DE. KR/PR Jerome Mathis is a Pro Bowler. Despite being 2-14, they actually played pretty competitively in most games for at least half the game, before the atrocious OL and lack of playmakers on defense overwhelmed the Texans.
What I dislike: This team is still way below par in talent at so many positions. Other than CB Robinson, they don?t have any difference makers in the back 7 on defense. They were the only team in 2005 that did not have an LB register an INT or record 10+ tackles for losses/sacks, and they did not upgrade the position. That?s why getting one less of them on the field is a positive, but it still leaves 3 incompetent space fillers in the heart of the defense. The best offensive player, RB Domanick Davis, is currently injured and with a knee injury that could force him to miss significant time. Even if he plays, he?ll be limited by it. That would make rookie 6th rounder Wali Lundy the starter, and Vernand Morency getting way too many carries for his skill level. QB Carr has largely gotten a pass on not being all that great because the OL and WRs basically have stunk his entire career. Those spots have improved, and now he needs to raise his level to heights he hasn?t yet shown. The OL might be improved, but when a 3rd round rookie (a converted DT, no less) steps in and immediately shows he?s the best OL you?ve got, you?ve still got problems. Both the P and K are subpar. They have a rookie coach and made wholesale changes across the organization, and it takes time for the new regime to become effective. Mario Williams is under enormous pressure for being the surprise #1 overall pick instead of Reggie Bush, particularly now that Davis? injury makes RB a position of dire need. He could be the next Julius Peppers, but he could just as easily become the next Mike Mamula.
Best case: The lines stabilize and move to close to the NFL average, the defense generates a good pass rush and the DBs make plays and force turnovers. The kicking game improves, Eric Moulds still has something left at WR, and Carr shows why he was the #1 overall pick in 2002. The 4-3 works out better, and they discover they had a great draft. They head into 200 with more clearly defined draft and free agency needs and some positive momentum.
Worst case: See 2005, with the added downer that they added better talent at many key spots but failed to improve.
Prediction: Can a team go two years in a row getting just two forced turnovers from their defensive front 7? Can a QB get pressured on an astounding 63% of his pass attempts (the league average is 41%) two seasons in a row and now get broken? Can a 2-14 team bring in a pretty solid draft class and a whole new organizational culture, plus a few key veteran leaders and performers, and not win more than 2 games again? You?re about to find out. But it doesn?t look positive. They?ll compete with Buffalo for worst team in the AFC and might luck into 3 wins. Look at it this way, Texans fans, next year?s #1 overall draft pick is a no-brainer (Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn), and ridiculously overmatched GM Charley Casserly is gone, so they can?t possibly blow it two years in a row.