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2008 NFL Season Previews: # 20 Houston Texans

July 25, 2008

Team: Houston Texans
Division: AFC South
Last Years Record: 8-8
Head Coach: Gary Kubiak
Assistant Head Coach: Alex Gibbs
Offensive Coordinator: Kyle Shanahan
Defensive Coordinator: Richard Smith

Key Losses:
LB Danny Clark
DB Roc Alexander
LB Shawn Barber
TE Jeb Putzier
RB Ron Dayne
WR Jerome Mathis
S/LB Michael Boulware

Key Additions:
CB Jaques Reeves
LB Kevin Bentley
RB Chris Brown
S Nick Ferguson
C Chris Myers
LB Chaun Thompson

Breakdown of the offense: The Texans are coming off their best season in their short existence, and hope to continue the improvements this season. Matt Schaub came in last year and led the offense more effectively than David Carr could of wished for. The offense finished the season ranked 14th in total offense and the sack numbers dove from 42 to 22. That can be mostly attributed to the chemistry Matt Schaub has with Andre Johnson but the o-line needs to be credited as well. For the Texans to keep improving Matt Schaub needs to stay healthy. He missed a total of five starts and left 4 games early due to injuries. They still have Sage Rosenfels as his backup who routinely came in and played like a starter(1684 yds 15 td's and 12 ints). The Texans also added Quinn Gray as an third stringer.

The Texans once again look good at running back, but they do every year until half of their core goes down with injuries. Ahman Green will be the starter, but is coming off of a knee injury. Chris Brown comes in from the Titans, and is a good #2 running back when healthy (which is almost never). They also drafted Steve Slaton of West Virginia, he will be their third down back. He has fantastic speed and can cut on a dime, but is a little small for their ground and pound running game(5'9, 197).

Andre Johnson is a top 5 wide receiver, even with a knee injury he still had a productive season in 2007(851 yds, 8 tds). Andre' Davis was resigned, which means their entire core is back and making it the most consistent group on the team. Jacoby Jones will improve a lot coming into his sophomore season and Kevin Walter has proven he is a solid starter in the league. With this group of receivers, opposing defenses will not be able to key in on Johnson. Making his output more likely to shoot up in 2008. Tight end Owen Daniels is a great target for Schaub but he needs to hold onto the ball better. Mark Bruenner is the backup and is primarily used a blocker in two tight end sets.

The offense will change a little with the departure of assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, now the coach at Texas A&M. Instead of using some of Green Bay’s gap scheme and Denver’s zone blocking scheme, the Texans will go completely to the zone-blocking scheme. Assistant head coach/ offense Alex Gibbs will oversee the development of the offensive line, which is sure to help improve the blocking in the run game.

Breakdown of the defense:
Super Mario Williams had a breakout year in his sophomore campaign, tallying 14 sacks. The team must be effective rushing the quarterback. If the Texans are unable to apply adequate pressure, the secondary will be exploited, especially in the first half of the season when it will be without corner back Dunta Robinson. Amobi Okoye, needs to improve greatly in his second year if the Texans are going to apply pressure consistently. The Texans will continue to use the 8 man rotation for the defensive which should help keep the pressure on the QB and keep their line fresh.

DeMeco Ryans has emerged as the leader of this defense and has a knack for getting to the ball. He is good is pass coverage and tough against the run, but needs to improve his pass-rushing skills. Morlon Greenwood returns to play alongside Ryans, they work well together and complement each other as Greenwood is a solid run-stopper. At strong-side will be a new face, at this point it looks like Zach Diles job to lose. Rookie Xavier Adibi looks to contend with Diles for the starting gig.

The defensive backs present the most questions for this team. After injuries hit the position hard last season, the backups overachieved and played well. With Dunta Robinson out for atleast the first half of the season and no upgrades at the position their young players will need to step up once again. Fred Barnett and Jacques Reeves will start at corner back, hoping to fill the void left by Dunta. DeMarcus Faggins and Jamar Fletcher will compete at nickel back. Faggins struggled last year and must show improvement in order to win the job. Rookie Antwaun Molden will likely wind up as the fourth corner back. At safety, C.C. Brown and Will Demps return to the starting roles. Glenn Earl is looking to come back from a Lis Franc fracture that held him out for the entire season. He will push to regain a starting spot. Brandon Mitchell, Brandon Harrison, and Dominique Barber with youth, speed, and athleticism will try to win a roster spot.

Special Teams Breakdown:
Kicker Kris Brown connected on 25-29 field goal attempts, punter Matt Turk landed almost half of his punts inside the 20, and long snapper Bryan Pittman has only one botched snap in his five-year career. The entire group returns and should help out the team in a big way. Andre Davis who returned 3 kickoffs for touchdowns will take the departed Jerome Mathis' spot as kick returner and Jacoby Jones will return punts.

Position Grades(with explanations):
QB: B, Matt Schaub is a good starter, just needs to stay healthy. Sage Rosenfels has turned into one of the most reliable backups in the NFL.
RB: C, The Texans have not had any luck keeping starters on the field at running back over the last three seasons. With Ahman Green and Chris Brown being the go-to guys, I don't see any reason why that will change this year.
Wr/TE: B+, Andre Johnson is great even when hampered by injuries, and the rest of the cores improvement will just make him even more dangerous.
O-Line:C-, The loss of Mike Sherman is huge, hopefully Alex Gibbs can get this group to play well in the Denver system.
D-line: B-,Mario Williams is living up to the hype and Amobi Okoye needs to improve, if he does this group has a great future.
LBs: C+, DeMeco Ryans may be the most underrated defensive player in the league and will continue to just get better and better with every year he has in the league.
DBs: D-, Other than Dunta Robinson there is a not a lot of talent in this group, and he won't be back until November. If the d-line can't penetrate consistently, this defense is in a for a long year.

Week 1: Sep 07 @ Steelers 1:00 PM CBS
Week 2: Sep 1 Baltimore 4:15 PM CBS
Week 3: Sep 21 @ Tennessee 1:00 PM CBS
Week 4: Sep 28 @ Jacksonville 1:00 PM CBS
Week 5: Oct 05 Indy 1:00 PM CBS
Week 6: Oct 12 Miami 1:00 PM CBS
Week 7:Oct 19 Detroit 4:05 PM FOX
Week 8: Bye
Week 9:Nov 02 @ Minnesota1:00 PM CBS
Week 10: Nov 09 Cincinnati1:00 PM CBS
Week 11: Nov 16 @ Indy 1:00 PM CBS
Week 12:Nov 23 @ Cleveland 1:00 PM CBS
Week 13:Dec 01 Jacksonville 8:30 PM ESPN(Monday Night Football)
Week 14:Dec 07 @ Green Bay 1:00 PM CBS
Week 15:Dec 14 Tennessee 1:00 PM CBS
Week 16:Dec 21 @ Oakland 4:05 PM CBS
Week 17:Dec 28 Chicago 1:00 PM FOX

Season Outlook: 8 wins, being a good team in a division full of great teams means another year of mediocrity for the Texans. I don't trust this team to contend on a weekly basis with the likes of Indy and Jacksonville, but they can battle it out for third with the Titans. They will need to shore up the defensive back situation if they are going to push for a playoff spot. At least Mario knows how to make it rain.


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