DRAFT PREVIEW – HOUSTON TEXANS


A look at the Texans heading into the 2011 NFL Draft; Houston has the 11th pick in the first round.

REVIEW OF 2010

Record – 6-10, as they started strong, but finished poorly. At one point in the first half of the season, the Texans were 4-2 and coming off a 35-31 victory over the Chiefs. From that point they went 2-8, losing four in a row on two different occasions.

Finish – tied for third in the AFC South with Tennessee, four games behind Indianapolis in the division.

Playoffs – they began play with the 2002 season and the Texans have yet to make the playoffs. They’ve had just one winning season in the nine years that they’ve played – they went 9-7 in 2009. That was the only season where they did not finish third or fourth in the division; they were second.

OVERVIEW

The combination just does not seem to come together for the Texans. Owner Robert McNair is one of the league’s best, willing to spend money and he stays out of the day-to-day operations. He does check in, however, on what’s going on and he’s not happy with his franchise’s status outside the contender level. 

This year, the Texans have made changes on Gary Kubiak’s coaching staff, specifically making a big change in the defense as they’ve brought n Wade Phillips to serve as coordinator. He’s bringing with him the 3-4 defensive style that he’s run at all his stops in places like Dallas, Denver, San Diego, Buffalo and Atlanta.

Offensively, this team has weapons and producers in QB Matt Schaub, RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson, as good a trio of weapons as any team in the league has on the field.

PARTICULARS

Offense – averaged 386.6 yards per game, finishing as the third most productive offense in the league. They had the No. 7 running game (127.6 yards per game) and No. 4 passing game (259 yards per game.) They scored 44 touchdowns and limited their turnovers, giving the ball away just 18 times over the season. Foster led the NFL in rushing, running for over 100 yards per game (1,616 yards on 327 carries and 16 TD runs). He was the Houston running game. Johnson caught 86 passes for 1,216 yards and eight TD catches. Foster added 66 catches as well. WRs Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones each had 51 catches. Schaub had 24 TD passes to 12 INTs, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 4,370 yards. He finished with a 92 passer rating. The offensive line allowed 32 sacks, or one sack every 19 pass plays, a darn good ratio.

Defense – was the problem for the ’10 Texans, as they gave up an average of 377 yards per game to rank No. 30 among 32 NFL defenses. They were especially poor against the pass, giving up an average of 267.5 per game and 33 touchdown passes. Overall, they gave up 49 touchdowns to opposing offenses. They managed just 30 sacks on the season, led by DE Mario Williams with 8.5 on the year. They had only 18 takeaways on the season, with just 13 interceptions.

Special teams – K Neil Rackers missed just three of his 30 FGs on the season and was 19 of 19 inside the 40-yard line. Veteran P Matt Turk averaged 42.1 yards per punt and the Texans had a net average of 36.8 yards. Returners did not explode for Houston, as Jones and RB Steve Slaton could not get into the end zone. Jones averaged 7 yards per punt return, while Slaton averaged 19.7 yards on kick returns. On coverage, they gave up a 103-yard kickoff return TD.

DECISION MAKER

It’s GM Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak in charge of the football operations with the Texans and they seem to have operated on the same page during their time together.

Who has the draft room juice? Smith has the ultimate hammer, but Kubiak is always going to get a great chance to get his thoughts and desires heard and most decisions will go his way.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Outside linebacker. With the move to the 3-4, the Texans have a hole at outside linebacker. Connor Barwin missed last season because of injury, but his experience and skills is ideal for the outside backer in the 3-4 scheme. However, the Texans don’t really have anyone to plug in on the other side and no depth. The importance of the OLB for pass rush and helping anchor the edges against the run makes this a priority.

2. Cornerback. The Texans were simply awful defending the pass last year, finishing No. 32 and last in the league, giving up an average of 267.5 yards per game and 33 TD passes. The problem showed up on the corners especially as they were unable to create enough pass rush pressure or tight coverage.

3. Safety. Whether free or strong, left or right, no matter how they are labeled, the Texans new defense has holes on the back line. Eugene Wilson and Bernard Pollard were both starters last year and neither one will be back. Wilson was released for poor play and Pollard’s in the box style does not fit what the new 3-4 defense expects from its safeties.

FIVE-YEAR DRAFT HISTORY

It was 2006 when the Texans made big changes. After the draft that year, GM Charley Casserly was fired. It was also the first year as head coach for Gary Kubiak. Hindsight shows that dumping Casserly may have been a mistake, because five of those picks in the ’06 Draft are still contributing to the team and three have been to the Pro Bowl – DE Mario Williams, MLB DeMeco Ryans and TE Owen Daniels. Two other ’06 draftees are still on the roster and contributing.

Since then under GM Smith and Kubiak the drafts have been so-so and some of those mistakes have kept the Texans from getting over the hump and making the playoffs.

2006 – Besides the Pro Bowlers Williams, Ryans and Daniels they have RT Eric Winston in the starting lineup and WR David Anderson continues to provide help on offense and special teams.

2007 – They got starters in the first round (DT Amobi Okoye) and the seventh (LB Zac Diles), and two other players are backup.

2008 – Only first rounder LT Duane Brown is in the starting lineup, and there are four backups still on the roster.

2009 – In the first four rounds, the Texans found four starters with ILB Brian Cushing, DE/OLB Barwin, G Antoine Caldwell and CZB Glover Quin. All 8 choices were with the team at the end of the ’10 season.

2010 – Only first-round CB Kareem Jackson found the starting lineup, while all nine picks are still on the roster.

PREDICTION

It would be hard to believe with the defensive problems the Texans have that they won’t use that first round pick on that side of the ball. The best defensive player that would still be available at that point would likely come from a group that would include the likes of OLB/DE J.J. Watt, OLB/DE Ryan Kerrigan, DEs Robert Quinn, Cameron Heyward and Adrian Clayborn. Texas’ CB Aaron Williams could also be a consideration at that spot. PICK – J.J. Watt.

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