Articles From Bodogfantasy.com
February 23, 2006 1:00 PM
In 2002, the Houston Texans entered
the NFL with a new coach and the first overall
pick in the draft. Four years later, the franchise
finds itself right back where it started, thanks
to an abysmal 2-14 regression in a season they
fully anticipated to play competitive football.
New coach Gary Kubiak has several
talented components in place, notably at the
skill positions. However, there are so many
holes to fill—specifically on an offensive
line that's allowed a spleen-busting 229 sacks
in four seasons and on a defense that will be
transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3—that
whomever the squad tabs with the top pick won't
be enough to right the ship.
That said, the Texans have some
cap room and the first pick in every round of
the draft—plus the Saints' third-round
pick, thanks to a trade last year—so they
should be able to make strides this season on
the road back to respectability.
As Dan Dierdorf is fond of spewing, "It
all thstarths up front." The Texans flirted
with Orlando Pace last season and were ultimately
rebuffed, then opted to pass on Jammal Brown
and Alex Barron in last year's draft. The result?
Another beating for quarterback David Carr,
who absorbed 68 sacks last year alone—running
his 60-game NFL total to 208. For comparison,
it would take Peyton Manning another three-and-a-half
seasons at last year's sack rate—almost
12 seasons—to match Carr's level of abuse.
Obviously, last year's shuffling
didn't work. Ideally, the Texans would be in
line to select D'Brickashaw Ferguson in the
draft, but with the top pick they're almost
forced to take either Heisman winner Reggie
Bush or hometown hero Vince Young—despite
the presence of talented young players at those
positions already. Nonetheless, the offensive
line should be the focus of Houston's offseason
push for talent.
The team exercised its option
on Carr, locking him up for another three seasons,
so they should be set at quarterback. Tony Banks
is a serviceable backup, and the possibility
exists that Houston could draft Young, train
him for a year behind Carr, then deal Carr and
go with Vince. Developmental quarterback Dave
Ragone is a restricted free agent, and it's
doubtful the Texans will put up much of a fight
to keep him around.
Running back Domanick Davis has
been injury prone but productive in his three
seasons, and he's under contract through 2009;
however, like Carr he could be dealt depending
on what the Texans do in the draft. One rumor
had Davis heading to Minnesota in a deal that
would net the Texans wideout Troy Williamson,
which would certainly address a need in the
passing game. However, that's purely speculation
at this juncture. Regardless of which tailback
the Texans keep, they'll need to address the
need for an inside runner if unrestricted free
agent Jonathan Wells departs.
The passing game has been desperate
for a second option opposite Andre Johnson,
and with both Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford
unrestricted free agents there will be openings
in Houston. Burner Jerome Mathis showed flashes
during his rookie season, but expect Kubiak
to address receiver depth either via the draft
or low-level free agents. Tight ends haven't
factored into the Texans' game plan since Billy
Miller's first season, and currently they have
a pair of block-first tight ends in Mark Bruener
and Marcellus Rivers. However, should Bennie
Joppru finally be healthy, he could fill the
need for a pass-catcher internally.
Defensively, where to begin?
Former coach Dom Capers tried to assemble a
zone-blitzing 3-4 unit without much success,
and the talent pool that remains is a poor fit
for Kubiak's plan to move to the 4-3. There
seems to be a glut of defensive tackles and
a dearth of true ends, as Capers' scheme focused
on pass-rushing outside linebackers. The linebacking
corps suffered without tackle leaders Jamie
Sharper and Jay Foreman, and the secondary outside
of Dunta Robinson had some problems.
Like we said, plenty of holes
After picking the option on Carr's contract,
the Texans are approximately $7 million under
the projected $92 million salary cap for 2006,
according to NFL.com.
RB Jonathan Wells, WR Jabar Gaffney, WR Corey
Bradford, TE Matt Murphy, G Milford Brown, LB
DaShon Polk, LB Troy Evans, LB Frank Chamberlin,
CB Jason Bell, S Ramon Walker
QB Dave Ragone, WR Derick Armstrong, T Seth
Wand, DE Antwan Peek, LB Shantee Orr, LS Bryan
Bush or Young? Vince or Reggie?
Had Kris Brown not demonstrated
all the accuracy of Dick Cheney with a rifle,
the Texans would be situated perfectly to address
their biggest need—offensive line help—and
take Ferguson. However, now they find themselves
backed into a corner, forced to take an elite
player at a position where they don't necessarily
Trading down is certainly an
option, but the Texans already find themselves
battling the public-relations battle of not
taking a Houston native who led his team to
the national title with one of the single greatest
individual efforts in college football history;
imagine what the natives would do if Kubiak
passed on both Bush and Young.
So the decision is between the
next Gale Sayers and the next Steve McNair.
All indications point towards the Texans taking
Bush, which could very well necessitate a trade
of Davis—which, in turn, might net them
another draft pick.
After that first-round debate
is settled, the Texans will have several more
first-day opportunities to address their needs.
Houston has the Saints' third-round pick thanks
to a trade on draft day 2005, which gives them
a total of four picks among the first 40 selections.
There should be plenty of offensive line help
available in round two and perhaps even into
round three; there's also the potential to address
the tight end need in what should be a very
deep class at that position, and defensive needs
abound as well.
Suffice it to say that whomever
the Texans select will need to step into the
lineup and contribute immediately, lest the
team find themselves in the same position next
Miraculously, Carr absorbed another 68 sacks
last year and lived to tell about it; Tina Turner
in Ike's prime didn't get banged around as much.
But $8 million a year buys a lot of band-aids,
and Carr will be back under center for another
season. Both Davis and Wells finished last season
on injured reserve; Wells is a UFA who may not
be back, and Davis may find himself behind Bush
on the depth chart. Johnson was slowed much
of the season by an assortment of leg injuries,
but nothing so serious that he won't be ready
to roll at minicamp. Mathis battled hamstring
problems early on but recovered enough to earn
a spot in the Pro Bowl as a kick returner. Getting
him on the field with Johnson certainly stretches
defenses, and the Texans will want to make sure
he stays healthy. The one player the Texans
would love to see healthy is tight end Bennie
Joppru, a third-round pick in 2003 who has yet
to see NFL action thanks to a groin injury that
kept him out his first two seasons and a torn
ACL suffered in last year's minicamp. If he
can stay healthy, the former Michigan product
could provide another threat in the passing
game, lessening the load on Johnson.
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