Wednesday, August 29, 2012

32 in 32: Houston Texans

Houston Texans
Read the introduction here
Read the Broncos preview here
New Orleans Saints tomorrow

2011 Record: 10-6

Key Acquisitions: Alan Ball, Shayne Graham, Bradie James, Donnie Jones, Whitney Mercilus
Key Departures: Mike Brisiel, Jacoby Jones, Neil Rackers, DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams, Eric Winston, Lawrence Vickers

This team was hilariously unlucky last season. Andre Johnson had a nagging hamstring injury all year and he was completely terrible. Then there's also Matt Schaub getting hurt, just when everyone was starting to realize that the Texans were probably on their way to the Super Bowl. Then, backup Matt Leinart got hurt. So of course, this is the point at which the city of Houston was punching holes in their walls. Rookie T.J. Yates even had to leave the season finale with an injury. Jake Delhomme came in and they lost. They hung onto their playoff spot due to the ineptitude of their divison, and entered the playoffs with a healthy Yates. Just when you thought that there was way too much bad karma surrounding this team for them to win a playoff game, they beat the Bengals, and they almost beat the Ravens with a 3rd string rookie drafted in the 5th round as their QB. The reason: the defense was one of the best in the NFL. The offense has always been the hallmark of this Texans team, but that shifted in 2011. While they lost Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans, they won't skip a beat. The defense might be the better unit on this team, the offense should score a lot of points. This is why the Texans could be one of the best teams in the NFL this year.

Matt Schaub is a very good quarterback who never gets the respect that he deserves. Year in and year out, he has helped the Texans be one of the top offenses in the NFL. He can sling the ball. His favorite target Andre Johnson will be healthy again this year, so Schaub should have a nice year even though Houston has been throwing the ball much less lately.

Arian Foster is arguably the best running backs in the NFL. He has great speed and is also able to power his way through tackles. He's the best running back in his division this year because of Jones-Drew's future injury caused by his holdout. Foster is also a very good pass catcher and he can block really well. An all-around back, which is why he's so valuable. Don't forget about Ben Tate.  He should be a starter somewhere else, but he was really good last year. The Texans running game will still be great even if Foster goes down with an injury at some point this year. They'll be a run-first team, with the threat of the pass in certain situations.

When they need to pass, Andre Johnson will be targeted a whole lot. He could be on the decline, but it's possible that he could be back in form. That will provide a major boost to this bad receiving corps. Kevin Walter should not be a #2 receiver, and Lestar Jean will probably be the third option. Schaub will have to work hard to make something out of these receivers.

The offensive line took a few hits in free agency this year, losing the right side of Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel. The line was a key factor in the great rushing attack last year, so these losses could be major. They'll be replaced by a couple of backups. The rest of the line is still there, with center Chris Myers being a great run blocker. He opened up a lot of holes up the middle for the running backs.

Mario Williams is gone. As if Wade Phillips cares. Williams missed most of the season with injury, and while having him there would have helped, they were still a great defense without him. J.J. Watt is a really talented defensive end who had a successful year in rushing the passer and stopping the run. He's an all-around talent and should improve now that he has a full training camp to work with this defensive scheme. That's scary. On the opposite side, Antonio Smith was a good pass rusher in his own right. The nose tackle Shaun Cody isn't very good, but with the attention that the ends will attract, Cody could be a beneficiary.

Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed are really good pass rushers. Barwin amassed 11.5 sacks last year, stepping up pretty nicely in Mario's absence. Reed might be demoted to package usage with first rounder Whitney Mercilus arriving. He's a stud of a pass rusher, so there will be a lot of sacks to go around this defense. Brian Cushing was amazing last season. He was a real jack-of-all-trades, with tackling being his best skill. He was also able to get pressure on the QB when needed. Bradie James wasn't good last year, but his familiarity with Wade Phillips could help him improve.

Johnathan Joseph is a very good corner, and he's a very reliable shutdown guy. Kareem Jackson improved from his rookie season, so he should still be on the upswing. They have two quality safeties in Glover Quin and Danieal Manning.

Special Teams
Shayne Graham is the kicker now that rookie Randy Bullock is on injured reserve. He has struggled with consistency at times. Donnie Jones isn't very good. Danieal Manning will take over as kick returner now that Jacoby Jones is gone.

12-4, 1st in AFC South

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