I’ve been holding out hope that the Houston Texans would turn their season around and make the playoffs after opening the season with a 2-2 record. That they were simply going through some early season struggles. They did start last season 0-4 and still finished 8-8.
This is their year to make the playoffs, right?
That was before they came back from a 21 point deficit against the Cardinals, only to throw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and fail to score when they had 2nd and goal at the 1 yard line.
I’m ready to dive into the college football season and scout possible draft picks. When your team is down a touchdown with 40 seconds left in the game, has 2nd-down-and-goal at the one yard line, and can’t convert on three straight plays, I think it’s okay to start looking towards next year.
It’s tough to root for a team that gets beat in more aspects than they win. And that’s exactly what the Texans do. They look good because they can put up a lot of points in a short amount of time. They’re sexy. I don’t trust a sexy team just like I don’t trust a sexy girl without getting to know them.
Sexy will win you a few games, but it won’t give you consistent success. You just never know about them.
Well, I’ve gotten to know this girl.
Houston’s running game is a weakness. Steve Slaton is a big-play back and fantasy all-star, but he can’t carry a running game. He’s not big enough. He’s sexy (there’s that word again), but he can’t pound the ball and grind out yards. He’s only averaging 46.2 yards per game in his first five games this season. His biggest game was against Jacksonville (ranked 19th in the league against the run) when he ran for 76 yards.
Houston needs to find a power back to pair with Slaton. He’s shown that he’s an excellent third down back because he can catch balls out of the backfield and has learned quickly how to pick up the blitz, but he’s not an every-down back. Slaton needs someone else to take some of the pounding for him. Chris Brown just ain’t cutting it.
In the trenches
Unfortunately, it’s not just this year. The Texans franchise started off on the wrong foot. The best way to build a team is from the inside-out. Taking offensive and defensive linemen and building a foundation where you can add skill position players later and have long-term success. Houston made little effort to build from the inside, other than taking left tackle Tony Boselli with their first pick in the expansion draft. Boselli never played a down for the team because of injury. No argument here, that was the right move. But they’ve spent too many high draft picks over the years on skill players while neglecting the foundation.
Look at the New England Patriots, would Tom Brady be the quarterback he is today if he hadn’t played for the Patriots? No way. He was forced into a starting role because of injury to Drew Bledsoe and thrived because he was protected by the best offensive line in the league and had one of the top defenses to keep them in games. His running backs that season were Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk. His receivers were Troy Brown and David Patten. Canada has more weapons than Brady had.
In 2002, the Texans made quarterback David Carr their first draft pick ever, taking him first overall in that year’s draft. It was the sexy pick (le sigh). Who was the very next pick? Defensive end Julius Peppers, who has 73.5 career sacks in his eight seasons in the league. Then they took tight end Bennie Joppru in the second round of the 2003 draft and defensive end Osi Umenyiora was taken 15 picks later.
It’s easy to point these things out after the fact, but dang it that’s the point.
Houston’s front office needs to focus on two things for the offensive and defensive lines: talent and depth. The defensive line has talent, but it’s short on depth. And they can’t stop the run. The offensive line lacks both talent and depth, save for a couple of spots, like left tackle Duane Brown. Houston should spend at least one of their first, second or third round draft picks on a lineman every year. That way, you’ve got a steady stream of talent and youth coming in. Young guys will come to camp every year in a position to compete for playing time. And not just practice squad-talent, legit difference-maker talent. If, say, Amobi Okoye leaves for whatever reason, you’ve got someone ready to step in and take their place.
The secondary is perpetually a problem for the Texans. The team has had a make-shift secondary since its start. Dunta Robinson is the only blue chipper they’ve put in the defensive backfield (And oh-by-the-way, pay that man his money. He’s shown that he’s recovered from his knee injury and that he’s one of the top cornerbacks in the league. Sign him to a long-term deal today, before he bolts in the offseason for the Colts).
Houston has no excuse not to spend a first or second round pick this year on a ball-hawking free safety. Year after year they neglect to find a difference-maker to play that role. And it shows. Even with the pass rush the Texans have, they still can’t defend the pass.
I’d say that Gary Kubiak won’t last the entire season, but I’m pretty sure he’s already been taken out like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. Mike Shanahan is unpacking in his new office as you read this. I’ve seen very few teams come less motivated and make fewer in-game adjustments than a Kubiak coached one.
Houston was a sexy (NO! STOP!) underdog pick coming into the season. After going 8-8 last season, they were supposed to take the next step in 2009. This team was supposed to compete with the Colts in the AFC South.
Well, at least my fantasy team is 5-0.