The Houston Texans are one of the most complete teams in the NFL. Last year saw the team both make the playoffs and win their first playoff game, however, the season ended on a low note as they got bounced by the Ravens in the Divisional Round. The Texans have much loftier expectations this year and they are definitely warranted.
One More Year to Adjust to Wade Phillips’s 3-4 Defense
The Houston Texans have had a premier offense for several years now, but up until last year their defense had been lackluster to say the least. However, through the acquisitions of Jonathan Joseph, Danieal Manning, J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and perhaps most importantly, Wade Phillips, the Texans went from a historically bad defense to the NFL’s second best in a single year. It’s even more remarkable considering the defense not only made this turn around, but also made the switch to the 3-4 defense without a training camp. With another year and the addition of first round pick, OLB Whitney Mercilus, the Texans could see an improvement from last year’s already stout defense.
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The Texans have not only had training camp this year, but a majority of the defense stayed in Houston over the offseason to work out together. The team camaraderie that the Texans have is something that few teams in the NFL can match. Running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate have no bad blood and in fact are each others biggest driving force. Outside linebacker Connor Barwin and Defensive end J.J. Watt were the Co-Marshals of the Houston Art Car Parade and veterans Antonio Smith, and Jonathan Joseph have been staying after practice to work with some of the younger guys at their positions.
Matt Schaub Returns
After Matt Schaub’s unfortunate injury before last year’s playoff run the Texans weren’t nearly the powerhouse that many thought could make a Super Bowl run only weeks before. After Leinart went down T.J. Yates played admirably, but a third string quarterback couldn’t lead a team through the playoffs regardless of the skill of his defense and running game. Schaub returned to the Texans earlier this summer for training camp and Kubiak has eased him back in slowly. Assuming he finishes the year healthy the Texans Super Bowl aspirations could potentially be met.
Justin Forsett Adds a Flash to the Running Game
The addition of Justin Forsett has created an added dimension for the Texans run game which has been a one cut, downhill style system for the last several years. Forsett is less of a Foster, Tate, Derrick Ward style back, and more reminiscent of Steve Slaton. His speed and receiving ability give the Texans a legitimate spell back with big play ability, especially late in games when the defenses are tired. Forsett has gained praise from Kubiak since the beginning of camp and continues to impress in the preseason.
The Receiver Position Makes a Youth Movement
The Texans have had one of the more stable receiving corps in the NFL over the last several years with Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter on the outside and Jacoby Jones in the slot. However, after yet another underwhelming season, the Texans cut ties with Jones and spent their 3rd and 4th round picks on Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey and Michigan State receiver Keyshawn Martin respectively to pair up with last years undrafted standout Lestar Jean. Martin has impressed at camp and is the favorite to take the number three receiver job with Jean hot on his heels and Posey still trying to remove some of the rust off that has accumulated due to his two five-game suspensions for off the field issues in his senior year at Ohio State. If the Texans can keep Andre Johnson healthy and get the production out of Martin that they always wanted out of Jacoby Jones, then the offense could be unstoppable.
The Special Teams Welcomes New Faces
Finally, the Texans welcome some new faces to the special teams this season. Last year’s rookie standout punter Brett “The Hitman” Hartmann has been suspended for the first four games due to a failed drug test, leading the Texans to sign former St. Louis punter Donnie Jones. Kicker, Neil Rackers, is also absent this year as he made the move to Washington this offseason via free agency causing the Texans to use a draft pick on a kicker for the first time in franchise history. Randy Bullock, a Texas A&M alum and Lou Groza award winner was taken by the Texans in the fifth round of April’s draft and they have high hopes for him. He hasn’t disappointed thus far going 2/2 with a 52 yard field goal against Carolina in Saturday’s preseason opener. Finally the Texans are giving another shot to the speedy Trindon Holliday to return kicks and punts. The 5 foot 5 former track star showed phenomenal speed and vision on Saturday with a 90 yard kick return for touchdown and another shifty 37 yarder when he was dead to rights at the ten yard line. The Texans special teams should be able to at least match what last year’s did if not be even better.
The Texans have the most complete team in the AFC and are on par with San Fransisco as the best team in the NFL. With another year for the defense to learn Wade’s new scheme, a friendly locker room, the return of former Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Schaub, an added crease to the running game via Justin Forsett, the addition of several young receivers, and the new look special teams the Texans are undoubtedly contenders for the Lombardi Trophy this year.