Scouting Report: Houston Texans

Unit-by-unit analysis as well as draft pick checkup

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Matt Schaub. Backup -- Sage Rosenfels.

The Texans be more pleased with the preseason performance of Schaub. He shows great poise in the pocket. He has proved to be a quality leader in the huddle, and has made some big plays when the team needed him to. Schaub has completed 70.7% of his passes and thrown for 1299 yards, with five touchdowns and four interceptions on the season. His rating is 95.5

The Texans are also confident in backup Sage Rosenfels, who looks like he was made to run this offense. He is comfortable in it and executes well. He was solid in backup situations for the team last season.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Ahman Green, FB Vonta Leach. Backups -- RB Ron Dayne, RB Samkon Gado.

Green will be relied on to carry an offense that didn't have much of a running game last year. So far, Green looks ready to shoulder the load when healthy. He will have plenty of help with Ron Dayne hungry to get more than just a token carry or two each game. But Green will be the main go-to back. Dayne is used as a situational back in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He rushed for 153 yards against the Colts in a victory last December, and earned himself the backup job last year. Green has played in three of the Texans five games and has rushed for 149 yards on 35 carries, including a touchdown.

TIGHT END: Starter -- Owen Daniels. Backups -- Mark Bruener, Jeb Putzier.

Owen Daniels was critical in the offense through the first half of last season, and nothing has changed this year. Schaub knows their strengths are in the passing game and he is determined to use them. Bruener is the blocking tight end, primarily used as another lineman to help with protection. He had two touchdown receptions last season, however, and may find himself back there this year.

While Daniels is the youngest and the most well-rounded with his ability to block and catch, Putzier will become more involved in the offense than he was last year. Putzier gained about 20 pounds last year because the team wanted him to become more of a blocker. It backfired on them as Putzier struggled as a blocker and lost his speed as a receiver. This year, Putzier is back to his normal playing weight. He's quicker on the field and showing great potential in the passing game.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter. Backups -- Jacoby Jones, Jerome Mathis, Andre' Davis .

Andre Johnson returns as one of the best receivers in the NFL. But for once, it appears he may have some talent around him in the receiving corps. The problem is almost all of them lack experience. However, between the receivers and the tight ends, Schaub should still have enough targets that Johnson will not catch 100 receptions two years in a row. He may be more prone to bigger plays though. With less defenders keying in on him, Johnson could get more yards after the catch than he has in the past few years. Walter will be his main backup, but Jones is pushing Walter for playing time. Jones looked great in the preseason, but the coaches have more trust in Walter simply because he has more experience. Walter has great hands, but has never received an opportunity to be a go-to guy in the NFL. Jones is dying to prove he belongs in the NFL and showed tremendous poise and ability in the preseason -- looking hardly like a rookie. Behind him, Mathis is making his first push to play on offense. Staying healthy has been key for him. He's been on the practice field every day. Davis also had a strong camp, and gives the Texans another speedy target. The Texans should be able to stretch the field with all of the young and fast players they have.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Ephraim Salaam, LG Chester Pitts, C Steve McKinney, RG Fred Weary, RT Eric Winston. Backups -- C Mike Flanagan, T Jordan Black, G Kasey Studdard, C Chris White.

The Texans are confident that by changing the quarterback, the Texans will decrease their sack total significantly. Coach Gary Kubiak would like to see the sacks get under 30 -- which would be a franchise record. It's looking like a possibility after a preseason in which Schaub showed a knack for getting rid of the ball very quickly and making sound decisions under pressure. He was sacked just once and often received ample time to throw the ball. Salaam returns to start at left tackle, where he replaced injured Charles Spencer in Week 2 last season. Pitts is as reliable as they come -- starting every game for his entire five-year career. McKinney is a tremendous blocker in the run game and is happy to be back at center -- after being moved to guard last season. Weary has really emerged into a talented guard on the line; and Winston has made tremendous progress from a year ago. He has quick feet and is solid in running and pass protection. The biggest problem with the line is the lack of depth. The team has inexperience and youth behind the starters. They are also hopeful that Spencer can return from his serious knee injury and come off the PUP after Week 6 of the regular season.

DEFENSIVE LINE: DLE Anthony Weaver, DT Travis Johnson, DT Amobi Okoye, DRE Mario Williams. Backups: DT Jeff Zgonina, DE N.D. Kalu, DT Cedric Killings, DT Anthony Maddox, DE Earl Cochran.

What the Texans are looking for here is consistency. So far, the Texans have drafted defensive linemen in the first round of the past four drafts. None of them have lived up to their expectations yet. Of course, Okoye hasn't had any time to be judged yet. He will undoubtedly add to a line that needed his pass-rush ability at tackle. The 20-year-old will be the youngest player in the entire league when the season kicks off though, and the expectations for him are pretty reasonable. For the most part, it is expected that it will take him time to really standout, but he has looked strong in the preseason. He's quick on his feet and has a great burst. The focus will be on Williams though. He showed flashes of brilliance last season, but they were few and far between, especially as he battled plantar fasciitis. This season, he is healthy and the expectations surrounding him are high. The Texans need him to become a disruptive force for opposing quarterbacks. They don't have a specific number of sacks they want to see from him, but they want him to constantly be harassing the quarterbacks. He will start at right end, but move to left end in most passing situations. That will move Weaver inside to tackle. Travis Johnson will share time with Anthony Maddox. The Texans will continue with an eight-man rotation on the defensive line. OLB Shantee Orr will get into the action too though. During the preseason when Williams was moved to left end, Orr took over on the right side as the pass rusher. Orr is more comfortable on the defensive line, but his size has him considered to be a "tweener" so he has stayed mostly with the linebackers.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- MLB DeMeco Ryans, SLB Danny Clark, WLB Morlon Greenwood. Backups -- Charlie Anderson, Shawn Barber, Shantee Orr, Zac Diles, Jon Abbate.

DeMeco Ryans is the gem of the defense. He encompasses everything the Texans want in a player. He's extremely smart, a hard-worker, a coachable player and a player that leads. He will be the glue on the defense. Despite only being a rookie last season, it didn't take long for Ryans to have the veterans and young players listening and learning from him. He is devoted in the film room and is focused on getting the job done. He has pass-rush ability from the middle and is a great tackler. He wants to make every play. Last season, he led the league in solo tackles and was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. On one side of Ryans will be Greenwood, who put together arguably his best season last year. He's a quality run stopper who can run sideline-to-sideline. Clark emerged in camp as the starter at SAM -- shaking up a competition that originally was only between Anderson and Orr. They will also see playing time there, but Clark won the job with his physical tackling and knack for getting to the ball. Orr and Anderson are strongest in pass-rush situations. They are both converted defensive ends from college, who were picked up to be outside linebackers in the 3-4. They are still trying to make the transition to the 4-3 as linebackers and are working on improving their coverage.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Dunta Robinson, CB Demarcus Faggins, FS C.C. Brown, SS Jason Simmons. Backups -- SS Michael Boulware, FS Dexter McCleon, CB/FS Von Hutchins, FS John Walker, CB Roc Alexander, S Brandon Harrison, CB Dexter Wynn, CB Fred Bennett, CB Jamar Fletcher.

This is an area where the Texans were expected to make changes in the offseason, but ended up keeping their group almost intact. All four starters returned, but Earl ended up suffering a foot injury that will keep him out of the entire season. That opened the door for veteran Jason Simmons to earn his first job as a starter. The long-time veteran has been a versatile backup for the Texans since their inaugural season. He has played all four positions in the secondary, but is a true safety. He played well in his preseason appearances and adds a vocal, veteran leader on the field. Dunta Robinson is the glue in the secondary. He is their hardest hitter and most feared defensive back, who could be poised for a breakout season if the defensive line can produce the pressure needed to help the secondary make plays. Faggins will start opposite of Robinson, but his job is being challenged by Fred Bennett and Jamar Fletcher, both of whom proved they could be playmakers in the preseason. The Texans want big plays out of their secondary, and they will count on Robinson, Faggins, Brown and Simmons to lead the way. Their top reserves will also include Hutchins, though. And it won't be surprising if Hutchins -- a cornerback and free safety -- eventually beats out Simmons for the starting job. Hutchins would likely start at free safety then, allowing Brown to move to his more natural position of strong safety.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Kris Brown, P Matt Turk, LS Bryan Pittman, KOR Jerome Mathis, PR Jacoby Jones.

Special teams proved to be a highlight of the entire preseason. Turk was in a tough battle with punter Chad Stanley -- an original Texan. Brown was as consistent as he can be. And Mathis and Jones showed off what could become a potent combination in the return game. The two former track stars from tiny colleges were impressive throughout the preseason. Jones returned two punts for touchdowns -- one for 80 yards and one for 91 yards. He showed that he has the knack to succeed at this level right away. The best news for Mathis was that he was on the field practicing every day and played in every preseason game. Injuries have held Mathis back more than anything. But he proved a lot to the coaches by actually being on the field and producing. While Mathis struggles at fielding punts, Jones did return kicks in college. He will continue to work on improving his ability to be a kick returner as well. Long snapper Bryan Pittman is as reliable as they come. And even though Kubiak doesn't like a player so specialized, he even realizes Pittman is worth a roster spot.


DRAFT PICKS TO STICK:

Rd. 1/10, DT Amobi Okoye, Louisville -- He adds a much-needed pass-rush presence to the middle of the line. He was the youngest player in the NFL on opening day.

Rd. 3/73, WR Jacoby Jones, Lane College -- Former track star who has proven he is an all-around athlete. He is the No. 3 receiver and also returns punts.

Rd. 4/123, CB Fred Bennett, South Carolina -- He's a former teammate of Dunta Robinson and is shadowing everything Robinson does. He has the potential to be a quality playmaker down the road.

Rd. 5/144, S Brandon Harrison, Stanford -- He's a very smart player who is only lacking experience. He will benefit from the loss of Glenn Earl since the Texans lack depth at safety.

Rd. 7/218, LB Zac Diles, Kansas State -- He's one of the surprises in camp, who has emerged as the backup to DeMeco Ryans in the middle.


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