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
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
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.
Scouting Report: Houston Texans
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