Scouting the Texans: Positional Analysis


QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Matt Schaub. Backup -- Sage Rosenfels, Shane Boyd.
    Matt Schaub showed great poise in the pocket, and proved to be a quality leader in the huddle during the preseason. However, it appears that Schaub is made of paper meche as he's been injured often during the regular season, and has missed four games in 2007. 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 is a solid backup quarterback for this team.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Ron Dayne, FB Vonta Leach. Backups -- RB Darius Walker, Adimchinobi Echemandu, Jameel Cook.
    One of the keys to the Texans running game is Vonte Leach, who was signed to a lucrative deal in the offseason after coming on as a bruising fullback last December for the Texans. The former street free agent has found himself a home in Houston. Ron Dayne has been the featured back ever since Ahman Green went down with a knee injury. Dayne was supposed to be used as a situational back in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but has been the man in Houston this year.

TIGHT END: Starter -- Owen Daniels. Backups -- Mark Bruener, Jeb Putzier, Joel Dreessen.
    Owen Daniels is critical in this offense as he's probably the Texans best possession receiver. Schaub and Rosenfels both know the TE's strengths are in the passing game and he is determined to use them. Bruener is be the blocking tight end, primarily used as another lineman to help with protection. While Daniels is the youngest and the most well-rounded with his ability to block and catch, Putzier is also involved in the offense. 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, David Anderson.
    Andre Johnson returns as one of the best receivers in the NFL, and for once, it appears he has 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 is prone to bigger plays when on the field and healthy. With less defenders keying in on him, Johnson gets more yards after the catch than he has in the past few years. Walter is 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 are 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 Mike Flanagan, RG Michael Brisiel, RT Eric Winston. Backups -- T Jordan Black, G Kasey Studdard, G Rashad Butler, T Brandon Frye, G Drew Hodgdon.
    The Texans are confident that by changing the quarterback, they will decrease their sack total significantly. 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. 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.

DEFENSIVE LINE: DLE Anthony Weaver, DT Travis Johnson, DT Amobi Okoye, DRE Mario Williams. Backups: DT Jeff Zgonina, DE N.D. Kalu, DT Anthony Maddox, DE Earl Cochran.
    So far, the Texans have drafted defensive linemen in the first round of the past four drafts, and prior to this year, 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. Williams has been fantastic this season as he's racked up 14 sacks to this point. He has become a disruptive force for opposing quarterbacks. Travis Johnson has shared time with Anthony Maddox.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- MLB DeMeco Ryans, SLB Danny Clark, WLB Morlon Greenwood. Backups -- Charlie Anderson, Zac Diles.
    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 is 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, and won the job with his physical tackling and knack for getting to the ball.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Von Hutchins, CB Fred Bennett , FS C.C. Brown, SS Will Demps. Backups -- SS Michael Boulware, CB DeMarcus Faggins, CB Dexter Wynn, FS Curome Cox.
    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 three out of the four have been injured throughout the year. The Texans wanted big plays out of their secondary, but they haven't delivered.

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.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of, and a regular syndicated contributor to, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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