Texans

Training Camp Preview: Texans

Biggest Question Mark: Duane Brown
The Texans reached for Brown in the 1st round of the 2008 draft, and it’s a selection they may already be regretting. As their starting left tackle Brown struggled last season, allowing seven sacks and 11 hits. He must improve this season if Matt Schaub is going to lead the Texas to their first playoff berth.

HOUSTON - JULY 31:  Running back Arian Foster #37 of the Houston Texans rushes with the ball during practice on July 31, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Undrafted in 2009, Foster could be the opening day starter at running back

Position Battle to Watch: Running Back
Steve Slaton was one of 2009′s biggest disappointments and the Texans seem resigned to the fact that he’s nothing more than a change-of-pace back. While Slaton will still get his carries, the battle figures to be between Arian Foster and rookie Ben Tate – both bigger running backs that can carry the full load.

Impact Rookie: Kareem Jackson
Jackson will be inserted into the starting lineup immediately, taking the place of Dunta Robinson. Those are big shoes to fill, especially for someone than many feel was chosen too early. The Texans passed on Devin McCourty, Kyle Wilson and Patrick Robinson and Jackson’s career will always be measured by how he compares to those three.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Texans 1 Comment

10 Underachievers that must step up in 2010

10. Aaron Curry – LB – Seahawks
It’s tough to  say a rookie underachieved, but Curry entered the league as a can’t-miss prospect. His 2009 season was a disappointment from day one. He started 12 games for the Seahawks and played nearly every snap when he was healthy, but just never produced. Making the transition from the ACC to the NFL certainly wasn’t aided by the sinking ship that was the Seattle Seahawks in 2009. The new regime has no allegiances to him, meaning he’ll have to earn his job in 2010 and the expectations will be very high.

9. Charlie Johnson – OT – Colts
Maybe this isn’t the right list for Johnson, because no one has really ever expected much from him. But he remains the starting left tackle for one of the league’s best quarterbacks, and with that comes the expectation of success. Johnson was a liability last season, especially in the Super Bowl when he allowed one hit and three pressures. As Manning gets older, protecting him becomes more important and Johnson needs to prove he can step up the challenge.

8. Jonathan Vilma – LB – Saints
Vilma was the Saints best linebacker in 2009, but that’s not saying much. They’ve since parted ways with Scott Fujita and failed to find an adequate replacement. Vilma will need to continue to improve in order to make up for the deficiencies at outside linebacker in New Orleans.

7. Levi Brown – OT – Cardinals
Brown’s poor play was masked by Kurt Warner’s pocket presence the past few seasons, but his sloppy play must stop now that Matt Leinart is under center. He’ll be asked to anchor the Cardinals patchwork offensive line and finally live up to expectations.

6. Amobi Okoye – DT – Texans
Drafted as a 19-year-old in 2007, Okoye was supposed to be an instant terror on the Texans’ interior defensive line. Instead, Okoye has been a liability against the run and  rarely made an impact as a pass rusher. He registered just two sacks and five hits in 2009, numbers that much improve if he’s to avoid a bust label in his 4th season in the league.

5. LaRon Landry – S – Redskins
Landry was supposed to be the leader of the Redskins’ secondary in the post-Sean Taylor era. He’s made his presence felt in run support, but he’s struggled to adjust to the speed of the NFL passing game. He is stiff in coverage and is often caught out of position. The Redskins have remained committed to him, but his days could be numbered if he doesn’t impress the new regime early on.

4. Derrick Johnson – LB – Chiefs
Johnson was a college legend at Texas, but his transition to the NFL has been a tough one. He’s never lived up to expectations in Kansas City and he could be getting his last chance in 2010. Romeo Crennel will look to him to step up as a starter at inside linebacker and he’ll need to perform if the Chiefs have a chance to rebound from a miserable defensive performance in 2009.

3. Darren McFadden – RB – Raiders
McFadden was supposed to have an Adrian Peterson-like impact and help turn around the Raiders fortunes. Instead, he’s struggled to hold off Michael Bush and Justin Fargas for the starting job in Oakland. McFadden needs to finally live up expectations before the Raiders send him packing along with JaMarcus Russell.

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03: Quarterback Matt Leinart #7 of the  Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at  the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Glendale,  Arizona. The Packers defeated the Cardinals 33-7. (Photo by Christian  Petersen/Getty Images)
The bust label is ready to be slapped on Leinart if he doesn’t step up in 2010

2. Matt Forte – RB – Bears
After a memorable rookie season Forte suffered a brutal sophomore slump. Mike Martz likes to incorporate his running back into the passing game as much as any offensive coordinator, which could mean Forte is due for a breakout season. We should get a good idea for how much Martz trusts Forte based on how they use him in training camp and in preseason games.

1.Matt Leinart  – QB – Cardinals
All eyes will be on Leinart early this season. He has the physical tools to be an elite quarterback, but he just hasn’t put in the effort to live up to expectations. Perhaps the light bulb has finally gone off now that Warner is gone and he’s been given his last chance to succeed in Arizona. Derek Anderson will be breathing down his neck, pushing Leinart every step of the way.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Cardinals, Chiefs, Colts, Raiders, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Texans 1 Comment

Early NFL Rookie of the Year Predictions

It may only be May, but it’s never too early to look ahead. By glancing through some projected depth charts we’ve come up with an early rookie of the year prediction. We’ll track each player’s progress and update our rankings on a weekly basis throughout the season.

OFFENSE
1. Ryan Mathews, Chargers

Offensive Rookie of the Year typically goes to a running back, and often to a player on a good team. Mathews may not be the most talented of this year’s rookies, but he is in the best position to succeed. He’s the feature back in San Diego and should cruise to 1,200 yards and 10+ touchdowns.

2. Ben Tate, Texans
Tate will have to beat out Steve Slaton for the starting job, but he certainly will enter training camp with an excellent shot to be the Texans’ feature back. Unlike Slaton, Tate has the size to carry the load and put up impressive numbers throughout the year.

3. Golden Tate, Seahawks
Tate will likely be used as an all-purpose receiver in Seattle much like Percy Harvin was used in Minnesota last year. He isn’t their No. 1 target, but they’ll find ways to get him the ball.

4. C.J. Spiller, Bills
While Spiller was the top-rated running back on most draft boards, he didn’t land in a great situation in terms of finding immediate playing time. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson still deserve to get their fair share of the carries (assuming they’re still around) which will limit Spillers ability to put up ROY-type numbers.

5. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers
If Clausen beats out Matt Moore he’ll be in an excellent position to succeed as a rookie. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will carry the load on offense, limiting the amount of work Clausen needs to do.

DEFENSE
1. Eric Berry, Chiefs
The Chiefs defense won’t be very good, meaning plenty of chances for Berry to show off his skills. He’ll clearly stand out as the best player in their secondary from day one, and should be the DROY favorite.

2. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan will start from day one on an already respectable defense in Tennessee. He’s surrounded with enough talent that should allow him to rack up 7+ sacks this year.

3. Earl Thomas, Seahawks
Thomas will start immediately for the Seahawks and should be an instant-impact player. He’s a ball hawk, which means he should have no problem putting up the gaudy interception numbers that will catch the eye of ROY voters.

4. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham likely won’t start in Philadelphia, but he’ll be used as a situational pass rusher. He’s one dimensional, but he’ll put up the numbers necessary to get noticed as a rookie.

5. Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons
Weatherspoon is one of the few defensive rookies who has been handed a starting job. He likely won’t put up the numbers to in the award, but he’ll be in the discussion simply based on having the most opportunities to show off his talents.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Chargers, Chiefs, Eagles, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Texans, Titans 2 Comments

Ed Bouchette nearly screwed over Jaius Byrd

I don’t think Brian Cushing deserves the NFL Rookie of the Year award.

I would have voted for Clay Mathews even before the re-vote. But if I had voted for Cushing, I certainly would have changed my vote after learning confirming that he was on steroids [let's be honest, we already knew he was on 'roids].

But I don’t have a vote and those that do have every right to keep their vote for Cushing. I disagree with those that did, but I don’t have a problem with them. I do, however, have a problem with the writer who changed his vote to Cushing.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette originally voted for Jairus Byrd but changed his vote to Brian Cushing.

How can one possibly justify this change? Bouchette claims that he was voting against the re-vote rather than voting for Cushing. He felt the re-vote was unnecessary and was protesting the process.

I’ve got news for you Ed, that’s not your call. The folks at the Associated Press organize the balloting and only they have the right to make that decision. Bouchette knew that many writers would change their vote from Cushing, so he decided to do his part to keep Cushing atop the voting. In doing so, he risked costing Jairus Byrd, the player who he felt actually deserved the award, from receiving the honor.

In the end his vote didn’t impact the outcome, so Bouchette won’t be crucified in the media the way he deserves. It was a bone-headed move by a writer who needs to keep his ego in check.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Texans 1 Comment

2010 Draft Grades: Texans

The Texans did a great job filling needs in this draft, but I think they reached a little too often to do so. They’re feeling the pressure to win now, which can sometimes lead to poor draft-day decisions.

I like Kareem Jackson, but he wasn’t worth a top-20 pick. They obviously looked at their starting cornerbacks (Brice McCain and Quin Glover) and panicked. With Ryan Mathews off the board, probably their only non-cornerback option in the 1st-round, they were dead-set on taking a corner. Unfortunately there just wasn’t anyone other than Haden worth a top-20 pick.

Their 2nd-round selection of Ben Tate also reeks of them locking in on one positions and insisting on filling it with that pick. They simply couldn’t enter 2010 with Steve Slaton as their starting running back. After missing out on Mathews in the 1st round, they had to address the need in the 2nd. Tate can be a nice compliment to Slaton but he wasn’t worth the 58th overall pick in the draft. They should have rolled the dice that Tate or a comparable running back would be available in the 3rd round.

Once again in the 3rd round they reached to fill a need. Their defensive tackles have all been career underacheivers, especially starters Amobi Okoye and Shaun Cody. I don’t disagree with addressing the need, but Earl Mitchell is too raw to have an instant impact. He has upside, but it will take some time to develop him into a starter. This just wasn’t a good fit for Mitchell. He’s the type of player that would have benefited from playing behind a proven veteran for a year or two.

In the 4th round they reached again, this time to add depth at linebacker. Darryl Sharpton is a versatile linebacker who can backup DeMeco Ryans on the inside or compete for playing time at the weak-side position. By the 4th round reaches don’t look as bad, but it doesn’t change the fact that there were better players on the board.

I love the selection if Garrett Graham in the 5th round. He is a very similar player to fellow Badger Owen Daniels. No one will be expecting Graham to see much playing time as a rookie, but he’ll provide insurance behind Daniels who missed nearly the entire 2009 season with an ACL injury.

Sherrick McManis has limited upside, but they needed to add more depth at cornerback. He’ll play special teams and be a 4th or 5th option at cornerback if the makes the roster.

I was surprised that the Texans waited until the 6th round to address their interior offensive line. Shelley Smith doesn’t have much upside, but he could see playing time as a rookie if for no other reason than the Texans don’t have many other options.

Trindon Holliday will be an interesting player to watch in 2010. Given his size (5’5″, 159 pounds), its hard to imagine him doing anything other than returning kicks and punts. But can he even win that job over Andre’ Davis and Jacoby Jones? I hope he does just for the entertainment factor of seeing the NFL’s version of Earl Boykins returning kicks.

I was absolutely shocked that Dorin Dickerson fell to the 7th round. The issue is obvious that he doesn’t have a true position. He’s too small to play tight end or wide receiver. He’s built like a running back, but has no experience there. But despite all that, he’s too athletic not to give a shot to play somewhere. Even if he plays a very limited role, plays can be designed for him to create mismatches. I think the Texans got themselves a steal, so long as they’re willing to work him into the game plan.

This was a make-or-break draft for the Texans. Either Jackson and Tate make an immediate impact and push the Texans over the top and into the playoffs, or Gary Kubiak will be pushed out the door. The Texans have been just on the outside of legitimately competing for a few years now and they’re starting to grow impatient with Kubiak’s inability to get them into the playoffs. You have to give them credit for takings risks, but if they don’t work out, the next regime will look at this draft as the reason why they’ve been set back 2-3 years.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2010, Texans Comments Off

Should the Texans franchise Dunta Robinson?

The Texans used their franchise tag on cornerback Dunta Robinson last season but have elected not to go that route this year. Robinson hasn’t exactly gotten along with the Texans’ front offense in recent years, meaning this likely spells the end of the road for him in Houston.

Its possible the Texans are just fed up with Robinson’s antics. But putting that aside, from a football standpoint, did they make the right call?

At first glance, Robinson took a major step backwards in 2009. ProFootballFocus gave him an overall rating of -11.7 this past season, ranking him 98th out of 107 cornerbacks. Upon closer examination, however, Robinson may still have what it takes to be an elite cornerback.

Through the first eight weeks of the season, Robinson was terrible. He was thrown at 34 times and allowed 22 receptions for 309 yards – an average of 9.09 yards per attempt, which would have ranked 95th in the NFL this season.

Houston Texans v Baltimore RavensOver the next eight games, however, Robinson stepped it up allowing just 5.94 yards per attempt – a rate which would have ranked him 18th over the course of the season.

So who’s the real Dunta Robinson?

In reality, he’s probably somewhere in between. But his 2nd half performance certainly indicates that he’s capable of playing at an elite level. The issue with spending money on Robinson is that you just don’t know what you’re going to get. On a winning team, he may be motivated to play up to his potential. But as soon as things take a turn for the worse, he may pack it in. At this point you have to wonder if Robinson’s second-half performance was motivated by the fact that he could hit the open market this offseason.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Free Agency, Texans 2 Comments

Texans Need a Power Running Back

Between now and the NFL Draft, we will run a series of articles analyzing each team’s needs using stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com

texansSteve Slaton burst onto the scene late in 2008, rushing for 737 yards over the final seven games of the season. As a result the Texans, and numerous fantasy owners who drafted him in the 1st round, entered 2009 with lofty expectations.

The results were underwhelming. In 11 games prior to a season-ending neck injury, Slaton rushed for just 437 yards at a dismal rate of 3.3 yards per carry.

New Orleans Saints v Houston TexansThe reason behind the decline is fairly simple. Slaton just doesn’t have the body of an NFL running back. Year after year we see impressive late-season statistics posted by backups plugged into starting roles. Last year it was Slaton, this year it was Jerome Harrison Harrison and Jamal Charles. Occasionally these backups prove to be the real deal. But more often than not they simply capitalizing on being fresh from having not been worn down as the workhorse for the majority of the season and are playing with extra motivation to win the starting job for the following season.

In Slaton’s case, both factors could have played a role in his 2008 heroics. There’s no denying his ability as a big-play running back, but like others such as Reggie Bush and Leon Washinngton, he doesn’t have the strength to carry the load.

To demonstrate his inability to be a feature back, consider the stat “yards after contact” which is tracked by the guys at ProFootballFocus. Among running backs with at least 100 attempts, Slaton averaged the 4th-fewest yards after contact per attempt this season at just 2.12.

yardsaftercontact

From the view of an opposing defensive coordinator, these are the ideal running backs to face. Yes, Slaton could hurt you by breaking off a big run, but you don’t feel the need to stack the box in order to slow him down. As a result, Slaton’s inability to force defenses to game-plan for him allows defenses to focus their attention on Andre Johnson and their potent passing attack.

Down the stretch the Texans used the more physically imposing Arian Foster (6’1″, 217 lbs) as the feature back. He did an adequate job, but the Texas likely won’t feel comfortable handing him the starting job for 2010.

Given the limited number of running backs available in free agency, this is likely a position the Texans will need to address in the draft. In the 1st round Jonathan Dwyer and Ryan Mathews are both options, but would it would be considered a reach by many to select either one in the top 20. The safer route may be to select a player such as Anthony Dixon or Montario Hardesty in the 2nd or 3rd round to share the load with Slaton in 2010.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Texans Comments Off