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TEXANS84 07-28-2004 04:17 PM

CNNSI picks Texans last in division..
CNNSI article

In year one, the goal for the Texans organization was to simply be competitive, so the 412 record was reason for celebration. Last year, the 511 record demonstrated steady improvement.

This year, though, the learning curve jumps dramatically. The Texans' biggest question mark will be how they handle the pressure -- most of which will be coming from within their own locker room.

Words like "competitive" and "improvement" are no longer good enough. Year three brings "expectations."

"There's a sense of urgency in the locker room, and with the coaching staff," says strong safety Eric Brown. "It's time."

While it may be a while before anyone determines when the playoffs are in Houston's path, continued improvement seems inevitable. No longer the new kid on the block, the Texans won five games not because opponents took the expansion team lightly, but because the Texans fought and scrapped and somehow pieced together victories.

Three of their losses came by a total of nine points, and they had a fourth-quarter lead in each of them. And much of the season was played with injuries among the veteran leaders.

Three of their best players -- Seth Payne, Gary Walker and Aaron Glenn -- are now healthy. The young leadership has another season under its belt. And some key offseason acquisitions give opponents a reason to fear the Texans this year.

After an iron man rookie season in which he played every down despite absorbing a serious pounding, David Carr took some lumps in Year 2. He missed four games due to injuries and was sidelined for parts of another two.

With an offensive line that struggled early, Carr helped some opposing defensive players pad their stats, throwing 13 interceptions in his 11 starts. However, Carr completed 167-of-295 passes for 2,013 yards with nine touchdowns. He showed his versatility with 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 27 attempts (5.6 avg.). His completion percentage improved to 56.5 percent.

Veteran Tony Banks remains the Texans' backup. He came off the bench to lead Houston to one victory but suffered a season-ending broken hand against Atlanta.

Running Backs
One of the brightest spots for Houston was the emergence of fourth-round draft pick Domanick Davis, who the Texans had earlier tagged as a third-down back. Expected to be a weakness, the running game became the Texans' strength after Davis grabbed the starting spot from Stacey Mack in Week 6. Davis won NFL Rookie of the Year honors as he rushed for 1,031 yards and caught 47 passes for 351 yards.

With second-year back Tony Hollings now recovered from ACL surgery, made Mack expendable.

Another bright spot from the 2003 draft was first-round pick Andre Johnson, who emerged as the Texans' leader with 66 catches for 976 yards and four touchdowns. While Johnson was inconsistent at times, and had more drops than the team would have liked, he showed the athletic ability that made him the Texans' favorite on draft day. Expectations will continue to run high.

Johnson, however, needs help. Corey Bradford added four touchdowns and some spectacular plays for the highlight reel, but he caught only 24 balls all season. The Texans are looking for more production this year from Jabar Gaffney, who was inconsistent most of the season.

Billy Miller will be competing with Bennie Joppru at tight end. Joppru spent most of his rookie season last year on injured reserve.

Offensive Linemen
One glaring statistic demonstrates the difference in the Texans' offensive line from Year 1 to Year 2 -- sacks. Carr was sacked a league-high 76 times in 2002. Texans' quarterbacks were only sacked 36 times last year -- a 52.6 percent reduction. Clearly, Davis was the other beneficiary of the improved line, helping him put together his 1,000-yard season.

The Texans added Zach Wiegert, Greg Randall and Todd Washington during last year's free-agent period, but they jumped right into the free-agent pool again this year to acquire Dolphins tackle Todd Wade. Wade will replace Randall, who was an unrestricted free agent.

Otherwise, the Texans expect the lineup to remain much the same, with Steve McKinney in the center, flanked by Wiegert at right guard, Wade at right tackle, Washington at left guard and Chester Pitts at left tackle.

Defensive Linemen
This was the area with the greatest turbulence last year due to injuries and the patchwork that ensued. The Texans expect a much-improved defensive line this fall. Playing most of the season without Payne, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2, and Walker, who missed 12 games with injuries, the Texans used seven different starters on the line. Corey Sears, the Texans' top backup, was also injured and played at far less than 100 percent most of the season.

The Texans acquired Robaire Smith from the Titans in the offseason. A tackle in Tennessee, Smith will slide over to end and replace Jerry DeLoach in the Texans' 3-4 defense. DeLoach was re-signed to provide depth.

Right outside linebacker was one of the weaker spots last year. Five different players received a look. With the addition of first-round pick Jason Babin, who could start at left outside linebacker, the Texans may experiment with moving veteran Kailee Wong from the left to right. The Texans traded four picks to move up in the draft to get Babin, so they expect him to play a significant role quickly. Jamie Sharper and Jay Foreman own the other two positions, making this one of the Texans' strengths. Second-year player Antwan Peek will be Babin's biggest competition for that final starting spot.

Defensive Backs
The Texans used four of their nine draft picks to address the secondary, where upgrading the free safety position is of utmost importance. The addition of first-round pick Dunta Robinson should allow the Texans to move veteran Marcus Coleman from cornerback to free safety. Houston expects Robinson to move into the starting lineup at right cornerback right away. Pro Bowler Aaron Glenn returns from injury to the left cornerback spot. Kenny Wright, who got five starts last year due to injuries, will provide depth off the bench. Veteran Eric Brown is solid at strong safety.

Kris Brown had another solid season, continuing to improve his numbers. He finished 18-for-22 on field-goal attempts and was 100 percent on extra points. He has kicked three game-winners thus far for the Texans. Both he and punter Chad Stanley finished above average in the league.

The Texans struggled in the return game, though J.J. Moses was an improvement. Still, the Texans are looking for more speed and hope to find that in sixth-round draft pick Vontez Duff, who earned a spot in the Notre Dame record books in 2002, becoming the first ever to score on interception, kickoff and punt returns in the same season.

Final Analysis
The Texans managed five wins last season and had several near-misses despite finishing near the bottom of the league in total defense and pass defense. Therefore, it was little surprise that the Texans focused their offseason activity -- both in the free-agent market and the draft -- on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensively, Houston believes it has its three key playmakers in place -- Carr, Johnson and Davis. Now, this young trio just needs more seasoning.

Reaching the postseason in year three is unlikely, but Houston is clearly a team on the way up. The Texans are probably the fourth-best team in the four-team AFC South, but a last-place finish could still produce seven wins.

Blake 07-28-2004 04:32 PM

That will make it even more of a Cinderella story when we take it to em this year.

TEXANS84 07-28-2004 04:55 PM

Thats what I've been doing, saving all the negative articles to email back to the editor's at the end of the season. Would be nice to throw something back in their face.

Porky 07-28-2004 05:01 PM

They messed up a bit on the oline, but on balance, a fair look at the Texans upcoming season. No suprise they are picking the Texans to finish fourth - heck, I am too. This may be the toughest, best, most competitive division in football. I am tagging them at 7-9 currently, and as the article states, that may still give us a fourth place finish. I would be thrilled with 7-9. The Texans are clearly on thier way...it's only a matter of time. :spot:

texansfan88 07-29-2004 12:13 PM

i dont care if we go 7-9 all the way to 16-0, just make sure you get Martin Nance if he comes out early and Boomer Grigsby in the draft...talk about surprises...

TheTim5125 07-29-2004 12:26 PM

listen there is no way we are finishing last in the division... no way. I'm tired of all the disrespect we get in the league. This team has a chance but no one will aknowledge(sp?) it. you wut i say forget the media we'll see wut happens on the field.

aj. 07-29-2004 12:47 PM

Disrespect? Did you even bother to read the article?

If the Texans finish 7-9 or 8-8 it would be a good year.

The titans have a "skeleton crew?"

They have basically everyone returning on the offense. Losing McCariens won't be a disaster as they still have Mason, Calico and Bennett. Plus they added an impact TE in Troupe. Eddie George's numbers will be covered by Antowain Smith and Chris Brown. On defense, their line experience took a hit losing Kearse and Smith but they still have Carlos Hall and Kevin Carter. Schoebel is a big question but they have a good bunch of young guys in Starks, LaBoy, Long, and Odom backing them up. Their LBs and secondary are still intact from last year. If the titans beat the Colts in Week 2, they are my prohibitive pick to win the division. My only question on the titans is the DL production. I can see the Colts in their home opener on Week 3 sitting at 0-2 with a whole bunch of cheeseheads in the stands.

As I said somewhere before, I wouldn't be surprised if the AFC South ended up 10-6, 9-7, 8-8, and 7-9. If the Texans happen to be the 7-9 team, that means we were competitive as hell and probably in the wild card picture until the last couple weeks of the season. That's nothing to feel disrespected about, especially only in the 3rd year of the franchise.

geofb 07-29-2004 01:24 PM


Originally Posted by Bottle-O-Bud
Are you kidding Porky? .

I don't think he was kidding and I think he pretty much hit the nail on the head. Do you think the rest of the division is going to roll over and play dead because we'd like to win a few more games? Many point to our close losses last year at home vs. Tenn/Indy to show we will break out with a big year. But turn that around and look at our wins. The Jags win was a gift when Leftwich fumbled when he should have been running the clock out. Falcons win was against a nearly Vick-less team. Panthers, Bills, and Dolphins wins were all close games that could have gone either way. For all who point to our close losses and say we could have been 8-8 or 9-7 last year, we could just as easily have lost 3 of the 5 games we won and been 2-14. Keep in mind we were dead last in the AFC in yardage in BOTH offense and defense last year.

I think we can get to 7-9 this year but only with much improvement over last year. Anything more than 7 wins is unlikely for 2004 although hopefully we will get in position for a winning record in 2005.

Chance_C 07-29-2004 02:59 PM


To say that the Jags and the Titans are ahead of us is disrespect!
Imagine how the Jags, Titans, and Colts fans would feel if we were picked to finish above them. That would be a healthy dose of "disrespect".

DoCt3rJ 07-29-2004 03:32 PM

We have the talent to be one of the top teams in this division, but, 4th is not a unlikely scenario for us. As much as we've improved, so have the jags. Titans are still gonna be tough with McNair. Ofcourse, Colts will lead the division. Like it or not, were gonna be havin a tough division for years to come. Texans have the talent, but it's all on David Carr's shoulder now. He needs to start makin the right reads, and hittin 3rd and 4th receivers, and not panicing and throwing a INT, time for him to start showing that. If D. Carr starts doing that, you will see AJ light it up, Gaffney, and Braford. Miller, Joppru, D.Davis, all of them will put on a show if D. Carr does end up maturing this year. Then, we could definately be a contender if our D holds up.

Ediddy73 07-29-2004 03:53 PM

in case you missed it bottle-o-bud, the co-mvps of the entire leauge just so happen to be from this division, and they haven't gotten any worse. the Jags are the only team that you could possibility make a case against, and with a healthy Fred Taylor, if Jimmy Smith can keep his nose clean (of Yayo that is), the addition of Reggie Williams, and no Bruenell looming over Leftwich's shoulder, should make it at best a push between us and them. Reality is a MFer ain't it!

Oilers/Texans 07-29-2004 04:56 PM

The Colts probably win the division. The Texans, Jaguars, and Titans will fight and scrap for the number two spot. The Texans can, and will, win that fight and make it to the postseason. They could even win the division and make the Colts wonder what the heck went wrong.

Txnpride 07-29-2004 05:32 PM

We will have to wait and see,but I truly believe we will shock the football world this season IF we stay healthy.We were pretty good last year,if we could have avoided the injury bug......who knows how we would have ended up..TEXANS HUDDLE ON....GOTTA GO!!!!!

edo783 07-29-2004 06:13 PM

Heard on ESPN radio the other day that every SB winner in the last 5 years had a top 5 defense. In year one we were a top 15 defense with zero offense. That same defense is pretty much back and should be healthy with a couple of things to boost the unit. As it did in year one, it should keep us in every game. With that, the offense SHOULD be able to put some points on the board. Those two things should add up to a decent season. 8-8 is a resonable expectation. If things really jell and we get a couple of breaks then 10-6 is possible and that MIGHT get us the two spot in the division and MAYBE a wildcard spot. The colts will likely be at 10 to 12 wins to take the division and everyone else will be jammed up at about 8-8 IMO. With everyone behind the colts being so close, we could wind up 2nd or just as easly 4th. A couple of lucky bounces/injuries one way or the other for the three teams behind the Colts will be what decides the ending position.

aj. 07-29-2004 08:18 PM

While there is improved depth on the defense, the Texans are depending quite heavily on three defensive starters who are coming off significant injuries. I'm hoping that we will see Glenn, Payne and Walker return to 2002 form but we may have already seen the best from those guys. Glenn and Walker are no spring chickens and quite frankly I was kind of surprised at the money they gave Walker. Payne has had three surgeries since last September and we may not see him until the week before the Tampa game. One brief conversation with Glenn's surgeon left me with the opinion that his chances for re-injury are pretty high. Cross your fingers for all those guys because we need all of them in there and performing at a high level in order to have a successful season. Did I mention Glenn's backup is also coming off a knee injury?

And for the person who can't believe how anyone could ever pick the titans above the Texans in the standings.... speculate all you want but all I know is that we're 0-4 against them and they still have a very potent offensive attack and a Fisher defense that will get after you. Why doesn't anyone think that Long, Starks, LaBoy, Schobel or Odom can emerge as legit impact players as Kearse and Hall did before them? They will miss Robaire Smith and Kearse but they have several good young DLs behind them.

Vinny 07-30-2004 05:36 AM

I think only 3 teams ranked in the top 5 of the 4 major statistical catagories for passing offense. The Titans, Colts and Vikings were the best passing teams in the NFL last year when you break down the numbers. The Titans were best in TD/INT of the group and YPC, while they ranked in the top 5 for total yardage and Steve McNair is still on top of his game. He has only missed 3 of his last 64 reg season contests although every year I keep reading about how he won't hold up. Of the three best passing attacks in the NFL, two are in the AFC South, so being on top of this division will not be easy.

We have improved, but now we are as good as average teams. This is a tough league.

nunusguy 07-30-2004 07:43 AM

Good ! I'm glad there're picking us last. The name of the game in football is
expectations. If you're picked to go 6-11 and you go 500, the season is a success. If you're picked to get into the playoffs and you go 8-8, the season is
a failure. We got to keep thinking long-term. And being in a really tough division
will make us better long-term to. To me the third year for an X team like us is just finally getting you're head above water, i.e. starting to get to the competitive level. If you want to win it all at once, spend more time in Vegas. And Good Luck !

ThOrNy 07-30-2004 08:23 AM

Last in the devision is were i see us being at the end of the year with a 7-9 record.i mean cmon lets be serious! we have a lot of young talent and some solid veterans but we still have a lot of work to do. WHATS THE HURRY?

Porky 07-30-2004 05:30 PM

IMO, there are two basic kinds of fans. I'll call them the "Realistic", and the "Optimistic". I think some of you might see yourself in these descriptions. Exagerrations are for effect only!

The Optimistic fan goes into each season thinking his team is going to win it all. Every player on his team is head and shoulders above the players on other teams, unless a player from another team comes to his team, at which point a halo is permentaly attached until such time as that player is traded away, at which point the halo is removed, and they become a bum again. The team positives are accuented to the max, while the negatives are ignored. Every rookie will make the pro-bowl, there will be no injuries, borderline prospects are HOF candidates, and there is a permanent rainbow over the practice field, where sunny skies grow the most wonderful grass in the country. The other teams in the same division all suck, and their best player might make his teams practice squad. Every player should be nominated for Saint Hood, and any fan who dares to question them is just sacrilege, and should be burned at the stake.

The reaslistic fan goes into each season hoping for the best, but is prepared emotionally for the worst. The players on the team he roots for have just as many faults, injuries, lack of desire, and all the other foibles, of players on every other team in the league. David Carr is actually David Carr, not the second coming of Bart Starr, Domanack Davis is comparable to Duce Staley, not Walter Payton. The other teams in the division have good players too, and in some cases, actually better players, than his own team. He appreciates the talents of players on all teams in the league, and enjoys watching great atheletes play no matter which city they reside in. Steve Mcnair is actually better than David Carr, and he isn't afraid to admit this. If he predicts his team to finish 7-9, and not some ridicoulous pie in the sky number, it is because he actually believes it. He hopes he is wrong every year.....but invariably at the end of every year, he is right. Nor is he dissatisfied, calling for coaches heads, screaming insults at fans, players, and coaches, or threatening to file lawsuits when he is proven right. He doesn't get too high when things go well, nor does he get too down on his team when things go bad. He simply call em like he sees em, and tends not too sugarcoat.


aj. 07-30-2004 07:56 PM

Agree with the general sentiment but I think your Optimist category could be subdivided into "Unrealistic" or "Blind Homer" categories.

There's nothing wrong with being an optimist, as long as you remain realistic. That's kind of where I see myself.

Blind homerism often leads to the unrealistic views and expectations that are never met, leading to the frustrations you describe.

It's all semantics.

I love the enthusiasm that all of our fans bring forth but I've seen it go from unbridled enthusiasm to apathy in the blink of an eye so many times over the years ....

We need our fans the most when we are losing, not when we are winning. So far, Texans fans are doing a great job supporting this team. There is as much or more energy now as there was in Setember '02.

No judgements being made here -- just observations. People who spend their hard earned money on tickets - or those who can't afford to attend the games and follow on radio, TV, and various forms of media can be whatever fan they want to be. It's totally their choice. I happen to prefer to be around fans who arrive early - stay late and make a lot of positive noise while in their seats -- throughout good years and bad years.

I think I have found inspiration for the next Voice of the Fan piece...

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