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Old 07-26-2004   #1
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Default Sportsline.com: Unit by Unit Analysis

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QUARTERBACK
Starter -- David Carr. Backups -- Tony Banks, Dave Ragone.

Injuries limited Carr to 11 starts in 2003, but he did show improvement from his rookie season. Because he is surrounded by better and more experienced talent, it's time for Carr to take his game to the next level. He has all the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback, but he must prove he can do the things necessary to win games, especially in the fourth quarter, when he threw eight of his 13 interceptions and completed a lower percentage of his passes (51.8) than in any other quarter last season. Banks is an experienced backup who played well when Carr was injured last season. Ragone is still a work in progress, and the Texans are in trouble if he has to play for an extended period of time.

RUNNING BACKS
Starters -- RB Domanick Davis, FB Moran Norris. Backups -- RB Tony Hollings, FB Jarrod Baxter.

Despite starting just 10 games in 2003, Davis rushed for 1,031 yards and eight touchdowns. He is a determined runner who takes advantage of a lower center of gravity and good vision. Davis seldom is brought down by arm tackles, he has good hands and does a good job or recognizing and pickup blitzes. Nagging injuries limited his time last season, so he must prove he can hold up to the rigors of a 16-game schedule. Hollings is a year removed from ACL surgery and should be ready to make a larger contribution. Expect him to get eight to 10 carries a game. He must improve his blocking and receiving skills. The fullback doesn't get many touches in offensive coordinator Chris Palmer's scheme, but they are counted on to be punishing run blockers. Norris fits the mold, but Baxter, who is coming off foot surgery, will get strong competition from veteran Charles Stackhouse.

TIGHT END
Starter -- Mark Bruener. Backups -- Billy Miller, Bennie Joppru.

The Texans don't have a set starter at tight end. They will use all three depending on the formation. Bruener is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL and should help improve the Texans' running game, but he won't be much of a factor as a receiver. Miller is undersized and sometimes overmatched in the running game, but he has great hands and is a difficult matchup assignment for linebackers. He has been one of Carr's favorite targets over the past two seasons. The Texans are hoping Joppru will provide the best of both worlds. The 2003 second round pick, who missed his entire rookie season because of a groin injury, is arguably the most gifted tight end on the roster.

WIDE RECEIVER
Starters -- Andre Johnson, Corey Bradford. Backups -- Jabar Gaffney, Derick Armstrong, Sloan Thomas.

Johnson and Bradford are speedsters who give the Texans the ability to stretch the field, which is crucial in Palmer's vertical passing attack. Johnson finished 24 yards shy of 1,000 as a rookie and would have easily surpassed that plateau if he could have eliminated drops. The coaches don't believe his hands are a major concern, but they are stressing that he be more focused. Bradford was one of the most underutilized weapons in the league last season. He averaged 19.2 yards a catch, but only had 24 receptions. In order for the Texans' offensive to be explosive and diverse, Bradford needs to get into the 45- to 60-catch range. Neither Gaffney nor Armstrong are burners, but both are good route runners with reliable hands. Armstrong has a knack for acrobatic catches.

OFFENSIVE LINE
Starters -- LT Seth Wand, LG, Chester Pitts, C Steve McKinney, RG Zach Wiegert, RT Todd Wade. Backups -- C/G Todd Washington, G Milford Brown, G Fred Weary, T Marcus Spears.

The main concern will be how quickly the chemistry comes together on an offensive line that has new starters at three different positions. Wade, the biggest free-agent acquisition of the offseason, is an upgrade over 2003 starter Greg Randall at RT. Pitts is moving from LT to LG to make room for Wand, who is physically gifted, but hasn't played a down at LT in the NFL. That's a big gamble considering he will be protecting Carr's blindside. But by getting Wand into the lineup, the coaches believe they will have their best five linemen on the field. The strength of this group will be its size and athleticism; so much so that new OL coach Joe Pendry is installing a zone blocking scheme in hopes of taking the Texans' running game to the next level. The depth is good, particularly at the interior positions, and if Wand doesn't work out at LT, the Texans can always move Pitts back outside.

DEFENSIVE LINE
Starters -- LDE Gary Walker, NT Seth Payne, RDE Robaire Smith. Backups -- LDE Corey Sears, NT Jerry DeLoach, RDE Terrance Martin.

The DL was a mess last season because of injuries to Walker and Payne. Walker is healthy again, and the addition of Smith gives the Texans two potentially dominant run stoppers at the end positions. Walker is a proven inside pass rusher and the coaches believe Smith has some upside in that department. The biggest question mark is Payne, who had multiple offseason procedures to repair a torn ACL suffered in the second week of the 2003 season. Payne likely will be a limited participant during training camp, although he insists he will be ready for the regular-season opener. If he's not, Jerry Deloach will start at NT. Deloach was a two-year starter at RDE, and while he's a quality fill-in at NT, he's at least a notch below Payne, a difference-maker in the running game.

LINEBACKER
Starters -- LOLB Jason Babin, SLB Jay Foreman, WLB Jamie Sharper, ROLB Kailee Wong. Backups --- OLB Antwan Peek, OLB Anthony Dunn, ILB Troy Evans, ILB DaShon Polk.

The Texans traded back into the first round to select Western Michigan DE Jason Babin, whom they are converting to an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. Coach Dom Capers has compared Babin to Kevin Greene, which obviously is high praise considering Greene had 160 career sacks. The Texans rely on OLBs to generate pass rush, and they've been poor in that department for two years. Babin's arrival moves Wong to ROLB where he will get more work against the open side of the offense's formation and should have more opportunities to get to the quarterback. The Texans are solid at the ILB positions with Sharper and Foreman. Sharper led the NFL in tackles last season, and while Foreman might have taken a small step backward last season, he was Sharper's equal in 2002. Wong could get some work at ILB in certain situations in order to get Peek on the field. The jury is still out on whether Peek can be an every-down player, but his pass-rush skills are too good to rot on the bench.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Starters -- LCB Aaron Glenn, RCB Dunta Robinson, SS Eric Brown, FS Marcus Coleman. Backups -- CB Kenny Wright, CB Demarcus Faggins, SS Ramon Walker, FS Marlon McCree.

Injuries left the secondary in shambles last season, and the unit was overhauled over the offseason. Veteran CB Coleman has been moved to free safety to make room for Robinson, the 10th overall pick in the draft. The move should be a good one for Coleman, who has the size and ball skills to be a special player at that position. Robinson is similar in size and style to Glenn, a three-time Pro Bowler, who is taking the rookie under his wings. The Texans lack height at the CB positions, but few teams will be as fast. Brown is a hard-hitter in the secondary and difference-maker in run support. Wright and Faggins give the Texans quality cover men in the nickel and dime packages.

SPECIAL TEAMS
PK Kris Brown, P Chad Stanley, LS Bryan Pittman, H Chad Stanley, KOR J.J. Moses, PR J.J. Moses.

Moses will enter training camp as the main to beat for return duties, but he is hardly a lock. Moses lacks breakaway speed and the fact he doesn't contribute in any other phase makes him a luxury the Texans might not be able to afford. Kendrick Starling, Jason Anderson, Vontez Duff and Albert Johnson are among the players Moses will have to fight off to keep his spot on the roster. Brown is a consistent kicker with good range. His kickoffs don't garner as much credit as they should. Stanley is becoming one of the most consistent punters in the league. He is excellent at angling punts away from the return man and hanging the ball high enough to allow the coverage to get there when he doesn't.
http://www.sportsline.com/nfl/teams/report/HOU/7527409

They make a good point about having short corners, I dont think it will hurt us because great speed and great hops can make up for the lack of height...
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Old 07-26-2004   #2
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Bradford was one of the most underutilized weapons in the league last season. He averaged 19.2 yards a catch, but only had 24 receptions. In order for the Texans' offensive to be explosive and diverse, Bradford needs to get into the 45- to 60-catch range.
Passes thrown to Bradford resulted in a 37.5% completion rate. That's one of the lowest completion rates for any WR in the NFL. It wasn't much better in '02 when the completion % to him was 39.5%. Passes thrown to Johnson & Gaffney are completed at over 50%. So on 3rd down, who are you throwing to? Bradford is an explosive WR, but it's too often feast or famine. Plus, he's a vet so I don't expect a lot of improvement from him. 30-40 catches & 700 yards is about what should be expected from Bradford.
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Old 07-27-2004   #3
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Originally Posted by Lucky
Passes thrown to Bradford resulted in a 37.5% completion rate. That's one of the lowest completion rates for any WR in the NFL. It wasn't much better in '02 when the completion % to him was 39.5%. Passes thrown to Johnson & Gaffney are completed at over 50%. So on 3rd down, who are you throwing to? Bradford is an explosive WR, but it's too often feast or famine. Plus, he's a vet so I don't expect a lot of improvement from him. 30-40 catches & 700 yards is about what should be expected from Bradford.
You have to wonder if that completion percentage is a function of where the ball was thrown. I'm sure that most of Bradford's attempted receptions were further down field on the average. I think that is a key contributor to the difference. Keep in mind that Bradford only dropped one pass last season.
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Old 07-27-2004   #4
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Originally Posted by TheOgre
You have to wonder if that completion percentage is a function of where the ball was thrown. I'm sure that most of Bradford's attempted receptions were further down field on the average. I think that is a key contributor to the difference. Keep in mind that Bradford only dropped one pass last season.
One thing the was very disappointing to me last year was down field accuracy from all three of the Texans' QB's. AJ and Bradford, and thus the entire offensive production, suffered from way to many wide open WR's being overthrown on 20+ yd long plays several of which looked like sure fire TD's in the hands of AJ or Bradford given their speed. Once all the practice for the OL has resulted in sufficient coverage for a long play to develop and the Texans are taking one of their shots and big play threats like AJ and Bradford have gotten open, the QB's have to put the ball on the money and capitalize on everyone else's efforts.
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Old 07-27-2004   #5
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Originally Posted by TheOgre
I'm sure that most of Bradford's attempted receptions were further down field on the average. I think that is a key contributor to the difference. Keep in mind that Bradford only dropped one pass last season.
I sure you're right that it was a contributing factor. To what extent, I'm not sure. Here are Bradford, Johnson, & Gaffney's average per reception (AVG) & yards after catch stats (YAC). From those numbers, you can calculate the average yardage where their receptions were made, or point of catch (POC).

Player - Avg - YAC - POC
Bradford - 19.2 - 9.9 = 9.3
Johnson - 14.8 - 6.7 = 8.1
Gaffney - 11.8 - 3.9 = 7.9

So Bradford's receptions do come on average over one yard further down the field. Whether that makes up for the 12%-15% percentage points in completions, I'm not sure.

Regarding the dropped pass statistic, I don't know what the criteria used in determining what was or wasn't catchable. Do you have to have both hands on the pass to make it a drop? If there is contact, does that give the WR a "pass" on the drop? What you & I consider a drop may be entirely different than those who came up with the stat.

Whatever the case may be, I just don't see Bradford becoming a substantially larger part of the offense than he already is. No matter who or what is to blame for the low completion %...it's low. And I can't see it getting much higher. For Bradford to be a 60 catch WR at that %, he'd need to average about 10 attempts to him per game. That's just too large a % of the Texan passing game to allocate to him.
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Old 07-27-2004   #6
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The problem with those stats is that it only includes the catches. Don't have any source for where the attempts were made yardage wise, but my perception last year was that a bunch of attempts were made to Bradford 20+ yards down field (and some to AJ as well) and those were a serious source of non-receptions.

As for the dropped pass statistics--I originally got those from Stats, Inc. Here is what they say about it:

Quote:
Any incomplete pass which was catchable with normal effort. STATS compares and reviews the judgement of multiple reporters to determine if a pass was dropped.
Obviously that there is a lot of subjectivity to what is "catchable with normal effort" but my original purpose in looking at it was as a comparison of WR's across the league--so long as the standard is applied evenly then whatever it is still gives a good indication of whether a WR has a problem vs. other WR's. IMO, in order for Bradford to play a larger part in the offense (a) they need to attempt to throw it to him more in the 10-20 yards down range area and let him make YAC (Miami game classic example) and (b) the QB's need to be more accurate when they go 20+ yards to him. It was just sickening on more than one occasion last year watching him with 3 steps on the db and no deep assistance (i.e. basically a sure fire TD) and then get overthrown.
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Old 07-27-2004   #7
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I think the kind of pass that Carr throws may be why there is a problem. Remember, he throws a lazer, not an arching pass. As a result he throws a rope that might well be defended by a defender simply being in the line of the throw. In addition his passes are going to have more variability with minor differences in angle because of the velocity. The upside is the defender just simply doesn't have the time to get to the ball. On an arching pass the receiver has to wait a lot of times for the ball to get there and the defender can catch up. Elway had a similar problem. If there is daylight, then he can get it to him. Part of it is timing and having to rush the throw. I tend to agree with a lot of people that this year will be a better indication of what Carr can do if he has the time given the changes in the O-line.
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Old 07-27-2004   #8
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Originally Posted by infantrycak
...It was just sickening on more than one occasion last year watching him with 3 steps on the db and no deep assistance (i.e. basically a sure fire TD) and then get overthrown.
As I recall, the Bengals game was particularly bad. Carr missed Bradford several times where he had cleanly beaten the CB. On the other hand, Carr was limping around and his ankle was heavily taped, possibily affecting his delivery.

Statistics can be misleading (remember that the average human has one testicle - what does that tell you about gender?)

Player - Avg - YAC - POC
Bradford - 19.2 - 9.9 = 9.3
Johnson - 14.8 - 6.7 = 8.1
Gaffney - 11.8 - 3.9 = 7.9

I recall Johnson catching a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage on quick looks, that would reduce his averages compared to Bradford.
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Old 07-26-2004   #9
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Thumbs up More PEEK IS GOOD

"The jury is still out on whether Peek can be an every-down player, but his pass-rush skills are too good to rot on the bench."

This is quote from the aformentioned article. I want to see Peek on the field more often this season.
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