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Old 07-11-2004   #1
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Default SCOUT'S HONOR: Texans pre-camp preview

Houston Texans

CAMP SITE: Reliant Park
LOCATION: Houston, Texas

There's a strong sense throughout the organization that the Texans are going in the right direction. A young, close-knit core is developing and expectations are on the rise. The Texans expect to make a run for the playoffs this season. While the postseason is likely a year away, the Texans will make a positive push in 2004.

Believe it not, the offensive line is becoming a source of strength for the Texans. Back in 2002 this unit was a liability, but they have a solid group with depth coming together. Former Dolphin Todd Wade and Zach Wiegert will form a solid veteran tandem on the right side. Expect them to open a lot of holes in the running game. Steve McKinney is a fixture at center. The left side is young with a lot of upside. Chester Pitts made strides last season at left tackle, but is expected to slide inside if Seth Wand can handle the left tackle spot. If Wand proves he's ready to assume the left tackle position, this will be a very solid unit.

Vic Fangio has been unable to get enough pass-rush production from his outside linebackers the past two years. Kailee Wong remains a mainstay. He's very smart and reliable in most facets of the game, but hasn't gotten enough pressure on the quarterback. The coaches love the potential of Antwan Peek. Peek has good upfield speed, but needs further development as a pass rusher. The pressure is really on rookie Jason Babin, especially after the Texans made an aggressive move to trade up for him. Babin lacks Joey Porter speed, but has good upfield burst and isn't afraid to take the inside route to the quarterback. But he's making a huge jump from the Mid-American Conference to the NFL and will need to play with better technique at this level.

Is David Carr ready to break out? He's in position to make strides in his third NFL season. Carr is smart, has good tools and takes a professional approach to the game. He needs to make better decisions with the football at times, but that comes with experience. With Carr's maturity, I see no reason why he won't develop. He's also in a good position to succeed as Houston has built a solid core of skill players around him.

The Texans need more production from their return units. J.J. Moses isn't a liability. He's quick and finds holes well, but he's too small and lacks enough speed to scare opponents. With that in mind, keep an eye on rookie Vontez Duff. Duff had a very good career as a return specialist at Notre Dame. His speed is nothing special, but he has good burst and agility.

Having Robaire Smith come over from Tennessee was a huge move to set the tone for the off-season. If Gary Walker and Seth Payne are healthy, then Smith should significantly bolster the defensive line for the Texans. Smith is young and in his prime as a run stopper and flashes some pass-rush ability. Smith should also solidify himself as a good leader in the locker room.

Houston lost a handful of backups and fringe starters, but nobody that they will miss. The Texans are doing a solid job of keeping a young core of players intact through their long-term building plan.

'Anyone ready to go outside so I can make you look bad?' - Matt Schaub talking to the DBs
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