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Old 07-26-2004   #1
TEXANS84
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Default MSNBC: Texans Last AFC South

From MSNBC.com/sports:

Quote:
Houston
The biggest thing the Texans must come away with is a clean bill of health.
Life is difficult for any expansion team, even in this day of free agency, but it becomes a lot harder if you lead the league in number of players on the injured reserve list, as the Texans did last season.

Quarterback David Carr was sacked 40 times fewer than in his rookie season but he did not hold up as well, missing four games and parts of two others with injuries and that was not the worst of it. Houstonís defensive line was decimated by injury with starters Seth Payne and Gary Walker both missing significant time last season.

In total, the Texans had a league-high 17 players on IR in 2003, so keeping their best players healthy will be a high priority.

When you finish next to last in the league in both offense and defense, there is obviously much that needs improving. The Texans appear to have helped themselves considerably this offseason, especially on defense where they added highly sought after free agent defensive tackle Robaire Smith to team with a healthy Payne and Walker.

The key to the 3-4 front coach Dom Capers favors is the ability to stuff the run with defensive linemen who plug the gaps and hold their ground. Payne is just such a player, but he has to remain healthy so Capers can play Smith at defensive end, where he believes the former Tennessee defensive tackle can flourish. But Payne has already had three knee operations and there are only problems if he goes down.

No. 1 draft choices Dunta Robinson and Jason Babin are among seven straight defensive picks made in the April draft and both need to develop quickly because much is expected of each of them this fall. Robinson is penciled in to start at corner and not only because Capers believes heís an upgrade. With this arrival, Capers will shift veteran corner Marcus Coleman to free safety, which he feels improves his defense in two positions. Thatís true only if both the rookie and the veteran can adjust to the differences in what they have to do in their new jobs. The success of this experiment should be clear by the end of training camp.

As for Babin, he is being counted on to solve a serious problem at outside linebacker. The Texans had five different right outside linebackers a year ago. Veteran Kailee Wong is being moved there this year, and the hope is Babin can step in at rush linebacker on the other side. The pass rush in Capersí 3-4 most often has to come from the linebackers and Babin is a college defensive end used to rushing the passer. Capers believes heíll fit, but he has to make the adjustment from playing with his hand on the ground to standing free in a lot more space as an outside backer. Thatís a big adjustment for anyone, but especially for a guy out of Western Michigan who has never faced the kind of competition heís going to see.

How many growing pains are faced by the rookies, Robinson and Babin, and how much pain Payne has to endure to stay on the field will go along way in deciding if this is a season of growth or not for the Texans.

HOT SEAT
David Carr. Carr is entering his third season as a starter and must continue his growth and cut down on the errors that led him to throw 13 interceptions in his first 11 starts last season. A touchdown-to-interception ratio of 9-to-13 has to be reversed for the Texans to improve significantly on offense.

OVERHEARD
The Texans hope second-year tackle Seth Wand can improve enough to take over at left tackle some time this season so the less athletic Chester Pitts can be shifted inside to guard, but as training camp opens Capers and new line coach Joe Pendry are not sold on making that move yet.

OUTLOOK
This is a far better team than the one that opened its inaugural season two years ago. It is not yet ready to challenge the Colts and Titans, but it is solid enough to be competitive in every game.

PREDICTION
Fourth.

Last edited by TEXANS84; 07-26-2004 at 05:56 PM.
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