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Old 07-26-2005   #1
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Default goTitans.com AFC South Preview: Houston Texans

Since their 2002 expansion season, the Texans have continued to make year-to-year progress. They did that in 2004 by finishing with a 7-9 record last year. But the expansion tag only grants a team a few years of leeway before it must take off the training wheels. Now in season four, Texans fans expect their team to be ready to compete for real. The question is: are they ready?

Houston has some good young weapons on offense already, but so far they have not fully matured. In 2004, the Texans were stuck right about the middle of the NFL rankings on offense in a number of categories (i.e. rushing, passing, total points). But it was very much an up and down season for all of their big guns. 2nd year running back Domanick Davis did put up another 1,000 yard performance, but it was certainly uneven. He struggled with a nagging injury during the first half of the season before turning it on in the second half. Expect results more like the latter assuming he can remain healthy. But just in case, the Texans drafted Vernand Morency, a good power runner to offset the smaller Davis, in the 3rd round. Unlike the rushing game, the passing attack started out hot and then abruptly cooled off. QB David Carr, after a rough first 2 years, was much improved through 8 games, having thrown for 9 TDs to just 5 INTs (much better than his 18:28 TD:INT ratio the previous 2 seasons). And star 2nd year WR Andre Johnson had already caught 45 passes for 693 yards and 4 scores midway through the season. Then it all turned sour on them. Carr went the final 8 weeks throwing 7 TDs to 9 INTs and Johnson was held to 449 yards and just 2 TDs. Once opposing defenses focused on Johnson, Carr had less success throwing to their other receivers. Honestly, no one was too worried about Jabar Gaffney, Corey Bradford, or Derick Armstrong. The Texans added former track star Jerome Mathis in the draft, but he probably won’t improve the passing game much on his own. The Texans’ other big issue, as it has been since their inception, is the sieve-like offensive line. They allowed another 49 sacks last year and really haven’t improved over the offseason. Left tackle Seth Wand, who gave up 12.5 sacks, could be replaced by either left guard Chester Pitts or veteran addition Victor Riley, but neither is a real long term solution. The Texans must find some way to keep Carr from taking so much abuse. Houston hasn’t added much in the way of actual players on the offensive side of the ball this offseason, so to improve they will have to rely on their own young players getting better.

Defensively, the Texans were average at best in 2004. They were near the middle of the league in points allowed as well as rushing yardage, but they didn’t stack up quite as well in total yardage allowed, rushing yards per carry, or in opponent passer rating. The run defense seemed to do their job reasonably well, allowing just 4 rushing TDs, but then the Texans let go 2 starting linebackers and moved another. Both inside linebackers, Jamie Sharper and Jay Foreman, were let go. Foreman isn’t a big loss, but Sharper was the team’s leading tackler and best run defender. Houston added Morlon Greenwood, an underrated and athletic OLB from Miami, but seriously overpaid to get him and now move him inside. He has a lot to live up to. Kailee Wong, coming off a good year, moves inside. Young pass rushing types Jason Babin (a rookie starter last year) and Antwan Peek will start outside and must improve the Texans’ league-worst pass rush. Babin had just 4 sacks as a rookie while Peek has 3 in two seasons. Not looking too much better there, and it could realistically hurt the run defense more than it helps the pass rush. On the defensive line, ex-Titan Robaire Smith had a good season but wasn’t a big pass rush threat. Neither was former Pro Bowler Gary Walker, who hasn’t been healthy for the past 2 years. Nose Tackle Seth Payne, a good run stopper, has also been hit by injuries recently. Those concerns on the line prompted the Texans to draft DT Travis Johnson in round 1. He won’t start right away (as long as Payne is healthy), but he is expected to be their runstuffer of the future. The secondary needed work after giving up 32 TD passes last year (though they did have 22 INTs), but there is some question if they will improve much. Dunta Robinson, a 1st round pick in 2004, did show some improvement as the year went on though he got picked on a ton. Houston cut Aaron Glenn, who was still their best CB despite being past his prime. As a replacement, they traded 2nd and 3rd round draft picks to get Phillip Buchanon, a big disappointment in Oakland. Buchanon probably isn’t a step up. Former corner Marcus Coleman did a good job moving to free safety last year and SS Glenn Earl looked promising as a rookie. What the Texans need above all else is a pass rush, but that seems unlikely to change too much unless Walker returns to form at age 32.

Houston’s kicking game should remain solid, as both kicker Kris Brown and punter Chad Stanley return. JJ Moses struggled last year as the primary return man, but they have upgraded here. The return game should get a boost with Buchanon bringing back punts, as he was excellent at that in Oakland. Kickoffs are still up in the air (ha ha…), but rookie speedster Mathis will likely win the job.
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3 sacks in 2 seasons for Peek
He wasn't a starter and and it seems like he got hurt his first year. When he is in the game he puts pressure on the QB.

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Houston cut Aaron Glenn, who was still their best CB despite being past his prime.
IMO Robinson was better than Aaron toward the last half of the season.
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Old 07-26-2005   #2
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disreguard.
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Old 07-26-2005   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThirdEyeBC33
They have us going 7-9 and the Titans going 11-5.
That about sums it up.

Homerism at its best.
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Old 07-26-2005   #4
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Only one team in th nfl could possibly be worse than the titans and thats the 49ers
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Old 08-07-2005   #5
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Originally Posted by ThirdEyeBC33
They have us going 7-9 and the Titans going 11-5.
Yeah, whatever!
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Old 08-07-2005   #6
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"Domanick Davis did put up another 1,000 yard performance, but it was certainly uneven. He struggled with a nagging injury during the first half of the season before turning it on in the second half. Expect results more like the latter assuming he can remain healthy. But just in case, the Texans drafted Vernand Morency, a good power runner to offset the smaller Davis"...


Isnt morency and davis about the same size?
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Old 08-07-2005   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awtysst
Isnt morency and davis about the same size?
Yeah they are about the same size.
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Old 08-07-2005   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThirdEyeBC33
The Texans added former track star Jerome Mathis in the draft, but he probably won’t improve the passing game much on his own.
I think that mathis will make a HUGE improvement to the passing game.if he becomes the number 2, or even 3 receiver, he will most certainly draw a safety with his speed. if not, then its an easy six points. id take his speed over any man to man coverage.

and thats bull about the season records.
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Old 08-07-2005   #9
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Every homer wears rose colored glasses. They can see all the little warts on the other team, but the glasses seem to filter out their own. 11-5 *snort*snort*Giggle*Yeah! - Sure! Har-Har-Har!!!
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Old 08-07-2005   #10
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I think the write up was a relatively fair analysis, 11-5 for the Titans is just plain rediculous though.
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Old 08-08-2005   #11
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I think 5-11 is more accurate. However, if McNair can get back in shape, then they have a chance to be 11-5.
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Old 08-08-2005   #12
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I think 5-11 is more accurate. However, if McNair can get back in shape, then they have a chance to be 11-5.
I can't believe McNair would come back to this team. Also, it's funny the author forgot to mention the Titans' record vs. Houston last year.
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Old 08-08-2005   #13
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Old 08-08-2005   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThirdEyeBC33
They have us going 7-9 and the Titans going 11-5.
Where do you find 11-5?


The 2004 Tennessee Titans stumbled through the season as arguably the league’s biggest disappointment. Going from Super Bowl contender to 5-11 virtually overnight isn’t easy, but a huge list of injuries such as the Titans had will do it every time. And to follow that up, the Titans also slashed their roster in a massive salary cap dump leaving them with the youngest team in the NFL. So of course you’d think, like most prognosticators seem to, that the Titans will be even worse this year. Think again...

Going into the season, things looked pretty bright thanks in large part to defending league co-MVP Steve McNair at QB, not to mention a rejuvenated running game with 2nd year back Chris Brown, a talented receiver corps, and an offensive line returning all 5 starters. Ah, but then you have the Fickle Finger of Fate. Looking back, we all know which finger Fate gave the Titans. McNair was never healthy and missed half the season, Brown had his own durability issues (despite great production when healthy), the offensive line had lots of injuries, and only 2 good WRs were even able to play all year.

Even when he was on the field last season, Steve McNair was not his same old self. On the year, he threw just 8 TD passes versus 9 INTs. But McNair is back healthy and in top condition, looking to evoke memories of 2003 when he led the league in passer rating. Backup Billy Volek looked very good in relief of McNair for the 2nd straight year, so at least the Titans know they have someone to fall back on if McNair gets hurt again.

Chris Brown ran for 1067 yards in just 220 carries (4.9 yards per carry) as well as 6 TDs. The problem was the fact that injuries limited him to just those 220 carries. To protect themselves against Brown’s durability concerns, as well as short yardage failures, the Titans traded a 3rd round draft pick next year to the Bills for former Pro Bowl RB Travis Henry. Prior to the arrival of Willis McGahee in Buffalo, Henry had consecutive 1,300+ yard, 10 TD seasons. Brown and Henry will both see a lot of carries this year, so neither is expected to put up huge stats. But in a combined rushing attack, the 2 backs could do some serious damage to opposing defenses.

Drew Bennett stepped up in 2004 and hauled in 80 catches for 1247 yards and 11 TDs. After a terrible start to the season, Bennett was absolutely unstoppable during a 3 week span that saw him total 517 yards and 8 TDs. But he now has to produce like that as the #1 WR, which should be considerably tougher. Former Pro Bowl WR Derrick Mason was let go by Tennessee following a 96 catch, 1168 yard, 7 touchdown season because of his contract. 3rd year receiver Tyrone Calico will need to step up and at least replace most of that production. He’s expected to be in game shape after missing virtually all of last year with 2 injured knees. Though his size and athletic ability is phenominal, he has never produced on the NFL level yet. The Titans selected 3 WRs in the 3rd and 4th rounds of the draft this year to fill out the depth chart. Expect Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones, and Roydell Williams to get every chance to contribute as rookies. Also, look for 2nd year tight end Ben Troupe to have a big role in the offense once he returns from a broken foot. After an extremely slow start to his rookie campaign, Troupe finished strong, displayed his athleticism, and managed to end up as the team’s 3rd leading receiver.

The offensive line returns 4 starters from the previous 2 seasons. Right tackle Fred Miller was cut, but he was so bad playing on just 1 good leg last year he won’t be much of a loss. Tennessee drafted 3 offensive tackles in April. 2nd round pick Michael Roos is expected to backup starter Brad Hopkins at left tackle and be his long-term replacement. Look for either 4th round pick David Stewart or 2nd year Jacob Bell (coming off a torn ACL) to start on the right side. Both would have to be an upgrade over last year’s version of Miller.

The other big change for the Titans offense is new coordinator Norm Chow, who was considered a genius on the college level. This will be his first stint in the NFL, so of course there are questions to be answered. But his systems have never been based on trickery or unconventional tactics like NFL busts Steve Spurrier and June Jones, so expect a much smoother transition. Look for Chow to focus on protecting McNair with more short drops and quicker passes while still scheming to exploit opposing defenses’ weak spots like he did so well in college.

While getting healthy will certainly improve the offense, getting healthy will be a complete change on defense. No position escaped major injuries last year. The defense started the year unable to stop the run. They managed to fix that problem a few weeks into the season, but not long afterwards injuries in the secondary made it impossible to stop the pass. At the end of the year, Tennessee was without over half of their starting defenders, and it led to a defense that was one of the worst in the league. Even with the loss of a number of veterans, the Titans’ D will be far better in 2005 as long as they can stay reasonably healthy.

In their attempt to replace Jevon Kearse in 2004, the Titans drafted 3 defensive ends in the first 4 rounds. Of the 3, only Antwan Odom was able to stay healthy and he was the guy who they knew was too raw to be a big early contributor. Travis LaBoy and Bo Schobel both missed training camp with injuries and combined to play in just 18 games. Each of them should be much bigger contributors in 2005, especially in the pass rush. None is the next Freak, but they should do much better then their combined 5.5 sacks as rookies. Veteran Kevin Carter is gone, and though he was never the pass rushing threat the Titans envisioned, he was an excellent all around lineman. The Titans did add former Cardinals 2nd round draft pick Kyle Vanden Bosch, who has been held back with injuries his entire career. If he can stay healthy, the Titans could potentially gain an impact player for next to nothing. At defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth was having a Pro Bowl caliber season prior to an elbow injury that cost him 6 games. His return is a big boost in the middle. In his absence, though, rookie 3rd round pick Randy Starks showed his stuff as a terrific run stopper as well as a guy who could pick up 4.5 sacks. This year, look for the DT tandem of Haynesworth and Starks to really challenge opposing interior linemen. And backup Rien Long, while not nearly the run stopper of Haynesworth or Starks, picked up 5 sacks.

Linebacker Keith Bulluck is the clear leader of the Titans’ defense. Despite being snubbed by the Pro Bowl voting, Bulluck is considered arguably the best LB in the league. He led the NFL in tackles (152 total) from the outside and added 5 sacks and 2 INTs to boot. Sadly, however, Bulluck was the only starting LB who could stay healthy. OLB Peter Sirmon tore an ACL in training camp and never played a down. Even Sirmon’s backup, Rocky Boiman, missed 9 games to injury. Sirmon is ready to go again in 2005. Starting MLB Rocky Calmus played in just 4 games. He returns healthy this year, but must win back the starting job from Brad Kassell.

After starting out the season with a pretty sturdy secondary, it all fell apart late in the season with one injury after another. The Titans played the final 5 games without 4 of the top 5 defensive backs on their depth chart. Pro Bowl caliber cornerback Samari Rolle was clearly Tennessee’s best defensive back, and he was the biggest loss down the stretch. But still the Titans let him go this offseason to get under the salary cap. They also let starting CB Andre Dyson walk in free agency. 3rd year corner Andre Woolfolk, a former 1st round draft pick, will start on one side this year. He has played well as the nickelback previously, but has played in just 16 games in 2 seasons because of injuries. Right now, the other starting job is up in the air. The Titans drafted Adam “Pacman” Jones #6 overall this year, but he has gotten himself in some trouble off the field and may be a training camp holdout. His primary competition is 4th year corner Tony Beckham, who missed all but the final 5 games of 2004 with a torn ACL (and looked good upon his return). Despite the turnover at cornerback, safety is the real problem in the secondary. Starting free safety Lance Schulters played in just 3 games last year before injuring his foot. His backup, former Bengals 2nd round pick Lamont Thompson, did a solid job replacing him. So the Titans released Schulters to save cap room and gave the starting job to Thompson. Strong Safety Tank Williams tore his ACL midway thorugh the year, and may not be ready to play at the beginning of this season. Despite the fact that Williams has been somewhat of a disappointment over the last 2 years, Tennessee has no proven backups behind him. If Tank can’t go early on, look for the Titans to take their chances with either Donnie Nickey (who they cut once already last year) and 4th round pick Vincent Fuller.

The Titans certainly have questions to answer on special teams. Kicker Joe Nedney, who played in just 1 game over the previous 2 years, was released and his replacement both years, Gary “Methuselah“ Anderson has gone back to his retirement. The Titans brought in Swede Ola Kimrin (who has a strong leg but questionable accuracy) and Arena League kicker Rob Bironas to compete in training camp. In the end, it’s possible that neither will keep the job for long. Pro Bowl punter Craig Hentrich had a down year as well as back problems. He needs to stay healthy and return to form. The Titans woeful return game should get a boost. Pacman was an outstanding punt returner in college, so he should help there. As for kickoff duties, no one knows yet who will get that job. The favorites going into camp are likely Pacman, the rookie receiver Roby and 2nd year corner Michael Waddell, who struggled at the job last year.

SK’s Prediction: 9-7 record

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Old 08-08-2005   #15
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Originally Posted by rafterticket
I can't believe McNair would come back to this team. Also, it's funny the author forgot to mention the Titans' record vs. Houston last year.
Follow the link to the article. This is pretty good assessment of the entire AFC South... not meant to bash any team.
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Old 08-08-2005   #16
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No matter how they try to slice it, they still have Bud Adams.
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Old 08-08-2005   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rafterticket
I can't believe McNair would come back to this team. Also, it's funny the author forgot to mention the Titans' record vs. Houston last year.
I cant believe Volek didnt find a starting job somewhere else
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Old 08-09-2005   #18
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Originally Posted by STL_Titan
Follow the link to the article. This is pretty good assessment of the entire AFC South... not meant to bash any team.
I did read the article, buddy. It was a fair assessment of the Texans, I admit. I was still having fun with the fact that your guy thinks they'll finish ahead of the Texans. With what?

McNair has played tough and worthy of everyone's respect with good talent for years. Why in the world would he return to this second tier team? He is gonna take a David-Carr-circa-2002-type-beating, but he won't even have Billy Miller as a safety valve. Steve McNair should have retired. And I LIKE him.

We're going to sweep you again. And if your baseball team makes the series, would you please pass on the word not to be so embarrassing this year?

Other than that, have a good day!
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Old 08-09-2005   #19
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I think McNair has a huge year. He is nowhere near retirement.
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Old 08-09-2005   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rafterticket
And if your baseball team makes the series, would you please pass on the word not to be so embarrassing this year?

Other than that, have a good day!
Yeah, you're right, some other team in the NL Central should have represented the NL in the series. oh wait...
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