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 wont 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 havent 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 hasnt 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 didnt 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 isnt a big loss, but Sharper was the teams 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 wasnt a big pass rush threat. Neither was former Pro Bowler Gary Walker, who hasnt 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 wont 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 isnt 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. Houstons 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. ARTICLE 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. IMO Robinson was better than Aaron toward the last half of the season.