Well the 2005 season is for all intents and purposes over. Sure there are 6 games left and the Texans will tell you that there is still a lot of football to be played this year but that's just Toro patties. The truth is that the team is much farther away from where we expected it to be and even a 6 game win streak (Unlikely as it may be) to match last years 7-9 record wouldn't succeed in hiding that fact. This leaves us, the fans in a very lousy spot. The season is still on but our team is "DRT". We have next to nothing to look forward to until the season ends and the much needed "changes" begin. We know we need another head coach and many of us are pretty certain that we need a new general manager as well. Thankfully nobody is asking for a new owner but hey, the Texans have six more Sundays to try and bring those guys out of the wood work. You just know they're out there somewhere. In my opinion you can look at the various units that make up the Texans going into the 2006 season and you can really only give them one of three "grades". "Set" meaning we're good to go there for the time being. "Need" meaning obviously we need some help, no two ways about it. "Incomplete" meaning that we really don't know what we have here. Starting first with the Texans offense I find myself giving them the following grades. Offense Quarterbacks: Set I mean this whether they keep David Carr or let him leave. I just don't think it's going to matter very much who's playing QB for us in 2006. With the enormous number of "Need" positions on this team (Inexcusable after four years of building) I think that keeping David Carr is probably a mistake. Tony Banks, who should have been our starter from day one, probably needs to take the reins (assuming Dave Ragone can't beat him out of the job) and start for us next year. No we shouldn't consider drafting Matt Leinhart next year. That would literally be about the stupidest thing the Texans could possibly do in the first round of the draft (which makes it a frightening possibility now that I think about it). Putting Leinhart into the spot David Carr just vacated before the offensive line questions are answered and with our pitiful running game would be repeating the kind of mistake the team made in 2002. You just don't lead off with a young QB when you're starting from scratch. If Tim Couch and David Carr don't make the case for that and convince you (Throw in Joey Harrington too, the Lions were just about that bad) then I don't know what will. Banks, Ragone, and some crummy journeyman developmental guy will do until we can protect an expensive QB properly and give him a backfield that can carry the load when needed. We go get a franchise QB in 2007 or 2008. Next year is too soon. Running backs: Need Domanick Davis missed time again this season and will once more get his thousand plus (relatively meaningless) yards. We need a running back who can stay healthy and produce yards and points when the team needs them. Yes his diehard fans will insist that he's a franchise back playing behind a poor offensive line. I don't think that's true at all. I think he mostly gets yards in junk time, when we're behind and the defense is fine with watching our team waste the clock. When we must have a first down he's useless. When we must run out the clock to preserve a lead he's as slow and ineffective as Jonathan Wells ever looked in 2002. The Texans cannot run the ball on anyone and that leads directly to the Texans being incapable of throwing the ball on anyone. When you have to throw, and the defense knows you have to throw, then pass protection becomes a near impossible task. The Texans need a real starting RB and they can't afford to be wrong about the guy they go out and get. Do they pick Reggie Bush in the draft? I don't know. If they do he absolutely, positively must be the real thing. There can be no mistake made here and if that means they need to go looking for a proven Shaun Alexander type free agent then so be it. The Texans need to run the ball and they aren't going to have the best line in the world next year. They need a back who can create. As for the rest of the Texans "stable" Jonathan Wells is a good backup running back. Tony Hollings is done here. Domanick Davis should be the third down back and first RB off the bench. Jonathan Wells should be our #3 back and our #2 FB and continue to contribute on special teams. Moran Norris at FB is the only player back here that we have right now who's as good as anyone else has at what he does and better than most. How do we fill this need? If I were making the call here I would be looking around the NFL for a free agent RB. I'd be willing to give something up to get one. If I can't get a suitable free agent then I'd consider drafting one with our first pick in 2006. It would kill me to pass on a LT and maybe I wouldn't be able to do it. Miami has a pair of RB's and so does Baltimore. There are going to be guys out there to be signed. Some of that money we don't pay David Carr could help get this done. Wide Receivers: Need Andre Johnson can play for anybody in the NFL. There's no question about that. Jabbar Gaffney and Derrick Armstrong are probably both capable of making many rosters in the NFL and I think they are both quality players who come back next year. Jerome Mathis could make this team strictly as a returner if necessary. He's special, no doubt about that and we could afford to stow a a great return specialist far down the depth chart if necessary. Mathis seems to have pretty good hands though so I don't think we're looking at another Jermaine Lewis here. He's going to be a contributor on offense if given the opportunity. What we're lacking is a guy (other than Andre) who can't be ignored. Maybe one steps up from this bunch or maybe we can sign a free agent WR. No, Terrell Owens is not an option. We have guys that can hurt you if you smother Andre. What we need is at least one guy who can kill you when you do it. Corey Bradford has that ability when he catches the ball but he doesn't do it enough to justify a roster spot anymore. This season should be his last as a Texan. His drops have become more of a liability than anything he catches is a benefit. How do we fill this need? We hope that one of our own steps up. Second and third options get thrown to so rarely around these parts that I'm sometimes surprised the Texans even bother to send them out. I bet we've got a WR here right now who could step up and push this "Need" back a few years. Either way we can't fill every need at once so this has to wait. If we sign a free agent RB then there's no way we can go out and pay for a known play-maker at WR too. Not in the same year. Tight Ends: Need This comes down to two words. Bennie Joppru. Nobody is pointing any fingers here and I don't see how anyone can blame Bennie Joppru, Charlie Casserly, or anyone else for the freakish three seasons that Joppru has had. To quote Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, "It's weird but it happens". Still we have no alternative but to draft a TE on the first day in this coming draft or we must sign one in free agency. We must have one and we can't count on Joppru making it to the field (or being much of a factor if he does finally step onto it). If we get Bennie in 2006 then great. I wouldn't count on it though. How do we fill this need? I just said it, we draft or sign another TE. Maybe we get Joppru finally and we have two of them for a change. Wouldn't that be wild? Mark Bruener returns I'm sure but if the Texans do the right thing then he has trouble making this team. Offensive Line: Incomplete/Need Does anyone really know what we have here on the offensive line? Do the Texans coaches even know? To look at them and try to get some idea of what we're dealing with I think it's best to first divide them into two groups. "Guys we drafted" and "Guys we signed" Guys we Drafted: Chester Pitts, Seth Wand, Milford Brown, Drew Hodgdon and Fred Weary. See any Pro Bowlers in there? Me neither. Maybe Chester Pitts someday but past that we've done a pitiful job of drafting linemen. Fred Weary is a career backup and so is Milford Brown. Drew Hodgdon seems to at least have a starters attitude but that's just because he hasn't worked with our coaches long enough. I'm sure given another training camp with Joe Pendry we could work that out of his system. Actually once you look at the guys we've got on our roster who we picked in the draft it doesn't look all that bad. Milford Brown has at least threatened to start from time to time and Seth Wand started all of last season. These guys are more unknowns than busts (excepting Weary) so I give our drafted lineman an easy "Incomplete". One (solid) starter in Pitts, one clear bust in Weary, and three guys who we just don't know about yet. I know one thing with absolute certainty. Chester Pitts is not our answer at LT. He may play well there but I think the coaches (Yes, the same ones I am maligning for many other decisions) were correct in believing that Chester would ultimately play best at the Guard spot. He's shown that he's much more capable than that but I think at best he's the answer at RT. We need to spend that first pick on the best LT available. That's maybe the most important thing in the 2006 postseason. Ferguson (for example) and Pitts might very well be the kind of bookends that the Texans envisioned when they took Boselli and Young in the expansion draft. Guys we Signed: Steve McKinney, Zach Weigert, Todd Washington, Todd Wade, and Victor Riley. These are all guys who started for other teams. McKinney started for four years in Indy for the Colts at LG and then started 48 games at C for us going into 2005. Now he's never been a particularly good center but I can't believe that he was that bad in Indy at LG. If he was then why did he remain a starter? Zach Weigert is an 11 year vet who's been a starter almost all of his career. He seems to have reached an age where he gets dinged up easily but he has a long history of being a pretty good lineman. Todd Washington is a quality reserve and that's about it. Todd Wade had started at RT for 5 years prior to this season. He played the majority of those games every year so obviously this guy wouldn't have 78 starts at RT if he couldn't play RT. Victor Riley has been out of shape and much maligned here (deservedly so) but he's spent the majority of his 8 years in the league as a starting RT. The big question we should all be asking ourselves is how come these guys start to suck when they get off the plane in Houston? I'm not saying that this group of free agent offensive linemen should be sent as a unit to the Pro Bowl but it's plain to see that the whole does not equal the sum of the parts. How do we get an answer about this line? Well, I think we'll get our answers about these players when another coaching staff gets to work with them. I don't think these guys are as bad as they have looked. Certainly we should continue to keep our eyes out for players who can make our offensive line better and I think we should begin the rebuilding by drafting the best LT out there. What makes this all so annoying is that we should know whether or not these guys are good by now. The Texans should know whether or not these guys are any good by now. Why don't they? Why are they still moving people around and trying to find their "Best 5 guys" at this late stage?