And there is no reason to think that the other veterans won't produce at the same level they did last year. So it is with the new players where the hope for improvement and the risk of failure lie. That is why the Texans' success hinges on the success of these three players.
Rashad Butler was a third-round pick in 2006 and came to the Texans in 2007. The released Eric Winston helped anchor a terrific offensive line. With his departure, the Texans need Butler to perform at an equally high level to help keep Schaub off his back and to help open up holes for Foster and the running game.
Given the state of the Texans' cap, with players like Schaub and Connor Barwin, who will need to be re-signed at the end of the season, it would be an added bonus if Butler did well so the Texans' wouldn't have to worry about acquiring a right tackle in the offseason.
The right side of the line will also see a new guard—Antoine Caldwell. Caldwell has had 13 career starts since being drafted in the third round in 2009.
Last year's starting guard, Mike Brisiel, was lost to the Oakland Raiders in free agency. There will be a problem with continuity with Caldwell and Butler coming in, but independent of that, Brisiel's limited time on the field poses a significant question mark for the interior line, which is crucial for the Texans' blocking scheme.
The third person who needs to step up is any wide receiver. Since releasing the sporadic and questionable Jacoby Jones, the Texans have two wide receivers with pro experience.
If Andre Johnson misses another nine games this year, Kevin Walters will be the team's No. 1 option. On a team with realistic Super Bowl expectations, Walters should be the third-best receiver.
It's true that Foster and TE Owen Daniels add to the passing game, but the Texans need a legitimate threat at wide receiver to help spread the field. One of the new faces in camp will have to step up and compete with Walters to become the No. 2 option.
Due to missing so many games last year with Ohio State, DeVier Posey is a big question mark. We'll have to see if he can make an impact along with Keshawn Martin out of Michigan State, who is expected to take Jones' spot in the return game as well.
If these three players can play at least as well as those they are replacing, the Texans can expect to be on top of the AFC South again. But if they want to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders, these three players will have to be better than what the Texans had last year at these positions.
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