By Justin of The Sportmeisters
2008 was a rollercoaster ride of emotions in every sense of the term for the Houston Texans.
Houston’s season can be summed up in one word: streaky. The Texans started out their 2008 campaign on a very sour note going 0-4. Just when it seemed that all hope was lost, Houston went on a three-game winning streak to bring themselves within one game of .500.
The streakiness would continue, as the Texans would drop the next three consecutive games, only to win the next four. To make matters worse, four of the losses Houston recorded were decided in the fourth quarter or later.
The Texans lost the aforementioned four games by a total margin of 20 points, with seven points being the largest margin of defeat. It is easy to see that Houston, as a team, did not know what it took to win week in and week out in the NFL.
Last season, the Texans ranked 27th in the points allowed category in the league. At a first glance, one might assume that the Texans would need to focus on their defensive personnel in order to prevent the same ranking in 2009. This assumption is not entirely true, because the Texans offense had a small habit of turning the ball over late in the game, putting the defense in compromising positions down the stretch.
Offensively, Houston was pretty efficient in moving the ball down the field. The Texans ranked fourth in passing, 13th in rushing, and third overall for total yards in the league. However, the team was 13th in rushing.
RB Steve Slaton was the sixth highest rusher in 2008 with 1,282 yards. Just because a team can move the ball does not necessarily mean they are putting points on the board. After having success moving the ball, the Texans ranked 17th in the league in points scored.
The Texans' defense did not do as well as the offense in their season stat rankings. The Texans were 17th in pass defense, 23rd in rush defense, and 22nd in total yards from scrimmage allowed. With these rankings, it is not a surprise that the Texans' defense ranked 27th in the league in points allowed. With that being said, let’s take a look at the top three needs for the Houston Texans going into the 2009 NFL draft.
Houston Texans Draft Picks
Round One: pick 15
Round Two: pick 14
Round Three: pick 13
Round Four: pick 12
Round Four: pick 22
Round Five: pick 16
Round Six: pick 15
Round Seven: pick 14
Team Need No. 1: SS
The strong safety position is an area that must be upgraded for the Texans to have a more successful campaign in 2009. The current safeties on the Texans roster have a grand total of two interceptions. More specifically, the strong safety position recorded zero interceptions last year. Strong safety Nick Ferguson had only 59 tackles to go along with one forced fumble last year.
A strong safety should be able to support the front seven on running plays and cover when needed on passing plays. When comparing the Texans SS stats to that of Troy Polamalu, one can see a great discrepancy in talent. Polamalu is an elite SS in the NFL, and his stats should be something for others at the position to aim for (73 Tackles and seven interceptions).
Late in the fourth quarter, when you are trying to protect a lead, opposing teams will be throwing the ball more frequently. Safety play at this point in the game becomes more crucial than ever. Because the fourth quarter was not kind to the Texans in 2008, they need a SS that is a ball hawk who will make good pass-run reads and find themselves around the ball more often than not.
Team Need No. 2: DT
Enough emphasis cannot be made on the importance of a strong front seven on a defense. With a strong front seven, the run defense has no choice but to improve. There is no better place to begin the improvement than in the trenches—in the middle of the defense.
The Texans need to have a player that can come in a start as a rookie and make an instant impact on the defensive line. A DT will not have the gaudy numbers of a DE or LB, but they are just as, if not more, important.
A DT that can take on double-teams, free up others in the front seven for blitzes, and flow to the ball. That will cause the entire defense to improve.
If a team wants instant impact from a player they draft on defense, as the Texans do, then a quality DT is a must.
Team Need No. 3: OLB
Keeping with the theme of improving the front seven, a more athletic LB corps is a need that must also be addressed before the first game of the 2009 season. DeMeco Ryans had 112 total tackles in the 2008 season, along with two forced fumbles, but where were the others?
No other LB had over 70 total tackles last season for the Houston Texans. The signing of Cato June may help the LB core but he started 14 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008 and only had 67 tackles. Hopefully, the Texans can get June to step up, or pick up a talented LB in the 2009 draft.
Houston’s biggest problem in 2008 was the fact that they were a franchise learning how to win consistently on the fly. They must improve the amount of points they score on offense, and do a better job of making plays in the red-zone on defense.
If the Texans improve their rankings in run and pass defense, they could potentially have a 10-win season. I do not see a Super Bowl appearance in Houston’s immediate future, but I do see an increase in the number of wins the franchise and fans will see next season.