Houston Texans Look to Get Creative with Playcalling

Kasey DixonContributor IMay 11, 2009

The Houston Texans have gone through a transition on both sides of the ball this offseason.

On the offensive side, traditionally, like most of the teams in the National Football League, the Texans have tried to use the run to set up the pass.

While there was some moderate success at the tailback position with the tandem in 2007, and before that Domanick Williams—Houston never really had that feature back lining up in the backfield to make this strategy a successful one.

Last year marked a change in the traditional approach.

During the 2008 season, the Texans began to use the pass to open up the run. This was in large part due to injury at the running back position.

Ahman Green could never stay healthy and Chris Brown strayed from his usual, get injured during the season approach, to getting injured before it even began.

This forced Head Coach Gary Kubiak into having to play undersized tailback Steve Slaton, something that was a blessing in disguise.

Slaton would go on to have a remarkable rookie season in which he rushed for almost 1300 yards and had 10 total touchdowns.

The Texans finally had their feature back.

Despite the success of a pass first approach, look for the Texans to experiment with bringing a heavier emphasis on the run.

Chris Brown is back from injury, Ryan Moats emerged late as an option to pair with Slaton, and the team signed two undrafted free agent running backs in Arian Foster and Jeremeiah Johnson.

All of which will compete to join a running tandem with Slaton.

Houston also spent fourth and fifth round picks on the offensive side of the ball. In the fourth round, the Texans drafted Anthony Hill, tight end from North Carolina State known as one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft.

In the fifth round, the Texans drafted another tight end in James Casey from Rice.

Casey's versatility is where Houston's playbook can really look to get creative on the offensive front.

Casey played multiple positions at Rice. He brings the team the ability to run a formation that's becoming popular in the league, known as the Wildcat.

With Casey's ability to run, catch and pass the ball, lining him up at different spots around the field will give the Texans much more flexibility with their offensive playbook.

The offense isn't the only place to expect changes with the team's playcalling.

Houston is entering their first season under Frank Bush as the defensive coordinator.

After the draft Frank Bush wasted no time in proclaiming that first round pick, linebacker Brian Cushing, was his guy from the start. Bush has already stated that Cushing will play the strongside and his versatility and ability to get after the Quarterback is something the Texans lacked at the linebacker position last year.

There are also two notable changes to the defensive line.

Antonio Smith has replaced Anthony Weaver on the outside, and the team used a second round pick on Cincinatti's defensive end Connor Barwin.

Smith is a better pass rusher than Weaver was, but his strength isn't rushing the outside. He's not someone the Texans are going to expect double digit sack numbers from.

The pick of Barwin in round two shows that the Texans want to get more creative on the defensive line. Due to Smith's size, the Texans will be able to move him to the inside and line Barwin up on the outside next to him as a situational pass rusher.

Barwin is still young, inexperienced, and has not spent much time playing defense (converted tight end).

Therefore, I would not expect him to be anything more than someone to attack the Quarterback on blitz packages or as a substitute player. 

Whether the changes will improve the team is yet to be seen. The fact that there is now depth at tailback and tight end should immediately pay dividends for the team.

The defense will be up in the air.

The Texans absolutely had to do something to their defense, because last year's personnel and playcalling was not getting it done.

Bush is expected to rush the passer more than in recent history.

The Houston Texans and their fans hope the result is a good one.


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