Houston Texans 2009 Preview

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Houston Texans 2009 Preview
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
2008 Summary
Since their inception in 2002, the Houston Texans have yet to reach the playoffs—or for that matter post a winning season.

The 2008 season was expected to be the potential coming out party for Gary Kubiak's Texans, and then Mother Nature decided to throw the young franchise a major curveball who went by the name of 'Ike'.

That is.. Hurricane Ike.

The deadly hurricane that ravaged the coast of Texas also damaged the Texans Reliant Stadium, forcing the Texans to take their bye week in Week Two of the season and play three consecutive road games to start the year before finally having their home opener in October against the defending AFC South Champion Colts.

And that contest against the Colts, kind of set up the rest of the season for the young Texans. Entering the game, the Texans were without their starting quarterback Matt Schaub due to an illness Schaub sustained shortly before kickoff, and they turned over the offense to journeyman backup Sage Rosenfels.
In one of the more memorable games of 2008, Rosenfels turned the ball over twice in under two minutes - leading to the Colts storming from 17 points down in the 4th quarter to shock the Texans 31-27 and send them to an 0-4 start.

But after that game, the Texans learned a lot about themselves, they realized then and there that they can hang with the best the league had to offer if they only played smarter football. If they could only stay hungry for all 60 minutes and not most of those 60 minutes.

The Texans would go on to win their next three games, and quickly inch back to a 3-4 mark. Incredible considering all the emotional pitfalls the team had already gone through in only half a season.

And then—yet again, the Texans would have another curveball thrown their way. Matt Schaub would sustain a knee injury before the end of the first half in what would become a blowout loss on the road against the Vikings.

Schaub would miss the next month of play with a sprained knee. The Texans would go 2-2, and with Schaub ready to return—Gary Kubiak posed one goal left for his Houston club.

"Finish .500. Finish the season strong, and give us something to build on in 2010."

With Schaub back in the lineup, strong running from rookie Steve Slaton, and great performance after great performance by one of the best receivers in football, Andre Johnson, the Texans did just that as they closed out the season winning four of their last five games to cap off the year 8-8, giving the franchise its best record yet.

And with the 8-8 mark came the one thing Gary Kubiak was hoping to see out of this young bunch. Something to build upon.

The passing offense finished 4th overall in the NFL—in large part to the play of Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson's 115 receptions for 1575 yards and 8 touchdowns. As an entire unit, the Texans offense was a force to be reckoned with as it finished 3rd overall.
Rookie Steve Slaton rushed for 1282 yards and 9 touchdowns, and may have won Rookie of the Year had it not been for Matt Ryan's outstanding first season.

Defensively though, the Texans still had a few holes to shore up. As a unit they finished 22nd overall and of the Texans eight losses in 2008, four came by a touchdown or less, and defensive inefficiency coupled with costly turnovers would be the culprit.
And if you took away the play of sensational defensive end Mario Williams and his 12 sacks in 2008 - the Texans unit as a whole would have only contributed 13 sacks on the season.

Needless to say, even the best offenses in football need a more consistent effort from its defense than that.

2009 Free Agency Additions:
LB Cato June (Tampa Bay)
DE Antonio Smith (Arizona)
DT Shaun Cody (Detroit)
QB Rex Grossman (Chicago)
QB Dan Orlovsky (Detroit)
G Adrian Jones (Kansas City)
LB Buster Davis (Indianapolis)
RB Clifton Dawson (Indianapolis)
FB Boomer Grigsby (Miami)

2009 Trade Acquisitions:

2009 Offseason Departures:
S C.C. Brown (NY Giants)
CB Demarcus Faggins (Tennessee)
S Glenn Earl (Chicago)
RB Ahman Green (Unsigned)
RB Ron Dayne (Unsigned)
LB Morlon Greenwood (Unsigned)
S Will Demps (Unsigned)

2009 NFL Draft:
1-15. Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
2-46. Connor Barwin, DE, Cincinnati
3-77. Antoine Caldwell, C/G, Alabama
4-112. Glover Quin, CB, New Mexico
4-122. Anthony Hill, TE, N.C. State
5-152. James Casey, TE, Rice
6-188. Brice McCain, CB, Utah
7-223. Troy Nolan, SS, Arizona State

2009 Outlook
Houston's 2009 outlook looks bright if they are able to keep Matt Schaub healthy for a full 16-game season, something he has yet to do as a starting quarterback for the Texans.

Coach Gary Kubiak and Schaub will each have a wide array of weapons at their disposal on offense beginning of course with arguably the best wide receiver in football right now Andre Johnson.
Like Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, Johnson has a frightening combination of size, speed and strength and is just an overall terror to defend for opposing defenses. His presence greatly helps his counterparts lining up alongside him, namely Kevin Walter and tight end Owen Daniels.
With Johnson constantly drawing double coverage, Walter or Daniels almost always face single coverage with a defender and are more than talented enough to make defenses pay in their own right, proven by each players strong outings a season ago.

The rushing attack also came into its own a season ago behind the aforementioned great rookie season from third-round pick Steve Slaton. Slaton brought an entirely new element to the Texans offense, with his all-purpose yardage and threat to make a big play with every touch of the ball. The depth behind Slaton could become a concern though should Slaton go down with an injury as behind Slaton are two very injury prone backups in Chris Brown and Ryan Moats.

On the Texans offensive line, the bookend tackle combination of Duane Brown and Eric Winston did a good job for the most part in the Alex Gibbs zone-blocking scheme, and this should be another solid unit in 2009 should they avoid injuries.

Defensively, it all starts and ends with playmakers Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans. Williams, as mentioned earlier, led the Texans with 12 sacks in 2008 and after being a very controversial 1st overall pick back in 2005, has really come into his own as one of the games elite defensive players.
Super Mario will have some new teammates on the defensive line with him as Antonio Smith comes to Houston after playing with the NFC Champion Cardinals a year ago, and Shaun Cody comes to Houston after playing with the winless Lions.

Ryans on the other hand is one of the more underrated players in all of football, despite winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2006. Ryans has been a tackling machine in his three seasons as a Texan, averaging 131 tackles a season playing the MLB position.
He will be paired with first round pick Brian Cushing out of Southern Cal and former Indianapolis Colt and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Cato June. The Texans linebacking corps should be one of the best in the division, and could very well be one of the best in the league by seasons end.

In Houston's secondary, underrated corner Dunta Robinson will return for another season, but is currently holding out as the Texans franchise player. When he returns in 2009 he will be paired with Jacques Reeves and Fred Bennett.
Safeties Nick Ferguson and Eugene Wilson will resume their starting roles as well.

2009 Schedule
Sun 9/13 NY Jets
Sun 9/20 at Tennessee
Sun 9/27 Jacksonville
Sun 10/4 Oakland
Sun 10/11 at Arizona
Sun 10/18 at Cincinnati
Sun 10/25 San Francisco
Sun 11/1 at Buffalo
Sun 11/8 at Indianapolis
  bye
Mon 11/23 Tennessee
Sun 11/29 Indianapolis
Sun 12/6 at Jacksonville
Sun 12/13 Seattle
Sun 12/20 at St. Louis
Sun 12/27 at Miami
Sun 1/3 New England


2009 Prediction:
The Texans will be a popular choice amongst all the football pundits and so-called experts to be the sleeper team of 2009, and with good reason.

This is a team that offensively, is as good as any in football, and quietly has assembled a great young nucleus of Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, and Andre Johnson. Defensively, the Texans had trouble slowing other teams down a year ago and let games get away from them. This year, the Texans defense has been reconfigured in such a way that it should no longer be a major liability if the Texans offense is on the sidelines late in the 4th quarter with a lead.

Slowly but surely, the Houston Texans are assembling a lot of good young players and are being coached by one of the brightest offensive minds in the game.

In my opinion this coming season, the AFC South is the strongest division in football, and the Houston Texans - should Matt Schaub stay healthy the entire season - could very well come out on top.

If you're not a believer in this team yet, you will be by the end of the season.

Predicted Finish: 11-5, 1st Place AFC South
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Hassellbeck - VSN Writer
www.virtualsportsnetwork.com
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