Entering into their eighth season of existence, the Houston Texans are primed for a break out season. Having finished their last two seasons at 8-8, the Texans can no longer be considered a bottom-tier NFL franchise. This year the Texans seek to complete their first winning season in franchise history.
They are led on offense by quarterback Matt Schaub. Schaub is entering his third year at the helm for the Texans. Last season Schaub threw for 15 touchdowns, over 3,000 yards, and he was able to notch four 300-yard passing performances. However, his previous two seasons, he was only able to play 11 games each, due to injuries. This year, Schaub hopes to finally stay healthy and to begin to gel with the mix of young offensive stars that surround him in Houston.
Schaub’s leading target is the franchise’s second ever first-round selection, third overall in 2003, Andre Johnson. Johnson has developed into a legitimate superstar during his six seasons with the Texans. Johnson, a four time Pro-Bowler, had 1,575 receiving yards and an outstanding 115 receptions last season, both of which topped the NFL. Kevin Walter, Johnson’s fellow receiver, is also very talented. He caught eight touchdowns last season while also totaling 899 receiving yards. Not only do the Texans have very talented wide receivers, they have another receiving threat, Owen Daniels, at tight end. Daniels’ 862 receiving yards last season ranked third among tight ends.
There is no uncertainty regarding the Texans passing game this season, however going into last season questions still remained about the Texans’ backfield, which had performed poorly for many years. The Texans struck gold with their second-round selection of former West Virginia Mountaineer Steve Slaton. Slaton is an emerging star, and he has taken control of the Texans backfield. With a year of experience under his belt, 2009 promises to be big year for Slaton. Last year Slaton led all rookie running backs with 1,282 rushing yards, which was a franchise record. Slaton also led the AFC in total yards from Scrimmage with 1,659.
They also have rising talent on their offensive line with left tackle Duane Brown. Brown is entering his second season in the NFL. After being drafted last season by the Texans with the 26th overall selection, Brown, out of Virginia Tech, quickly made an impact as he started all 16 games for the Texans
On the other side of the ball, the Texans have invested many years worth of draft picks into their defense. They are lead by 2006 first overall pick, Mario Williams. While Williams started slow in his rookie campaign with only four and a half sacks, he quickly lived up to his hype as a star and had 14 sacks in 2007, followed by another 12 in 2008. Williams was chosen to the Pro Bowl for his first time last season.
Another 2006 draft choice who has improved to this point for the Texans is their second round pick, 33rd overall, DeMeco Ryans. Ryans showed no adjustment entering into the NFL by winning defensive rookie of the year in 2006. He also has had over 100 tackles each season of his career, highlighted by his 152 tackle rookie campaign. The Texans will also be counting on their first round draft pick out of USC, linebacker Brian Cushing.
Overall, their defense is extremely young. Their defense’s youth does give hope for vast improvement this year, but it also gives reason for concern. Allowing 24.6 points a game last season ranked tied for 27th in the league. In addition, their secondary raises even more question marks. They will have to hope that Fred Bennett and the cast of other secondary players, such as rookie corner back Glover Quin come up big this year and play like the veterans they are not. With coach Gary Kubiak under his fourth year with the Texans all signs point towards improvement in 2009.
Prediction: 9-7 (2nd in AFC South)
Will make playoffs as 6th seed in AFC