In 2009 the Houston Texans earned the first winning record in franchise history. At 9-7 they also placed themselves in the middle of the playoff hunt in the AFC, and would have gotten there if the New York Jets were not handed two victories at the end of last season.
Despite getting over the proverbial winning season hump, the Texans need to focus on 2010. With one of the best offences in the league to go with a young and talented defence, the sky truly is the limit in the upcoming season.
After the AFC South dominance of the Indianapolis Colts over the past decade, the Texans are poised to make the division much more competitive in the next decade than the last.
There are still a few things that need to happen before the Texans join the NFL elite.
Draft Kyle Wilson
Kyle Wilson, a corner back from Boise State, is somebody I have seen in a Texans uniform since November. With the departure of Dunta Robinson to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, the Texans are left with a gargantuan need on the outside of the defence, something that will not end well when you play Peyton Manning twice a year.
The more I watch of Kyle Wilson, the more I see a physical presence on the outside who can make up in coverage to almost any receiver in the league. Every time I see him on film he seems to make a play. He looks like Dunta Robinson did in his first few seasons in the league, before his injury.
Wilson could be the number one guy going into training camp, and he would benefit by being torched by Andre Johnson all summer. The only way to be the best it to have been beaten by the best.
Adding another athletic play maker to the potentially explosive defence in Houston is something that all the other AFC South teams will be keeping an eye on this offseason.
Come the NFL Draft, if Wilson is sat there when the Texans select at No. 20, he has to be the pick. If it takes giving up a mid round draft pick to move up a couple of slots to get him, that is also something that would have to be done.
Either way, Kyle Wilson should be in a Texans uniform in 2010.
Owen Daniels Needs To Have A Good Recovery
Through eight games last season Owen Daniels had 40 catches, 519 yards, and 5 touchdowns before he tore his ACL in Buffalo. Doubling those numbers up to give him a projected season total of 80 catches for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns places him in the top five tight ends in the league.
Owen Daniels is the second best receiver on the Texans, often drawing double teams last season despite playing tight end. This meant that after his injury, Andre Johnson faced even tighter coverage, and on many occasions he was triple teamed on the outside. Even with this, Johnson managed to lead the league in receiving yards for the second season straight.
With what will hopefully be an improved running game, the Texans need Owen Daniels to have a strong recovery from his injury and try and return to his previous form. A season of Owen Daniels playing like his old self with a stronger running game can only mean even more explosion from Matt Schaub and Co.
Get A Big Body Along the Defensive Line
Shaun Cody started 13 games last season, filling in the Nose position in the 4-3 defense. He was given a three-year contract after playing four seasons in Detroit.
The former second round draft choice was brought in to place a big body along the defensive line to allow Mario Williams, Amobi Okoye, and Anthony Smith more opportunities to make plays with their athleticism, but this was far from what happened.
All I see when I re-watch the Texans games from 2009 is a player who was frequently pushed off his base, allowing him to be blocked one-on-one by a guard. This, in turn, meant that more attention could be placed on the other lineman, limiting their abilities to make plays.
With the 4-3 defense, one of the interior tackles needs to be strong enough to not allow the other team to block him one-on-one on almost every down, and unfortunately Cody is not suited to this role.
There have been options so far this offseason, and the one that jumps out at me most is Corey Williams. He was traded along with a seventh round draft choice for the fifth round selection of the Detroit Lions. Williams showed in his time in Green Bay that he can play the Nose position in a 4-3, and he was strong against both the run and pass.
I find it difficult to imagine the Texans finding a player who could have done as much for their defence as Williams could in the fifth round. Offering the Browns this selection straight up may have been more appealing to Cleveland, allowing them to keep their seventh rounder.
Playing the "They Should Have Made That Trade" card is very easy after it has been made, but with Williams no longer on the market, the Texans may have to look higher than that 5th rounder for a big body, such as Al Woods from LSU in the third round.
Last season the Texans had a habit of shooting themselves in the foot. Whether it was poor kicking play, penalties at crucial moments or the inability to keep an opponent on the floor, they managed to find some creative ways to lose.
Stop Giving Games Away
With the second least experienced offensive line in the league last year, they managed to lose focus at crucial periods in crucial games. In overall Offensive line penalties, the Texans weren't too bad, but the timing of the mistakes was crucial. If the offensive line manages to hold its focus in the Titans game at Reliant Stadium, that could have been a victory and a playoff spot.
The line didn't do this alone. In the Arizona Cardinals game, the win was being handed to them by a faltering Cardinals defense and Matt Schaub managed to miss a wide open receiver to tie the game.
Kris Brown missed field goals in clutch moments.
The defensive backfield was caught napping far too often. Just go back to the first game against Tennessee where Chris Johnson, possibly the leagues most explosive weapon, was lined up at Wide Receiver without a Texan defender within 25 yards.
Lack of focus, and potentially faults in the game plan, left the Texans reeling on too many occasions.
Going into 2010 they need to show a new level of focus if they truly want to become an elite team. They need to become more professional.
With a top-10 roster in terms of talent, the Houston Texans have their destiny in their own hands. They just need to not screw it up.