The Texans came closer than ever to capturing the first playoff berth in franchise history in 2009, finishing above .500 for the first time since entering the league in 2002. However, a 1-5 recoed against AFC South foes helped derail their postseason dreams. That said, Houston made progress in many areas last season, particularly on defense. But don't look for the Texans to be complacent on on "D", with a few more playmakers, this might become a top-caliber group. On the cusp for several years, is this the season Houston finally breaks through?
The 2009 draft looks to be an outstanding one, after one year. Beginning with USC outside linebacker Brian Cushing, the defensive Rookie of the Year who was also voted to the Pro Bowl. Cornerback Glover Quin started the last 12 games and played well against both the run and pass. Defensive end Connor Barwin, guard Antoine Caldwell, Rice tight end James Casey ans corner Brice McCain all prove their worth last season in getting serious playing time. Caldwell, Barwin and Quin look to all start this year.
Houston owns the picks 20, 51, 81, 118, 150, 187, 197(from San Diego) and 227.
Since Rick Smith beacame general manager he has overseen three drafts. Head coach Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith worked together in Denver and try to come up with a consensus on draft day. Smith and Kubiak allow their assistant coaches to get involved in the process. They want as many eyes as possible evaluating talent. For instance defensive coordinator Frank Bush, pushed hard for the team to draft little known corner Glover Quin of New Mexico. The Texans drafted him in the fourth round and he started the last 12 games. Houston has used their first round pick on defense three out of the last four drafts.
Steve Slaton fumbled away his sophmore season with 7 fumbles on only 131 carries. He struggled to run the ball effectively however excelled catching the ball out of the backfield. Steve isn't built to carry the load for a regular season game in and game out, he is more a change of pace back, also recovering from neck surgery (never good). Arian Foster started two games (215 yards, 3 touchdowns) at the end of his rookie season. Ryan Moats rushed for 390 yards with four scores. The coaches don't mind a two back approach but, putting a band-aid over the position for another season won't fly. It's clear to see why finding a starting back is a priorty for the Texans. Houston needs a durable back with big time talent who can carry the load every game.
Fresno State running back Ryan Matthews fits what the Texans do more than any other back. He is a solid all-around player who is the one of the most NFL ready players. Comes from a pro-style offense and was often given a heavy work load when faced against the toughest competition. Projects as a one cut and go ruunner who plays with great balance and usually does not go down on first contact. Already is a good blocker, which will help him get on the field early. Ran a 4.48 at the combine.
If Matthews is drafted earlier Houston will most likely address the secondary. Two players they would gobble up if they fall in their lap would be Joe Haden, DB, Florida or Earl Thomas, S, Texas.
Houston has ranked 24th or worse in takeaways in four consecutive seasons. Add to that Dunta Robinson is an Atlanta Falcon now. They need a playmaking corner on the defense. Leigh Bodden opted to return with the Patriots rather than sign with the team. Glover Quin is a solid starter but Jacques Reeves skill are on the decline and Bruce McClain is more of a nickle guy. Fred Bennett and Antwaun Molden have been disapointments
Patrick Robinson is a tremendous athlete but rarely lives up to expectations, to become one of the top cornerbacks in the country. Has great speed, explosiveness and burst on the ball. Best suited for man-to-man skills, has the ability to breakdown and tackle in space.Very confident in his skills and plays like it on the other hand that causes him to give up some big plays. Slight chance to be a bust. Other players that could be available should be Perrish Cox, Brandon Ghee, Dominique Franks and Chris Cook. If Houston looks for a corner in the first round Kyle Wilson is a solid press corner.
Amobi Okoye and Shaun Cody fit in nicely when it came to team defense, but neither is a passrusher. They combined for two sacks total last year. On third down tems double and check Mario Williams becase there is no threat inside. Frank Okam and DeJaun Robinson were big disapointments last season. Houston could move DE Antonio Smith inside and plug Conner Barwin in the starting lineup at end, then again this scenario would still leave the need for a young tackle to push either Shaun Cody or Amobi Okoye. Cody was released from Detroit in 2008 and started 13 games in 2009 for the Texans, he proved to be a servicable starter. Meanwhile fourth year player Amobi Okoye has flashed potential to be a pass rusher at points in his career. However it would not suprise me if the Texans drafted a playmaking tackle early.
Georgia Bulldog Geno Atkins is a prototypical one gap penetrating; three technique. Will make his money rushing on third down. Geno is an active quick footed tackle who explodes off the line, produced 33.5 TFL and 11 sacks. Was benched his senior year for lack of effort, on the other hand he had a good week in Mobile showing effort all week. Other prospects to consider would be longhorn Lamarr Houston, Syracuse's Arthur Jones and Louisiana Tech's D'Anthony Smith.
The Texans solved a big problem at strong safety when they signed Bernard Pollard early last season No, it's time to take a long look at free safety, this is a deep class. The coaches like but don't love Eugene Wilson as the starter, but he was injured twice last season and finished the year on injured reserve. A young player could help push the position. Drafting a young ballhawk to pair with Pollard, whom the Texans were very fortunate to land after Kansas City cut ties with him.
Donavan Warren is a college corner who will most likely transition to free safety in the NFL. He is a physical player who gets his hands on the ball with his long arms and can direct defenses from the back end. Warren displays solid jumping ability to make plays and has enough speed to shadow receivers in man coverage. Works to get off blocks. Secure tackler, competitive, three-year starter who can contribute immediately on special teams. Be aware of Buckeye Kurt Coleman, Darrell Stuckey of Kansas and Hoosier Nick Polk . A sleeper could be Maryland Terripan, Terrell Skinner.
The Texans hve to consider adding some new faces to the interior offensive line after struggling to run the ball all season. Losing Starting guards Chester Pitts and Mike Brisiel with season-ending injuries early last season allowed Kasey Studdard, Chris White and Antoine Caldwell to get their feet wet. Pitts who was the club's best interior lineman is a UFA likely not returning to the team. Studdard is holding the left spot now, while Caldwell should take the right side. Wade Smith was given starters pay, but fails to impress. Center Chris Meyers could easily be dislodged from the starting lineup if a stronger more talented player is selected. Meyers struggled with bigger defenders.
Zane Beadles from Utah survived at left tackle for Utah, but projects better inside in the NFL, lacking the long arms to go with foot speed to remain outside. He played center admirably at the Senior Bowl. Very smart player who understands angles and positioning. Very agile for size, good initial quicknes out of his stance for short-pulling. Durable, four-year starter, was a well respected vocal leader in school. Some early prospects to look at could be Ole Miss gaurd John Jerry and Illinois guard Jon Asamoah. Later round guys might be Hokie Sergio Render, Arkansas' Mitch Petrus or TCU's Marshall Newhouse.
Walter Thurmond III, was on his way to becoming a first or second round pick but a sprained knee requiring surgery ended Walter's career at Oregon, severely plumetting his draft stock. Thurmond finished with 236 career tackles, 35 passes broken up, 11 interceptions and 5 touchdowns as a four year starter. He posted better numbers than teammates Jairus Byrd (Bills) and Patrick Chung (Patriots) both were second round picks. Thurmond is a lanky corner with great speed ,instincts, vision and ball skills he excels in run support shedding blockers easily. Needs to bulk up some weighs only 185 lbs. which can lead to trouble in press coverage. Will not contribute right away due to his knee nevertheless a great steal past the fourth round.