Houston Texans: 10 Bold Offseason Predictions For 2011
Fear not Texans fans. This nightmare of a season is nearly over. Only the season finale against Jacksonville stands in the way of us being able to put this season behind us and being able to move on.
Unfortunately, a lack of faith in the Texans front office has many fans dreading the offseason as well.
I'm here to tell you what I think might play out. I'll leave the decicion of whether to be excited or angry up to you.
The Texans Will Have a New Defensive Coordinator
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This prediction actually isn't all that bold, but it's a move that absolutely has to be made.
Who takes over the duties from Frank Bush will depend on what the Texans do with their head coaching position. What is for sure is that the Texans will put an emphasis on hiring someone who has called a defense before.
Their last two coordinators, Bush and Richard Smith, were first-time defensive coordinators and neither had any success. Ideally the Texans would want to bring in a coordinator who runs a 4-3 because that's what they run now and have the personnel for, but they haven't ruled out hiring a 3-4 coordinator if they feel he is the best man for the job.
The Texans Will Stay Away From Big Name, High Priced Free Agents
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As much as fans like to see their team make big splashes in free agency, it just doesn't pay in today's NFL. Just look at the Washington Redskins over the last decade. The Texans, too, have been burned by overpaying to try to make a quick fix.
Most recently, the Texans threw ridiculous money at defensive end Antonio Smith. Smith is currently finishing up the second year of a five-year, $35 million contract. At the time, the Texans were desperately looking to find a way to improve their pass rush. And back then, Mario Williams was still struggling with consistency and the franchise had just whiffed on the draft pick of Amobi Okoye at defensive tackle.
The move was just all wrong from the beginning. Smith was, and is not, a game-changing pass rusher. In fact, he plays the run better than the pass.
Second, he was a 3-4 end with Arizona. Not only was Smith being asked to do more than he had ever done, he was expected to do it in a new system.
Stories like this are what will likely keep the Texans from throwing big money at a splashy free agent like Champ Bailey or Haloti Ngata, even though their positions of cornerback and defensive tackle, respectively, are huge needs.
The Texans Will Bring In a Veteran In The Defensive Secondary
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While the Texans won't be in the market to break the bank on a free agent, they will be looking to make a less-splashy, more cost-effective move to bring in a veteran or two to help in the secondary.
In hindsight, it was a terrible idea to believe that the Texans' young cornerbacks could handle all that was going to be thrown at them. The litany of safeties the Texans threw out there couldn't cover anybody and in turn, the young corners were often times left alone with the opposing team's best receivers. Eric Wright, Bryant McFadden, and Ike Taylor are all more likely options.
None of the above are Hall of Famers, but at the very least they won't be wide-eyed by the situation.
The Texans Will Draft For Need Early in The Draft
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From the start, the Texans franchise has been one that believes in drafting the best player available on the board. More often than not, that has worked out because the Texans had holes all over the field. Generally, the best player available plays at a position of need when that is the case. The needs the Texans have are very specific at this point. They aren't miles and miles away from contending. The Texans will be drafting from the upper-middle portion of the first round. I don't care if somehow Andrew Luck falls to them there. You have to address a need. The fact that this draft is deep in positions they need like linebacker and defensive tackle makes this even more important. Impact players like defensive tackles Marcell Dareus from Alabama and Stephen Paea from Oregon State will likely be available at their spot. Auburn's Nick Fairley is unlikely to still be there, but stranger things have happened. At linebacker, UCLA's Akeem Ayers and Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan, who is a linebacker/defensive end hybrid, would fit in nicely. The Texans recent struggles with young corners will likely keep them from drafting another one in the first round, but if they choose to, Nebraska's Prince Amukamara and Miami's Brandon Harris are options.
The Texans Will Part Ways With Tight End Owen Daniels
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There's no denying the fact that Owen Daniels has been the best tight end in the short history of the Texans franchise. Daniels has averaged just about 52 catches per season in his career and that's when you factor in the injury-shortened 2010 season. He has great chemistry with Matt Schaub and he is a willing blocker, which is something you can't always say about receiving tight ends. That being said, Daniels has had a frosty relationship with the Texans front office over the last couple of offseasons. The front office seemed more than content to continually give Daniels the franchise tag. Daniels wanted more security, and rightfully so. Many assumed that Daniels was leaving after last season, but he and the front office got a contract thrown together to keep Owen in Houston for the 2010 season. I'm not so sure that Daniels will be willing to do something similar again. He appears to have no interest in working his deals one year at a time.
In this particular case, the Texans might be negotiating from a position of power. In his absence this season, backup tight end Joel Dreessen has had a career year. Dreessen has put up Daniels-like numbers with 34 catches for 468 yards and four touchdowns. Having several other capable tight ends in James Casey, Garrett Graham and Anthony Hill doesn't hurt either.
The Texans Won't Tinker With The Offensive Line
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The offensive line is one of the areas that has plagued the Texans from day one. Things haven't always been as bad as they were starting out in 2002 when David Carr took 76 sacks, but it has never been a good unit. That is starting to change. The Texans finally have two pieces, in tackles Eric Winston and Duane Brown, that they can build a line around. Guard Antoine Caldwell and tackles Wade Smith and Rashad Butler are all solid players. Guard Mike Brisiel returning from injury next season will give the Texans even more depth. The much-maligned Chris Myers had a much better season in 2010 than in 2009, giving Texans fans hope for next season. Sure, these guys aren't a group of pro bowlers, but continuity is as important as talent on the offensive line and that's what this group gives you.
The Texans Offseason Workout Program Will Be Tougher Than Ever
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An offseason workout program is something that fans don't get a glimpse of. The workout schedule isn't posted online for fans and most practices aren't available to the media. Often times, though, it is a good barometer of what type of leadership you have. A team without good veteran leadership runs the risk of not running a good offseason program to keep their players focused and in shape. If the younger players don't see the established veterans working their tails off in the offseason, they'll follow suit. If the young players see the veterans working like undrafted rookies in the offseason, it sets the tone and establishes the type of work ethic it will take to be successful. Fortunately for the Texans, the team is loaded with veterans that will stop at nothing to get the Texans to the promised land. Guys like Eric Winston and Andre Johnson won't let this team take another step backwards by going through the motions in the offseason. The frustration of not getting over the playoff hump has to be mounting for the veterans, and you have to believe that they'll do anything in the way of prep work leading up to training camp.
The Texans Will Try to Connect To Their Fan Base Like Never Before
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A 5-11 or 6-10 season following 9-7 and 8-8 seasons won't do a lot to get your fan base fired up. Team owner Bob McNair is as tuned in to the fans as any owner in the NFL. He will stop at nothing to make sure the fans keep coming out to Reliant Stadium in 2011 and beyond. He may not be able to convince the fans to keep the faith when it comes to their front office making moves and the team winning, but it won't be for a lack of trying. If you live in Houston, prepare to be inundated with commercials giving you a laundry list of reasons why you won't want to miss the Texans 2011 season. If you are already a season ticket holder, prepare to be invited to all different kinds of events out at Reliant Park to show you why is pays to hold season tickets even when the on-field product isn't very good. I think I speak for the masses when I say I can't blame you if you aren't charmed by these olive branches from the organization.
Texans Ticket Prices Will Stay The Same.
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Prior to the 2010 season, the Texans raised their ticket prices by nearly seven percent. Fans were up in arms and took to the local sports talk stations and message boards to complain that the rise in prices weren't appropriate given that the team was coming off 9-7 and 8-8 seasons. The Texans were dealing with the tough economy and certainly weren't alone among NFL teams raising ticket prices, but the fans are only interested in the bottom line. This season will either end in the Texans finishing 5-11 or 6-10. Again, Bob McNair is as PR-conscious as any owner in the league and a raise in prices is not what the team needs right now. Cynicism and apathy are at all-time highs among Texans fans and higher prices are the worst thing you can do when that is the case.
The Texans Will Retain Gary Kubiak
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A change at the top is what this franchise needs the most, but I can't see it happening. By all accounts, Gary Kubiak is loved by his players. No player has ever questioned that Kubiak is the best man for the job. That doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but in other NFL cities, players throw coaches under the bus with regularity. The players wishes have to count for something. If they let Kubiak go and bring in someone new, you have to worry about how the players will respond. After last season, the Texans also extended Kubiak's contract through 2012. While contracts for coaches mean little these days, the franchise has always hated paying out dead money, meaning paying a player or coach for not playing or coaching. Letting Kubiak go would require paying out a ton of dead money whether it be over time or all at once as part of a big buyout. Don't overlook the way Bob McNair manages his employees either. McNair puts a huge emphasis on the character of the person. Admittedly, Kubiak has been nothing short of the ultimate professional in his time in Houston. I have nothing negative to say about him when it comes to him as a person. Being a good person doesn't win games on its own, however. With Kubiak returning a roster that likely won't be overhauled, I fear that Texans fans are in for more of the same in 2011.