Houston Texans: An Early Look at the Offensive Depth Chart

Jake LangenkampCorrespondent IIIMay 4, 2011

Houston Texans: An Early Look at the Offensive Depth Chart

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    DENVER - DECEMBER 26:  Quarterback Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texas hands the ball off to running back Renaldo Hill #23 of the Texans against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on December 26, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pen
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    With the 2011 NFL Draft done and gone, the next step for NFL teams will be free agency.  That is backwards from the norm, but that is the reality for the NFL in 2011.  This time before free agency starts will provide NFL teams with valuable time to assess their drafts and further evaluate needs that need to be filled.

    The Houston Texans, by many accounts, had a successful draft.  Many national level football analysts are praising the efforts of Gary Kubiak, Rick Smith and most notably Wade Phillips because it is obvious that his fingerprints were all over the six defensive players that were selected.

    The team still has many holes to fill during free agency though.  It is somewhat obvious where the major holes are, but some of the positions that need depth are more obscure.  A lot depends on what free agency rules the league will play under in 2011, as this will change who the Texans might lose.

    For this reason, I decided to examine the Texans roster as it stands now, position by position.  This won’t be a full hypothesis of the eventual depth chart the Texans will have in 2011 because there are too many questions left unanswered, rather it will be a look at which positions are likely to receive attention in free agency.

    This session will concentrate on the offense, and the defense will be analyzed soon.  If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments or contact me directly on twitter (@JakeBRB).

Quarterback

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    HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans during warm ups before playing Jacksonville Jaguars at Reliant Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Starter:  Matt Schaub

    Backup:  Dan Orlovsky

    Third Quarterback:  T.J. Yates

     

    Analysis:  I know that many Texans fans saw the pick of T.J. Yates as a sign that Orlovsky’s time as backup quarterback was over, but that likely won’t be the case.

    Yates is a raw, developmental prospect who will need some time to be coached into position.

    This will make many Texans fans who see Orlovsky as inept unhappy, but you can’t force a late round rookie quarterback into significant time if Schaub is injured.  For proof, go watch the Titans game last season when Rusty Smith got the start as their signal caller.

Running Back

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    HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 02:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans greets running back Arian Foster #23 before playing the Jacksonville Jaguars at Reliant Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Starter:  Arian Foster

    Third Down/Goal Line Back:  Ben Tate

    Backup:  Derrick Ward

     

    Analysis:  People will expect a similar production from Arian Foster next season, especially fantasy football players. 

    It won’t happen.  Foster will still be the focal point of the running game, but Ben Tate who lost his season to injury in 2010 will play a significant role next year to include goal line touches.

    The re-signing of Derrick Ward right before the end of the league year in 2010 was probably the harbinger of doom for Steve Slaton as a Texan. 

    Ward will have minimal touches though, and provide primarily depth.  I doubt any more backs to be added in free agency barring injury.

Full Back

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    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 02:  Tight end James Casey #86 of the Houston Texans is tackled by cornerback Elbert Mack #33 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a preseason football game at Reliant Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Starter:  James Casey

     

    Analysis:  Vonta Leach did not receive one of the last second deals handed out by Rick Smith, leading many to believe (including Leach himself) that the 2010 All-Pro full back would not return to the team. 

    I don’t fault the Texans for this either, as there are much smarter uses for their money in free agency.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Leach and would love to see him back, but if he is demanding a huge deal, the team simply can’t afford to spend money on such a non-critical position. 

    If Leach does walk, Casey will not be as good but the difference between the two will be negligible.  If Leach is re-singed, it probably will be after he tests the market.

Wide Receiver

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    HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  Wide receiver Andre Johnson #80 of the Houston Texans scores on a pass as he goes over safety Ed Reed #20 of the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter at Reliant Stadium on December 13, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob L
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Starters:  Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter

    Backups:  Dorin Dickerson, David Anderson

     

    Analysis:  I was very surprised that the Texans did not add a wide receiver in the draft.  Andre Johnson finally showed he was mortal last year, not in his production but in his durability. 

    Walter lost some of his explosiveness that made him so productive the previous couple of seasons, and Jacoby disappointed after looking to be on the verge of success and is headed to free agency.

    Their lack of attention to the receiver position may either mean that they have faith in late round developmental project Dickerson as a deep threat, or they simply didn’t want to deviate from the defensive agenda.

     It is possible they will look to add someone in free agency, but I doubt they will put it as a higher priority than defensive needs.  Jacoby may be re-signed if he is willing to give the Texans a reasonable price.

Offensive Tackle

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    LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 19:  Eric Winston #73 of the Houston Texans defends against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 19, 2010 in Landover, Maryland. The Texans defeated the Redskins in overtime 30-27. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Starters:  Eric Winston, Duane Brown

    Backup:  Derek Newton

    Analysis:  Brown and Winston will start as bookends for the fourth straight season as one of the more underrated tackle tandems in the league. 

    Rashard Butler, however, will likely draw a reasonably lucrative contract in free agency elsewhere after performing admirably in the stead of Brown during his four game suspension.

    Due to this reality, seventh round draft pick Derek Newton is currently the swing tackle on the Texans roster. 

    It is likely that the Texans will look for a backup tackle in free agency, but the price tag will be far less than what it would cost to re-sign Butler.  Newton seems to be a likely candidate for the practice squad.

Offensive Guard/Center

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    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 12:  Center Chris Myers #55 of the Houston Texans prepares to snap the ball against the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL season opener at Reliant Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Starters:  Wade Smith, Antoine Caldwell, Chris Myers

    Backups:  Kasey Studdard, Shelley Smith

     

    Analysis:  The Texans offensive line gelled last year as a run blocking unit, performing the zone blocking scheme very effectively. 

    Caldwell will be given this year as a starter to prove that he was worth his draft status, Myers had a good year in 2010, and Wade Smith was a quietly very good free agent acquisition last year.

    Studard performed acceptably in rotational work last season, but Brisiel is technically a free agent. 

    With Shelley Smith apparently developing nicely, I doubt that any attention is given to this position group in free agency other than possibly re-signing Brisiel for a reasonable contract.

Tight End

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    DENVER - DECEMBER 26:  Wide receiver Owen Daniels #81 of the Houston Texas makes a reception and is tackled by defensive lineman Marcus Thomas #79 of the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on December 26, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos de
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Starter:  Owen Daniels

    Backups:  Joel Dreessen, James Casey, Garrett Graham

     

    Analysis:  It is widely known and joked about that Gary Kubiak collects tight ends like baseball cards, but I think there was a method to his madness. 

    Daniels proved that the offense was more dynamic with him in it and healthy at the end of last season, and therefore deserved the contract he received a few months ago.

    Dreessen was serviceable as a backup, but failed to claim the starting role.  Graham will likely claim ownership of the backup role in 2012 after Dreessen becomes a free agent. 

    I believe that Casey has been groomed to take over the full back role in the expectation that Leach might leave.  Obviously there is no free agents need here, and Anthony Hill is likely to be cut.