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2006 Team Report: Houston Texans

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Quarterbacks

Starter: David Carr
Backup(s): Sage Rosenfels, Quinton Porter, Matt Baker

Starting QB: It seems that every year there is new optimism that David Carr will become a viable fantasy QB and the 2006 season is no different. Gone is the conservative offense of Dom Capers and in comes offensive guru Gary Kubiak. The offensive line that allowed 68 sacks last year has been upgraded significantly and Eric Moulds has been added to give Carr a dynamic pair of starting wideouts. It may take a little while for Carr to jell with the new playbook and new teammates, but if he can adapt and avoid the sacks that dominated his first four years in the league, he could approach borderline starter status in most fantasy leagues.

Backup QB: Sage Rosenfels joins the Texans from Miami and will handle the backup job. He poses no threat for the starting role, but with Carr's propensity for sacks, Rosenfels could be pressed into duty. Quinton Porter and Matt Baker will battle for the #3 spot.

Running Backs

Starter: Domanick Davis
Backup(s): Wali Lundy[r], Vernand Morency, Antowain Smith, Damien Rhodes
Fullback(s): Jameel Cook

Starting RB: Things were looking good for Domanick Davis just after the NFL draft when his team passed on Reggie Bush for defensive end Mario Williams. Unfortunately, Davis has been slow to recover from a knee injury sustained in 2005, and will miss at least the first part of the season. The Texans are currently deciding whether or not to place him on the Injured Reserve list, which would mean losing him for the season. When Davis was on the field last year, he gained 100 total yards or score a TD in every game except the season opener. His TD production, however, has been uneven: after rushing for 13 scores in 2004, he recorded only two in 2005. If Davis is not placed on IR and is able to return sometime during the season, there's a good chance he'd be returned to his starting job. His season is up in the air right now, however, making Davis a risky fantasy pick.

Backup RBs: With Domanick Davis sidelined during the preseason, Wali Lundy and Vernand Morency took advantage of their opportunities to shine. Last year, Morency saw only spot duty until the week 17 loss against San Francisco when he performed admirably with 129 combined yards and a TD. Lundy is a sixth-round rookie who does a lot of things right but isn't overpowering. Both Morency and Lundy have shown the ability to run effectively behind the Texans' zone-blocking scheme during the preseason. As long as Domanick Davis remains sidelined, the Texans will probably use a running-back-by-committee featuring both Lundy and Morency. Based on the rotation used during the preseason (with Lundy generally running with the first team), Lundy should be considered the favorite to get the majority of the work. With the departure of Jonathan Wells and Tony Hollings, Antowain Smith was brought in to compete with Vernand Morency for the backup job. Smith has bounced around the league in the last couple of years, but he showed decent ability last season with the Saints.

Fullback: Jameel Cook is a five-year veteran who was lured in free agency from Tampa Bay. At least he has registered on the fantasy radar with a TD in each of his last three years and a total of 55 career receptions.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Andre Johnson, Eric Moulds
Backups: Jerome Mathis, Derick Armstrong, Kevin Walter,David Anderson [r], Donovan Morgan, Jake Schifino, Kendrick Starling

Starting WRs: Former three-time Pro Bowler Eric Moulds left Buffalo after 10 years and is assured of a starting role opposite former Pro Bowler Andre Johnson. Moulds will be keen to put three disappointing years of quarterback controversies and an abysmal passing game behind him to prove that he still can play at a high level. Moulds has a tremendous work ethic and will provide veteran leadership for the young franchise. His days as an elite fantasy star may be over, but he should still make a nice starter in 3WR leagues or a bye week replacement in others. Johnson has his best years ahead of him, however, he has been a fantasy disappointment so far and has yet to finish inside the top 20 ranked receivers. Last year he severely disappointed those who used a high draft pick on him.

Backup WRs: There is no clear standout for the No. 3 role behind Johnson and Moulds, but it should come from Mathis, Armstrong or Walter. Kevin Walter is the most likely candidate, being lured as a restricted free agent from Cincinnati with a lucrative contract. He definitely will be hoping for a bigger role. Mathis is a Pro Bowl kick returner and may be more suited to a special teams role. He had surgery in early June for a stress fracture in his foot, and will probably miss the start of the regular season. After a promising second year where he recorded 29 catches for 415 yards and a TD, Derick Armstrong really disappointed in 2005 with only 9 catches for 115 yards.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jeb Putzier
Backups: Mark Bruener, Owen Daniels [r], Bennie Joppru

Jeb Putzier comes over from Denver with Head Coach Gary Kubiak and should be the clear-cut starter in passing situations. He was heavily targeted by teams in free agency the last two years for his receiving ability. The only concern with Putzier is the lack of TDs on his resume, with only three of his 87 catches resulting in scores. Mark Bruener has had a solid career as a blocking TE but has never been a viable fantasy option. To eventually replace Bruener, the team drafted Owen Daniels at the top of the fourth round. Daniels has torn his left ACL twice and needs work in both facets of his craft. The teamís second round (41st overall) pick from 2003, the always-injured Bennie Joppru, is still on the roster.

Place Kicker

Kris Brown : Last year saw a big jump in the number of FG attempts (34) for Brown, for the first time since joining the Texans. As a result they finished 18th in kicker scoring, which is an improvement to the 27th, 28th, and 31st place rankings their first three years in the league. Brownís accuracy is still erratic. He missed five FGs in the 30 to 39 yard range, and finished with a 76.5% average for the year. His kickoffs have steadily improved throughout his career. He had a 64.5 yard average and 11 touchbacks in 2005.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Jerome Mathis; Vernand Morency; Jake Schifino; Wali Lundy; Domanick Davis

Although he only played in 12 games, super fast WR Jerome Mathis emerged as the number two fantasy returner in the NFL. The majority of his points came on kickoffs (54 returns, 28.6 avg., 2 TDs). He picked up where he left off in college at Hampton, where he returned five kickoffs for scores in 2004. Mathis had surgery in early June for a stress fracture in his foot, and will probably miss the start of the regular season. RB Vernand Morency, another rookie last year, serves as the primary backup (20 returns, 21.9 avg.). WR Jake Schifino was out of football last year. In 2003 he had 35 returns and a 20.1 yard average with the Titans. Sixth round draft pick Wali Lundy returned kickoffs during only his freshman year at Virginia (17 returns, 24.1 avg.), but has been practicing at the position for the Texans. RB Domanick Davis can also step in if needed.

Punt Returners: Phillip Buchanon; Dunta Robinson; Jerome Mathis; Donovan Morgan; Domanick Davis

CB Phillip Buchanon (12 returns, 8.4 avg.) handled the punt returns at the beginning of last year. He eventually gave way to Jerome Mathis (12 returns, 5.7 avg.), who added punt returns to go along with his kickoff return role. CB Dunta Robinson hasnít returned punts since his senior year at South Carolina, but has been practicing in that role in camp and has impressed the new coaching staff. Buchanon, Robinson, and Mathis could all see action in the regular season. Late in the year, WR Donovan Morgan had 3 returns with a 10.0 average. The multi-faceted Domanick Davis also returns an occasional punt. The Texans had only 37 punt returns compared to 84 kickoff returns. If that trend continues, Mathis should benefit.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: RT Zach Weigert, RG Steve McKinney, C Mike Flanagan, LG Charles Spencer (rookie), LT Seth Wand
Key Backups: Ephraim Salaam, Todd Wade, Eric Winston (rookie), Chester Pitts

The Houston Texans offensive line has been amongst the worst pass-blocking units in the NFL since their inception and is in a state of flux this season. However their run blocking hasnít been too bad over the past couple of years and the team averaged 4.2 yards per carry a year ago. Former Rams OL coach, John Benton was brought in to stabilize this unit in 2006 and he does have some talent to work with. 33-year old Mike Flanagan was brought in from the Packers to provide leadership up the middle. The rest of the offensive line though appears unsettled at this time. Rookie Charles Spencer from Pitt is a huge man with good athleticism and he will compete with Chester Pitts at left guard. Steve McKinney should slide over from center to the right guard spot which is his best position. At the tackle position, five players are competing for the two spots. During minicamps, it appears that Seth Wand and Zach Weigert have the inside track for the starting jobs but nothing will be decided until training camp Expect rookie Eric Winston, Chester Pitts and veteran Todd Wade to get a look at tackle as well. The Texans will be able to run the ball again this year but must protect the quarterback better.

Team Defense

After going 7-9 in 2004, the Houston Texans regressed to a pitiful league-worst 2-14 last year. So what happened first? You guessed it, they said adios to the only head coach the Texans ever had, Dom Capers. In stepped Gary Kubiak, who spent the last 11 years as Denver's offensive coordinator. Kubiak was actually a candidate in 2001 for the job, but Houston went with Capers instead. Kubiak brings with him a strong offensive mind, as Denver was a top 10 NFL offense in 10 of Kubiak's 11 years on the job. But while the team needs help on offense, they were 31 st in the NFL on defense. Kubiak brought in Richard Smith as defensive coordinator, who Kubiak knew when Smith coached special teams and linebackers from 1993-1996. Smith will be moving the defensive unit to a 4-3. Smith was the defensive coordinator with Miami in 2005, and although Miami was only 18 th in the NFL in total defense, they had the second most sacks with 49. Houston has aggressively pursued free agents, signing Anthony Weaver, Sam Cowart and N.D. Kalu to provide experience and depth and looks to be serious in revamping a defense that was far too forgiving in 2005. But the best news for the defense was the surprise pick of defensive end Mario Williams with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. Williams steps immediately into the starting lineup and makes this unit much better.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Anthony Weaver, DT Robaire Smith, DT Travis Johnson, DE Mario Williams
Backups: DE Jason Babin, DE Antwan Peek, DT Seth Payne, DE N.D. Kalu

Starting DL: Houston used the first overall pick in the draft on defensive end Mario Williams. Williams steps right into the starting spot opposite Anthony Weaver. Williams has freakish size and athleticism and should make an immediate impact. His speed makes him a pass-rushing threat and his size and tackling ability make him solid against the run. Williams gives the entire unit a facelift. Houston's free agency acquisition on the defensive side of the ball started with the signing of Weaver. Weaver, 25, will play on the left side. He played the previous four seasons with the Ravens, contributing 14.5 sacks during that period and brings a nice amount of speed and strength to an area where the Texans were sorely lacking prior to Weaver's arrival. When healthy, Weaver is tough to beat and can play against the run as well as rush the passer. Robaire Smith will move from DE last year to the more natural position of DT. Topping the scales at about 330 pounds, Smith made for a monstrous but slow DE. Smith is about as reliable as they get, albeit unspectacular. At defensive tackle will be either veteran, 30 year old Seth Payne or second year man Travis Johnson. Weighing in at 315 pounds, Payne is not a threat to get to the QB and had only 4 sacks last year. Payne remains fairly solid. But our money is on Travis Johnson winning the job. Johnson showed improvement last year playing after Gary Walker was hurt and should be more comfortable in the 4-3.

Backup DL: Antwan Peek has the quickness necessary to get to the QB, but he has played mostly LB his first two seasons, so the transition to DE will be one to watch. Peek improved as the season wore on but he still may need to add some bulk to if he wants to start at DE. DE Jason Babin will compete with Antwan Peek (and N.D. Kalu) for the main backup job. Babin is highly touted but some question whether has the size or ability to make the transition from OLB to DE. Babin lost his starting role last season after some shoulder injury problems and he needs to work on his run support, but he still has the quickness and ability to get to the QB. DE N.D. Kalu was a free agent signee and will initially backup Anthony Weaver's spot. Kalu has had some effectiveness and at the very least provides depth and pass rushing ability to an otherwise inexperienced line.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Sam Cowart, SLB Shantee Orr, WLB Morlon Greenwood
Backups: SLB Kailee Wong, OLB DaShon Polk, OLB DeMeco Ryans, OLB Charlie Anderson, MLB Wali Rainer

Starting LBs: Shifting from the 3-4 to a 4-3 will move Morlon Greenwood from ILB to WLB. Greenwood had a career-high 112 total tackles last year and had some very big games. Greenwood has the speed and quickness to cover sideline to sideline and should excel in the switch back. The move back to a 4-3 defense should be a natural fit for Greenwood, as he excelled as the weakside linebacker for Miami just two years ago. He's a student of the game and works hard to stay on top. Sam Cowart was recently signed and provides veteran leadership and proven abilities to take charge in the middle. He's a little long in the tooth, though, and has battled injuries throughout his career. But he's still capable of a big year and has had 120+ tackles in four different seasons. Shantee Orr really came on last year with six sacks in his last six games. He's a versatile player with excellent speed and the instincts necessary to make plays. Orr led the Texans in sacks last year despite playing only 12 games. He recently re-signed with the team. If they can remain healthy, the addition of Cowart makes LB a position of strength for Houston. But that's a big "if".

Backup LBs: Wong only played five games last season after suffering a torn ligament in his knee but his recovery has been positive, and he expects to be back and ready to play in 2006. It looks like now, however, that Wong will not be ready to play until closer to midseason. Wong shined in the five games he played before his injury but Wong does not have exceptional talent and could be replaceable. DeMeco Ryans was selected with the first pick in the second round of this year's draft and is a high character leader type on and off the field who should produce right away. DaShon Polk looked like really sharp after replacing the injured Kailee Wong midway through the season and showed he could be a vocal team leader. It was the first time he had a chance to really prove himself and he took advantage of it with smart, consistent play, and he can potentially play both inside or outside in the 4-3. Charlie Anderson is a big hitter who has displayed solid range and the team believes he has high upside.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Dunta Robinson, S Glenn Earl, CB Phillip Buchanon, S C.C. Brown
Backups: CB Demarcus Faggins, S Jason Simmons, CB Lewis Sanders

Starting DBs: Although he didn't display the playmaking of his rookie season, Dunta Robinson had a solid second year and the team will be looking to him for more leadership this year. He remains one of the hardest hitters on the team and he has exceptional speed. However, his sacks and interceptions went down from his rookie year and the team desperately needs the kind of big plays from Robinson that he displayed two years ago. Glenn Earl played very well down the stretch after he finally seemed to get healthy. If he remain healthy this year, look for a nice year from Earl. C.C. Brown started the year with a bang, producing lots of tackles and making plays. He seemed to disappear at times though, and was hampered a bit by nagging injuries. This will only be his second season and there is room for improvement. He ended 2005 with almost 80 tackles despite starting only 13 games. Phillip Buchanon came to the Texans last year with a lot to prove. He had been considered a big time bust after the Raiders drafted him in the first round in 2002. He came to Houston with a chip on his shoulder, determined to prove the critics wrong. But his first year as a Texan was yet another disappointment. He lost his starting job early on to Demarcus Faggins and eventually an ankle injury ended his season early. But prior to the ankle injury, he had come back to play fairly well and there is no doubt he has talent. A new defensive scheme and coaching staff could light a spark for Buchanon.

Backup DBs: CB Demarcus Faggins has continued to progress. Now in his fifth year, he has proven he can step in and start when necessary and even make some plays. He remains a key component in the nickel defense and will challenge Buchanon for the starting role. With his speed, don't be shocked if he wins the job. CB Lewis Sanders came to Houston last year as an unrestricted free agent and played 12 games, starting three of them. He add depth but little else, as his makeup is more of a career NFL backup. Jason Simmons is a versatile type who can play at CB or at safety in the dime package. Simmons is an eight-year NFL veteran and will be entering his fifth year as a Texan.

Last modified: 2006-08-30 15:10:24



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