Colvin brings a Super Bowl pedigree, but also a history of injuries.
September 7 at Pittsburgh 14 BALTIMORE 21 at Tennessee 28 at Jacksonville
October 5 INDIANAPOLIS 12 MIAMI 19 DETROIT 26 Bye
November 2 at Minnesota 9 CINCINNATI 16 at Indianapolis 23 at Cleveland
December 1 JACKSONVILLE (M) 7 at Green Bay 14 TENNESSEE 21 at Oakland 28 CHICAGO
Amobi Okoye, Defensive tackle: The youngest first-round draft pick in history at 19, Okoye didn't act his age as a rookie in 2007. He was a force in the middle, using a quick first step and a low center of gravity to beat offensive linemen for 5 1/2 sacks while plugging the running lanes. The fact that he's 6' 2", 302 pounds and still isn't fully grown has Houston coaches salivating over his potential.
Rosevelt Colvin is the latest defensive building block in a long-term construction project that's far from finished.
Rather than sulk about his unceremonious release from the Patriots late last February, pass rush specialist Rosevelt Colvin embraced the opportunity to peddle himself to teams as a free agent, touting his selling points as if he were a real estate agent in a down housing market. "I'd probably compare myself to an older home," says Colvin, 30, a contributor on two Super Bowl winners in his five years in New England. "There are a couple of issues to deal with, but if you can get over those, I can be useful."
Indeed, entering his 10th NFL season, Colvin is a bit of a fixer-upper. He missed the last five weeks of the 2007 regular season and all of the playoffs with a broken right foot and is still bothered by the effects of a right-hip injury that nearly ended his career in '03. If they'd kept him, the Pats would have taken a $7.6 million cap hit.
Despite his disrepair, Colvin, who led New England in sacks in 2005 and '06 and has 52 1/2 for his career, found no shortage of bidders. With a wife and four kids, he would only take offers from teams looking to buy, not rent. "I wasn't at the point where I felt like I wanted to start jumping around, year-to-year, signing one-year contracts," he says. "I was looking for a commitment."
In June the Texans gave him one, trumping an offer from the division-rival Colts and signing him to a three-year deal that averages $2.84 million. Much as the contract is a score for Colvin, it's also a risk for the Texans. First there's his age and injury history; then there's the learning curve he faces moving from purely a stand-up linebacker in New England's 3-4 scheme to more of a down defensive end in Houston's 4-3.
This isn't Colvin's first go-round in a 4-3 -- he earned All-Big Ten honors playing the scheme at Purdue and had 10 1/2-sack seasons with Chicago in 2001 and '02 -- but that was at linebacker. In addition to learning the Texans' terminology and gap responsibilities, he has found adapting to new demands in practice a grind. "Whereas in the last five years I might've been asked to rush four or five yards and settle down, now I need to go six, seven, eight yards, all-out," Colvin says.
At 6' 3" and 250 pounds, Colvin is also a bit undersized to be an edge rusher, but he's confident he can handle his responsibilities. "They're not asking me to play nosetackle," Colvin says. "I have to be able to get it done against the tight end or the tackle at my weight."
If he successfully makes the switch and stays healthy, the savvy Colvin will be a boon to a young Houston defense that hasn't finished above 24th in the NFL in the last three years. "Rosey's got the ability to rush and drop into coverage," says coordinator Richard Smith. "That would be an advantage for us." Outside of third-year end Mario Williams, who rebounded from a plantar fasciitis injury as a rookie to have 14 sacks last year, the team put little pressure on the -- quarterback in '07; Amobi Okoye, a rookie, was the only other Texan with more than three sacks, and his chief job is as a run stuffer.
Even with a stronger pass rush the Texans will have a tough time improving on last year's franchise-best 8-8 finish. Not only do they figure to be overmatched against AFC South foes Tennessee, Jacksonville and Indianapolis -- Houston was 1-5 in the division in '07 -- but they also have a demanding nondivision schedule. What's more, ace cornerback Dunta Robinson isn't expected back from knee and hamstring injuries until midseason (newcomer Jacques Reeves, late of the Cowboys, fills in); feature back Ahman Green, 31, missed 10 games last year with a knee ailment; and the offensive line is porous and was already banged-up in camp.
The Texans' only chance for their first postseason berth depends on a fearsome pass rush. And for that to happen, Colvin has to bring the house.
-- Andrew Lawrence
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