4 Houston Texans

While Mario Williams is a quick fix on D, there's a lot of work involved (new system, new players) with repairing the offense
September 03, 2006

THE BELIEF
As the franchise's first great pass rusher since its inception in 2002, endMario Williams will invigorate a woeful defense and prove the Texans made theright call in selecting him No. 1 in the draft instead of Reggie Bush or VinceYoung. Quarterback David Carr will make big strides thanks to the arrival offour-time Pro Bowl receiver Eric Moulds, the first quality No. 2 receiver theteam has had, and assistant head coach Mike Sherman, who will find ways to makea beleaguered offensive line more effective.

THE REALITY
When longtime Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was named Houston coachlast January, he joked that he would continue to use the Broncos' playbook andsimply change the cover to a darker blue. But no one's laughing at his decisionto implement Denver's West Coast system and its trademark zone blocking, whichhelped turn several running backs who were middle-round draft picks into1,000-yard rushers.

The mainbeneficiary will be Domanick Davis, who since he was drafted No. 101 out of LSUin 2003 has rushed for 3,195 yards-more than every back selected ahead of him.The 5'9", 216-pound Davis, who missed three weeks of training camp becauseof a swollen left knee and may sit out the season opener, is a good fit forKubiak's system, which requires rushers to make one cut and hit the hole.

Because they hadfaith in Davis-and in Carr-the Texans figured they would help themselves mostby taking Williams first in the draft. He will have an immediate impact on adefense that allowed an NFL-worst average of 26.9 points per game and rankedlast in the conference with 4.6 yards per rush in 2005. The 6'7", 291-poundN.C. State All-America has 4.66 speed and will join fellow end Anthony Weaver,a free-agent signee who left the Ravens after four seasons, to anchor a new 4-3defense. Another promising addition is linebacker DeMeco Ryans, thesecond-round pick from Alabama.

In an attempt tofix its lousy pass protection, which gave up a league-high 68 sacks lastseason, Houston signed former Packers center Mike Flanagan and shuffled some ofthe returning linemen. Only right tackle Zach Wiegert will be at the sameposition as last season. There's stability at quarterback because the Texansexercised a three-year, $8 million option on Carr, who will be throwing out ofmore multiple-receiver sets in Kubiak's offense. The arrival of Moulds, whocaught 81 passes for Buffalo last season, will take some of the heat off No. 1wideout Andre Johnson. New tight end Jeb Putzier, a free-agent pickup from theBroncos, is another reliable target. Carr has to cut his fumbles-an NFL-high 17in '05-way back, but he has been urged to scramble more. He rushed for 308yards last year, more than any other quarterback not named Michael Vick. SaysCarr, with a smile, "The best-kept secret in the NFL."

Maybe so, butit's no secret that this team is still a long way from playoff contention.Owner Bob McNair, on the other hand, considers 2-14 an anomaly, citing theprogress the Texans made in their first three seasons-winning four, five andthen seven games-before last year's collapse. "I don't see anybody on theschedule that frightens me," McNair says. "We view this as a year thatwe're going to be competitive."

2006 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER

10PHILADELPHIA

17 atIndianapolis

24 WASHINGTON

OCTOBER

1 MIAMI

8 Bye

15 at Dallas

22JACKSONVILLE

29 atTennessee

NOVEMBER

5 at N.Y.Giants

12 atJacksonville

19 BUFFALO

26 at N.Y.Jets

DECEMBER

3 at Oakland

10 TENNESSEE

17 at NewEngland

24INDIANAPOLIS

31 CLEVELAND

SCHEDULESTRENGTH
NFL rank T8
Opponents' 2005 winning percentage .523
Games against playoff teams 7

ENEMY LINES
AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT SIZES UP THE TEXANS

> David Carrdeserves more credit than he gets. He has a good arm, he's smart and he hasmobility. He just hasn't had an offensive line that could protect him.

> Hiring MikeSherman as an assistant head coach was smart. He understands offensive-lineplay and how to call a game.

> DomanickDavis is good for that system. He's a one-cut guy who just puts his foot on theground and goes. It says a lot about him that they didn't draft ReggieBush.

> They filledmany of their needs with quality players and will be a better team this year,but they don't have much depth.

> RookieCharles Spencer is a big, explosive lineman who can play tackle or guard. He'sgoing to knock people around.

Mario Williamswon't sell tickets, but he'll have an immediate impact on their defense.

BREAKOUTPLAYER
Dunta Robinson
CORNERBACK

He's only5'10" and 174 pounds, but Robinson packs a wallop when he closes in on theman with the ball. The No. 10 pick out of South Carolina in 2004, Robinson wasrunner-up for NFL defensive rookie of the year behind Jonathan Vilma of theJets, then became one of the leaders of the Houston defense the following yearwhen he made 93 tackles. Instinctive and quick, Robinson contains top wideoutsand plays the run equally well. He should get more picks because of the Texans'improved pass rush. Pro Bowls are in his future.

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PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP

WITH 2005STATISTICS

COACH GARY KUBIAK(0-0 in NFL), first season with Houston

OFFENSE

ANDRE JOHNSON
POS WR
REC 63
YARDS 688
TD 2

DOMANICK DAVIS
POS RB
RUSH 230
YARDS 976
TD 6

DAVID CARR
POS QB
ATT 423
COMP 256
PCT 60.5
YARDS 2,488
TD 14 
INT 11
RATING 77.2

JAMEEL COOK (NewAcquisition)
POS FB
REC 7
YARDS 43
TD 1

ERIC MOULDS (NewAcquisition)
POS WR 
REC 81
YARDS 816
TD 4

KRIS BROWN
POS K
FG 26-34
POINTS 102

MARK BRUENER
POS TE
REC 2
YARDS 22
TD 0

SETH WAND
POS LT
HT 6'7"
WT 327
G 13

CHESTER PITTS
POS LG
HT 6'3" 
WT 320
G 16

MIKE FLANAGAN(New Acquisition)
POS C
HT 6'5"
WT 301
G 14

STEVE MCKINNEY
POS RG
HT 6'4"
WT 302
G 16

ZACH WIEGERT
POS RT
HT 6'5" 
WT 309
G 12

DEFENSE

MORLONGREENWOOD
POS WLB
TACKLES 112
SACKS 2
INT 0

ANTHONY WEAVER(New Acquisition)
POS LE
TACKLES 28
SACKS 2

TRAVIS JOHNSON
POS LT
TACKLES 26
SACKS 1

ROBAIRE SMITH
POS RT
TACKLES 68
SACKS 1 1/2

MARIO WILLIAMS(R) (New Acquisition)
POS RE
TACKLES 62
SACKS 14 1/2

SHANTEE ORR
POS SLB
TACKLES 50
SACKS 7
INT 0

CHAD STANLEY
POS P
PUNTS 77
AVG 38.8

LEWIS SANDERS
POS CB
TACKLES 30
INT 1

GLENN EARL
POS SS
TACKLES 35
SACKS 0
INT 2

DEMECO RYANS (R)(New Acquisition)
POS MLB
TACKLES 75
SACKS 5
INT 1

C.C. BROWN
POS FS
TACKLES 79
SACKS 0
INT 1

DUNTA ROBINSON
POS CB
TACKLES 88
INT 1

(R) Rookie(college statistics)

2005 RECORD2-14
NFL RANK (RUSH/PASS/TOTAL) OFFENSE 15/30/30 DEFENSE 32/24/31

PHOTOBOB ROSATOWILLIAMS PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO READYTO ROLL The talented but injury-prone Davis should flourish in Kubiak'sone-cut, zone-blocking system. PHOTOAARON M. SPRECHER/ICON SMI TWO PHOTOS PHOTOHELMET PHOTO BY DAVID N. BIRKWITZ

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)