4 Houston Texans

A year after passing on Vince Young and Reggie Bush, these expansionists start fresh with a new QB and No. 1 back
September 02, 2007

WHAT'S NEW?

After five yearsat an aggregate 32 games below .500 and nary a winning season, the Texanssevered ties with face-of-the-franchise quarterback David Carr, who in thespring of 2002 was the first player drafted in the team's history. It was adecision that even Carr agreed with. "It's been a relief to put the wholeexperience behind me," says Carr, who took his staggering 249 career sacksto Carolina as a free agent to work as Jake Delhomme's backup. The savior'srole now falls to Matt Schaub, Michael Vick's erstwhile backup, acquired in aMarch trade with Atlanta. He can be expected to hand off 20 times a game toAhman Green, 30, signed as a free agent after seven seasons with thePackers.

Defensive endMario Williams is no longer the reigning No. 1 overall draft pick--with all thepressure that designation carries--and no longer suffering from the plantarfasciitis in his right foot that nagged him as a rookie. The Texans will keephim lodged at right defensive end rather than move him up and down the line asthey did last year. "There was a lot to learn," says Williams. "I'mlooking forward to staying in one place." Behind him the Texans willsimplify the defense, with a lot of Cover Two nickel, to avoid getting caughtin too many situational substitutions.

WHERE THEY'REHEADED

The Texans claimto be aiming for their first playoff appearance. "It's time we made thenext step," says owner Bob McNair. In reality the next step would be simplycontending for a playoff spot into December, rewarding their fans withmeaningful games in the last quarter of the season.

Schaub'sperformance will go a long way in determining whether that happens. The Texanshave entrusted their future--and $7 million in guaranteed money--to aquarterback who has started two games in his three-year career while waitingfor his chance in Atlanta.

There's plenty ofbuzz about Schaub's potential. "I talked to guys I know in Atlanta,"says wide receiver Keenan McCardell, whom the Texans signed on the eve oftraining camp for his 16th NFL season. "They told me he's a player. He'sgot the arm. He's got the game."

Schaub willbenefit from running a West¬†Coast-style offense that's similar to what helearned in college (Virginia) and with the Falcons. After the trade he moved toHouston with his fiancée and began throwing with Texans veterans like AndreJohnson, who caught 103 passes last year but had grown weary of Carr'sindecisiveness. "Matt gets rid of the ball," says Johnson. "Hetakes his drop and lets it go. Period. You come out of your break, and it'sthere."

Says Schaub,"Look, I'm still young. This is my fourth year, and I've only started twogames. I can learn from guys here. And I'm anxious to step in there andlead." It will help to find a solid second receiver behind Johnson.

The Texans aregambling that Green has some tread left on his tires after nine seasons, 1,871carries and 8,491 yards. He's a tireless worker who practices Pilates and yogato sustain his flexibility and explosiveness. "People who know me--theyknow what I've got left," says Green. Behind him the well-traveled 1999Heisman Trophy winner, Ron Dayne, will try to duplicate his performance of ayear ago, when he rushed for 612 yards in only six starts, arguably the bestseason of his disappointing career.

The defense istalented, though still very young. Williams is expected to improve, and he'llbe joined on the line by precocious 6' 2", 302-pound rookie Amobi Okoye,whose entire career has been conducted on fast-forward. He began playing as ahigh school sophomore (after emigrating from Nigeria to Huntsville, Ala., atage 12), played college football at Louisville at age 16 and was drafted at 19."He's athletic, just like everybody said he was," says Williams."I'm looking forward to playing next to him." Okoye's NFL debut comesone year after middle linebacker and tackling machine DeMeco Ryans was namedthe league's defensive rookie of the year.

The Texans couldhave as many as seven starters on defense who have been in the league threeyears or less. Ryans and cornerback Dunta Robinson are All-Pros-in-waiting.After a horrid start a year ago, in which they gave up nearly 500 yards pergame in the first three weeks of the season, the Texans were a top 10 defensefrom October through December.

Coach Gary Kubiakpromises to eliminate many of the mistakes he made last year, his first as ahead man after 12 years as an offensive assistant. "I spread myself toothin, worrying about every little thing in the organization," he says.Offensive coordinator (and former Packers head coach) Mike Sherman will callthe plays, but they will all run through Kubiak's headset.

In the end Schauband Green are gambles with a big upside. The defense could be very good.December games should matter in Houston.

PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP

WITH 2006STATISTICS

COACH GARY KUBIAK(6-10 in NFL), second season with Texans

OFFENSE

ANDRE JOHNSON

POS WR

REC 103

YARDS 1,147

TD 5

AHMAN GREEN"NEW ACQUISITION"

POS RB

ATT 266

YARDS 1,059

AVG 4.0

REC 46

YARDS 373

AVG 8.1

TD 6

MATT SCHAUB"NEW ACQUISITION"

POS QB

ATT 27

COMP 18

PCT 66.7

YARDS 208

TD 1

INT 2

RATING 71.2

VONTA LEACH

POS FB

ATT 0

YARDS 0

AVG --

REC 6

YARDS 61

AVG 10.2

TD 1

KEVIN WALTER

POS WR

REC 17

YARDS 160

TD 0

ERIC WINSTON

POS RT

HT 6' 5"

WT 307

G 12

FRED WEARY

POS RG

HT 6' 4"

WT 308

G 15

MIKE FLANAGAN

POS C

HT 6' 5"

WT 303

G 9

CHESTER PITTS

POS LG

HT 6' 3"

WT 322

G 16

EPHRAIMSALAAM

POS LT

HT 6' 7"

WT 302

G 15

OWEN DANIELS

POS TE

REC 34

YARDS 352

TD 5

DEFENSE

MORLON GREENWOOD

POS WLB

TACKLES 109

SACKS 1

INT 1

CHARLIEANDERSON

POS SLB

TACKLES 16

SACKS 0

INT 0

JASON SIMMONS

POS SS

TACKLES 47

SACKS 0

INT 1

DEMECO RYANS

POS MLB

TACKLES 155

SACKS 3 1/2

INT 1

C.C.BROWN

POS FS

TACKLES 76

SACKS 1

INT 1

ANTHONYWEAVER

POS LE

TACKLES 35

SACKS 1

ANTHONYMADDOX

POS LT

TACKLES 37

SACKS 2

AMOBI OKOYE (R)"NEW ACQUISITION"

POS RT

TACKLES 55

SACKS 8

MARIOWILLIAMS

POS RE

TACKLES 47

SACKS 4 1/2

DEMARCUSFAGGINS

POS CB

TACKLES 29

SACKS 2

DUNTAROBINSON

POS CB

TACKLES 82

SACKS 2

KRIS BROWN

POS K

FG 19-25

POINTS 83

CHAD STANLEY

POS P

PUNTS 76

AVG 41.6

NEWACQUISITION

(R) Rookie(college statistics)

> 2006 RECORD6-10 NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 21/27/28 DEFENSE 20/22/24

2007 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER

9 KANSAS CITY

16 at Carolina

23 INDIANAPOLIS

30 at Atlanta

OCTOBER

7 MIAMI

14 at Jacksonville

21 TENNESSEE

28 at San Diego

NOVEMBER

4 at Oakland

11 Bye

18 NEW ORLEANS

25 at Cleveland

DECEMBER

2 at Tennessee

9 TAMPA BAY

13 DENVER (T)

23 at Indianapolis

30 JACKSONVILLE

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank T14

Opponents' 2006 winning percentage .504

Games against playoff teams 5

(T) Thursday

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PHOTONICK DOAN/ICON SMI FuelEfficient
Green, a tireless worker, is out to prove there's plenty left in histank.
PHOTOJOHN IACONO ILLUSTRATION

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)