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The New Normal

The Texans start operating like a bona fide NFL team.

The New Normal

Be sure to check out our interactive game card to be update each Monday with results and analysis.

When news got out in late July that the Texans had signed cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Danieal Manning, football fans in the city of Houston got giddy.

For those who have followed this franchise since inception, signing a near elite-level cornerback and a solid veteran safety within a few hours of one another made for a benchmark day.

Arian Foster's hamstring will need to be full strength if the Texans are going to run to daylight.
Aaron M. Sprecher
Arian Foster's hamstring will need to be full strength if the Texans are going to run to daylight.
Mario Williams's becoming more comfortable at linebacker would make everyone happy.
Aaron M. Sprecher
Mario Williams's becoming more comfortable at linebacker would make everyone happy.

The Texans have been so deficient in accomplishing mundane, obvious tasks in free agency and hiring that other NFL teams' normal is the Texans' extraordinary. Recruiting and signing big-name free agents to fill needs, drafting players who are known quantities that also fill specific needs, hiring coaches outside of the head coach's circle of drinking buddies — these are things that real NFL teams do.

In 2011, the Texans finally appear to be acting like a real NFL team.

If the Texans make a move from mediocre also-ran to playoff team this season, it will be the hiring of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and the infusion of his ideas and his personnel expertise that will be the game changer, to the point where it should piss off most Texan fans that this didn't happen a lot sooner.

What, you mean hiring an experienced, respected defensive coordinator to steer that side of the ball is a better idea than promoting one of your inexperienced buddies from within? No way!

Former defensive coordinator Frank Bush was awful in every way, and his ineptitude only served to make Kubiak look like an idiot for hiring him and an even bigger idiot for sticking up for him. At one point during the 2010 season, after another opposing offense hung 30 points on the Texans, Kubiak made the mistake at his Monday press conference of saying he "believed in Frank Bush," which was laughable because at that point not even Frank Bush could possibly believe in Frank Bush.

(This statement, by the way, spawned one of the greatest Twitter hashtags in the history of social media — #Kubiakbelievesinyou. Among the items tweeters had Kubiak believing in were New Orleans's levees, Charles Barkley's golf swing, jorts and Jar Jar Binks.)

You get the point — Frank Bush sucked.

They say that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and while I'm far from the only one who overthrew the target on expectations for 2010, I am willing to admit that the reasons the Texans didn't get to the playoffs were actually sitting right there in front of us during training camp last season.

Inexperience in the secondary, Brian Cushing's four-game suspension to start the season, the subsequent shell of Brian Cushing that played in his place the remaining 12 games, inconsistency on offense, and pedestrian return units on special teams. None of these concerns were unknown when 2010 started.

So at the very least, if my playoff prediction gets derailed this season, let it be known that (short of an injury to Matt Schaub) it will probably be because of one of the following:

1. Arian Foster's hamstring. Because this article is going in the print edition of the Houston Press, I have to submit it to editors a good week before it hits newsstands. Seriously, how in the hell do I account for Foster's hamstring for the next week (and beyond) when making a prediction? The team says he will be fine, but we're talking about a muscle that through a month of training camp has been about as predictable as a coked-up Charlie Sheen. By the time this hits newsstands, Foster's hamstring could be back to full strength. Or it could still be nagging him. Or it may have moved in with two porn star hamstrings and announced that it's going on tour to do hamstring stand-up comedy. There's no way to know.

(NOTE: To my unpredictability point above, in the time between submitting the article for print and your reading this, Foster actually tweeted out a picture of his strained hamstring to his 70,000 Twitter followers. So the Sheen analogy strengthens. I can't wait until Foster's hamstring has its own Twitter account, gets 2,000,000 followers in the first week and starts tweeting out pictures of Bree Olson's hamstring.)

2. Depth on the offensive line. Throughout training camp, the first unit of the offensive line has looked fantastic. Duane Brown, Eric Winston, Wade Smith, Mike Brisiel and Chris Myers are as solid a five-man unit as you'll find, especially in the scheme Kubiak likes to run. The problem is that after those five, they're dropping like flies. The second and third units have been hit hard with injuries. Add to that the general talent drop-off between the first and second units, and you realize how precarious things are in the trenches.

3. Defensive comfort level. Yes, the Texans appear to have solved some of the secondary issues (or at the very least, they've thrown a lot of money at the problem). They also appear to have a much better idea of what to look for in the draft to fit the system going forward. In short, the newcomers on defense are fine. The problems are with the holdovers. Each of these guys has been to at least one Pro Bowl fairly recently, and each of them comes with concerns:

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6 comments
HECTEC
HECTEC

I dont think this article was long enough. On a sidenote, David Carr's wife attends Texans preseason games? with Dan Pastorini?

todd DeMoss
todd DeMoss

as the Lord can attest, from what I witnessed last night, Olsen's hamstring was the least of her worries in terms of what may torn, indeed.

The OSD
The OSD

Is it just me, or does the picture of Mario look like he is a 12 year old girl who just won tickets to a Justin Bieber concert? Great read Sean. Nice pull with the Superman II diner scene.

PeterJakes
PeterJakes

In all fairness, Bree Olson has a very nice hamstring.

Jared
Jared

The annual preseason hype around the Texans might be getting old for some, but I say this: at least there IS legitimate reason to be hyped again, and coming off a 6-10 disaster, that wouldn't normally be easy to say. And unlike last year's "blind faith" experiment, the hype is MUCH more deserved this time around. It's just a matter of taking the sense of urgency that was blatantly obvious this offseason and translating it to the field. This team has 11-12 win talent, but still has a lot to prove.

Of all the must-wins I see them needing the mulligan on, I think @JAX is the one. In fact, I'd switch the Tennessee road game with the Jacksonville road game on the list of coin-flippers. The Titans are better (way better), but EverBank is a haunted house from the deepest bowels of hell from which the Texans never seem to get out alive. And Jake Locker isn't as good as Blaine Gabbert.

I think they win 3 of the coin-flippers, and I do think they'll get a steal or two. Not necessarily because I think they're better than those teams, but even last year, when they lost all 3 steal games, they could have easily won two of them were it not for the horrendous pass defense, which is largely fixed. 11-5 is my overall prediction (with a few bottles of Jack stashed in a special palce just in case).

Early Cuyler
Early Cuyler

If Foster stays healthy, and Kubiak actually uses him for a whole game, I think this may be the year we finally make it to the playoffs. I think everyone knows Kubiak did a horrible job of game management last year. That being said, I have to think there is some kind of personal issue going on between he and Foster. Like the way Tate looked in preseason as a second option.

By the way, did anyone notice if Dan Pastorini is still sitting next to David Carr's wife during every preseason game? I probably would have played poorly here like Carr if I saw that notorious p-hound sitting next to my wife every time I took to the field.

 
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