If you ask Jeff Van Gundy about the Houston Texans he will tell you three things: he has season tickets, they will win the Super Bowl, and that Matt Schaub is the greatest quarterback in the NFL and if you disagree... he will latch onto you like he's, well, himself, and you're Alonzo Mourning's leg. He may not be entirely accurate, but one thing is for sure, he has picked a decent squad to follow. The Texans are fun to watch and they light up the scoreboards weekly, but will they win the Super Bowl? or even the AFC South? Ahead I will address the Houston Texans key fantasy targets, as well as analyze their schedule and coaching strategies for the upcoming NFL season.
Houston Texans 2010 Fantasy Football Draft Targets
Matt Schaub: Once Matt Schaub was able to step out of the shadows of Michael Vick in Atlanta and into the cleats of a starting NFL quarterback he’s done nothing but improve. When you consider, on paper at least, that he works with a one to two weapon offense he has far exceeded expectations coming off of a massive 4,770 yd/ 29 TD season. When you crunch the numbers it’s easy to see why people expect such big things from him in 2010, and they should. I don’t think we’re going to see the marked improvement that he has shown over his three year tenure, simply because it was so dramatic, but he will be a more polished quarterback this year and his efficiency will improve even if his yard totals and touchdowns do not follow suit. Don't get me wrong, he will win you games, but won’t do it every week. Schaub will go to the air often and no matter who is on the field he’ll produce another 4,500 yd/ 25 TD season. The only concern with Schaub is that when his attempt numbers increase his interceptions rise accordingly, so if you are in a big penalty league this should be a concern, albeit a minor one.
Over the past few seasons the Houston Texans have been using Steve Slaton as their primary runner, but have had mixed results at best (Last season, regardless of injuries, was not in the top-40 in rushing yards) and as a team were ranked 30th in the league in total rushing offense with only 92.2 yds/g. In other words, you are not going to find your fantasy stud running back on the Texans, but they could be solid back-ups in deep leagues because they tend to catch a lot of balls out of the backfield.
With Slaton slowly recovering from a neck surgery and speedy rookie Ben Tate still gaining experience and learning the system, it looks like the role of primary RB in the Texans backfield has been granted to this man...
Arian Foster: Doesn't have a tremendous amount of experience playing with the big boys, only 54 carries for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns in his rookie campaign, but what he does bring to the table is a lot of raw talent to a backfield that has been lacking a prototypical running back. He is a 229 pound beast of a back and is equally skilled with his hands out of the backfield as he is a north-south runner and when he was finally given his chance to start in the final two games of 2009 he proved he has the goods when he rushed for 216 yards on 39 carries. Although that is a small sample size it goes to show that the kid is of a high pedigree and seized his opportunity to shine. Foster will get his fair share of touches, but what holds him back from being a big time fantasy starter is that the Texans backfield is very young and has become much deeper, which tends to cause coaches to adopt a running back by committee style offense. Gary Kubiak and co. could be leaning that way with the addition of Ben Tate in the draft, but it does not seem likely. While Tate will provide some much needed competition during the preseason I still believe that Foster will come out on top and could hit the 1,000 yard, double-digit touchdown mark if given the opportunity.
Andre Johnson: Arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, calm yourself Larry Fitzgerald fans, I said arguably. Speed, size, agility, the guy is the total package and it is on display week-in and week-out. Johnson is the key to the Texan offense with his ability to stretch the opposition, which creates massive openings for guys like Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, and David Anderson. Andre Johnson will be one of the first three wide outs taken in just about every draft and is a top starter if you're fortunate enough to get him. The last two seasons he has caught at least 8 touchdowns, made 100 receptions, and exceeded 1,569 receiving yards with no signs of slowing. No matter what league you're in, all of the above are going to help you win games. As long as he can stay healthy and Matt Schaub is under center, this tandem will continue to make big things happen in 2010 with 1,500-1,650 yds and 9 touchdowns.
Owen Daniels: The big question for the Texans is if Own Daniels will come back healthy and remain that way. Last year Daniels was well on his way to a 1,000 yard season before blowing out his ACL for the third time. A healthy Daniels provides a deep threat from the slot and is one of the best tight ends in the league down the field. Although the offense didn't struggle without him last year, he adds another wrinkle and a different dynamic to their attack with his size and speed. On most passing downs Daniels is the second option so it is important for them to get him involved in the offense early and establish him as a threat. Regardless of the touches the wide receivers get, Daniels will still put in a solid 900-1,100 yard season and be a constant threat in the red zone with 6-9 touchdowns.
The Houston Texans defense made headlines this offseason for all the wrong reasons when their leading tackler, and AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, Brian Cushing violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and will be forced to miss the first four games of the season. This is a major blow for the Texans who already struggle with consistency on the defensive end and were forced to bring in a new tier of players with the loss Dunta Robinson. This puts a lot of pressure on the youthful Texans secondary where their first round draft pick Kareem Jackson is competing for a starting spot with other young CBs Brice McCain and Glover Quin. They are not major fantasy contributors as a whole with only 14 INTs, 30 sacks and 3 TDs, but they do have some solid individual performers in Mario Williams (9.0 Sacks) and Safety Bernard Pollard (4 INTs/102 tackles in 13 games). There is definitely a lot of room for improvement with such a young team, but the question remains: who will step up and fill the void left by Brian Cushing? Only time will tell on that one, but for now they will make due with who they've got: Xavier Adibi, Kevin Bentley, Darnell Bing and rookie Darryl Sharpton.
Wk Date Opponent
1 Sun, Sept 12th Indianapolis Colts
2 Sun, Sept 19th @ Washington Redskins
3 Sun, Sept 26th Dallas Cowboys
4 Sun, Oct 3rd @ Oakland Raiders
5 Sun, Oct 10th New York Giants
6 Sun, Oct 17th Kansas City Chiefs
7 BYE WEEK
8 Mon, Nov 1st @ Indianapolis Colts
9 Sun, Nov 7th San Diego Chargers
10 Sun, Nov 14th @ Jacksonville Jaguars
11 Sun, Nov 21st @ New York Jets
12 Sun, Nov 28th Tennessee Titans
13 Thurs, Dec 2nd @ Philadelphia Eagles
14 Mon, Dec 13th Baltimore Ravens
15 Sun, Dec 19th @ Tennessee Titans
16 Sun, Dec 26th @ Denver Broncos
17 Sun, Jan 2nd Jacksonville Jaguars
This season will definitely be a good indicator if they should be taken seriously as an up and coming Super Bowl contender, and what better way to prove it than open up the season at home against the defending AFC champs, right? It would be a major surprise if the Texans can manage to take the division from the Colts, but stranger things have certainly happened. I believe the Texans best hopes lie in pursuit of the Wild Card, but that is no easy task with the competition they face outside their division. The good news is that they get to play the schizophrenic Jaguars twice and the Chiefs going into their Bye, which could either boost their confidence or break them entirely with the daunting second half looming ahead. I see key wins being Week 13 at the Eagles and sweeping their final two away games at Tennessee and Denver in to finish the year strong and put them in the playoff contention.
Offensively there isn't a tremendous amount that the Houston Texans need to do differently, but there is definitely room for improvement in their current system. Everyone knows the Texans are more than capable through the air, but when they play teams with strong secondaries, like the Jets, they are going to need to find a way to produce on the ground. A lot of people thought they would take an offensive tackle early in the draft, but they waited til the later rounds, and seem confident in their current personnel to get the job done this year and open holes for Foster, Tate and Slaton to attack. If they can strike some sort of balance, even a 60-40 pass-to-run ratio as opposed to 70-30, that may be enough to force teams to play honest up front, open more seams for their wide outs, and keep Schaub off his back.
The key to the Texans' success on the defensive side of the ball is going to lie in their linebacking unit. Without Cushing for the first four games of the season the Texans are going to have to put a lot of weight upon the veteran DeMeco Ryans and a few sets of inexperienced shoulders and hope that they can bear the weight. Everywhere else on the field the Texans have a strong balance between veteran players and younger talent. This could be the year that the Texans start to break out, but to do so they need to keep up with their rivals and stop floundering in the middle tier of team defenses. There are a lot of great individual playmakers but they need to find a defensive identity where individual talent translates into team success. They do not dominate in any singular defensive category, but what they need to accomplish every week with such a difficult schedule is to take their chances when the openings come and make sure they are within striking distance coming into the final two minutes because with their high-powered offense anything is possible.