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Problems drafting behind Houston

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Houston Texans Play for now, or rebuild? All news about the Texans seems to revolve around what they will do with the first pick in the draft. With the endless Bush/Young debate, it is time to take a look at ...

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Old 02-28-2006, 07:14 AM   #1
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Problems drafting behind Houston

Houston Texans
Play for now, or rebuild?
All news about the Texans seems to revolve around what they will do with the first pick in the draft. With the endless Bush/Young debate, it is time to take a look at why the Texans are in the position they are in and how soon they will be able to become a respectable franchise.

The Texans held long-shot playoff hopes before the start of the season only to end up where they were four seasons ago, picking first in the NFL draft. They lost six games by a touchdown or less en route to a 2-14 record, even worse than their inaugural season.

The close losses give some reason for optimism, but DVOA shows them as a team that was, in fact, really bad (DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, is fully explained here.) They ranked 31st in the league in overall DVOA. Their supposedly dynamic young offense ranked 28th, and that was the bright spot, as the rebuilt defense finished dead last.

The Texans have hired long-time Denver offensive coordinator (and namesake of Football Outsiders' player projection model) Gary Kubiak as head coach. The initial question Kubiak faces is whether to try and build on what was left or to start all over. The decision appears to have been made to try and be competitive as soon as possible.

They faced an immediate evaluation of quarterback David Carr, who was due an $8 million bonus. Carr was coming off his worst season since his rookie campaign, but they decided to make the investment anyway. Choosing to stick with Carr rather than draft Leinart or Young is a clear signal that the team is thinking of competing in the near future.

The decision to keep Carr is debatable. Anyone who has seen the Texans will freely admit that Carr is not the problem. If a team is paying a player $8 million in bonuses and nearly $25 million over the next three years, however, he needs to be part of the solution. Carr has yet to post an above-average DVOA in any season as quarterback. He will be 27 years old when next season begins, so he is no longer a "young quarterback." Kubiak may hope that Carr is similar to Jake Plummer and only needs a new system. Houston fans better hope he is right.

3-4 to 4-3

All this focus on the offense obscures the Texans' greatest weakness, their defense. Exacerbating matters is the fact that the team is shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and lacks the players to make the transformation. Dom Capers, as 3-4 guru and inaugural Texans head coach, brought every single defensive player to the team with the intention of playing in the 3-4.

That player selection presents numerous challenges to new defensive coordinator Richard Smith. Smith inherits a defense that has no sure middle linebacker or pass-rushing defensive ends.

The Texans will have Seth Payne, Robaire Smith, Gary Walker, and Travis Johnson to man the defensive tackle positions. At defensive end, all that is on the roster are outside linebackers Jason Babin or Antwan Peek. Their linebackers have nearly all spent their entire careers in the 3-4 or as outside linebackers. The one exception is Kailee Wong, who played some middle linebacker for the Vikings. Relying on him — 30 years old and coming off an injury — is questionable. Needless to say, Smith will be longing early in the season for the days when he was coaching Zach Thomas.

Free agent shopping

Of course, the needs do not end on defense. As everybody knows, the Texans have yet to field a competent offensive line in their four years of existence. The investment in Carr makes it imperative that they finally put a line together to block for him. Again, as on defense, no quality internal candidate exists.

The Texans would be smart to find a receiver to team with Andre Johnson. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

The final hole is at receiver, where everyone except for Andre Johnson and return specialist Jerome Mathis is a free agent. Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford are both unrestricted free agents. According to Football Outsiders' metrics, the two combined for 5.4 points above replacement level on 156 passes directed their way, or 0.1 more points than restricted free agent Derick Armstrong supplied in 12 passes. Armstrong continues to shine in our metrics, though the sample size is small. He so rarely sees the field even behind the non-entities that are Gaffney and Bradford that you have to wonder what is wrong with him. He would seem a natural fit to bring back as a third receiver.

So the Texans need help at defensive end, middle linebacker, offensive line, and wide receiver. Assuming that the Texans have committed to Carr and are leaning toward drafting Reggie Bush, the Texans have a ridiculous number of holes that need to be filled through free agency.

The good news is that they are already under the cap, and after they mercifully cut safety Marcus Coleman and cornerback Phillip Buchanon, the amount of money they have to spend should increase. They still will have too many needs to go after high-end players at all of these positions.

The first thing they should do is simply re-sign Gaffney. The free agent wide receiver market is thin. Antwaan Randle-El and David Givens would both be solid additions, but due to scarcity in the market, they will probably be overpriced. The Texans also should make due with Wong or one of their other half dozen linebackers in the middle.

The primary areas where they should strike in free agency are at defensive end and the offensive line. The solution to both of these problems may come from the New Orleans Saints. The Saints appear to have chosen the rebuilding path and have let Darren Howard and LeCharles Bentley hit the market. Bentley is one of the best centers in football, and signing him and shifting Steve McKinney to guard will upgrade two spots on the line.

Howard had a disappointing season, but the truth is that not many quality defensive ends are available. Certainly paying big money to Howard would be a mistake, but if his poor season makes the price right, the Texans should gamble.

So the Texans need help at defensive end, middle linebacker, offensive line, and wide receiver.
Keep your fingers crossed they may beat us to the punch in each round of the draft.
Lets hope DE / WR is higher on the texans draft list in round 2 than MLB.


"We may have lost the game, but you'll be hurting tomorrow." Doug Atkins
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