Fantasy Ranch | HoustonProFootball.com
July 14, 2006
Getting Fresh With Kubiak
by Keith Weiland
Note: Keith Weiland covers the Texans as a correspondent for ESPN.com’s Fantasy Football. Below is his latest contribution.
Much has changed with the Houston Texans since the end of last season. Considering that the team finished with a league-worst 2-14 record, change is, as the saying goes, a good thing. Out is nearly the entire coaching staff and front office, and in are a whole bunch of former Broncos, namely new head coach Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith.
What Will the Hiring of Kubiak Mean to Fantasy Owners?
Kubiak had been the longtime offensive coordinator with the Broncos, which followed his longtime playing career as a backup to Broncos quarterback John Elway. While the story goes that Kubiak was merely running head coach Mike Shanahan’s show in Denver, Kubiak at least should have learned by osmosis after all those years of how to replicate to some degree the offensive success enjoyed by Shanahan’s teams over the past decade or so.
The most famous (or infamous, as it might be to the Broncos’ AFC West opponents) element of that success has been the Denver running game. It seems regardless of whomever is carrying the ball in Denver, that player accumulates yards and touchdowns among the best rushers in the league. And the rest of the league still has not figured out a way to slow down the Bronco running game. As a team in 2005, the Broncos had the second best rushing offense in the league.
Hooray for Domanick then, right?
So, yes, the Texans have a decent running back in DOMANICK DAVIS, but there are two problems all fantasy owners must know before pushing him too far up on their draft lists. First is that Davis hasn’t fully recovered from his January knee surgery. He missed most of mini-camp, and while the Texans are not saying they are too concerned about whether he makes a full recovery, the team has been linked to several trade rumors for other potential starters, namely Michael Bennett (reportedly to be traded to the Rams) and Chris Brown (Titans).
Second, no one knows just how quickly Kubiak and his assistant head coach, Mike Sherman, will be able to reinvent the historically woeful offensive line in Houston. They will tell you it is all about the system – specifically the Bronco-styled zone blocking scheme being installed – and not the players. Well, it better not be the players, because aside from new center MIKE FLANAGAN (Packers), the other four lineman will be familiar faces to Texans fans.
If you are gutsy enough to draft Davis early, make sure you handcuff him to a Texans backup. Entering camp, the top reserve appears to be ANTOWAIN SMITH, but that could change. VERNAND MORENCY is still a Texan, and depsite a foot injury, he could factor in the equation as well. In the 2005 finale, Morency replaced an injured Davis and accumulated 129 yards of offense and a touchdown against the 49ers.
And the receivers?
Gone are Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford, options 2 and 2A for the Texans’ passing offense the past couple seasons. New to the team is former Bills Pro Bowler ERIC MOULDS. Finally, ANDRE JOHNSON will have a legitimate threat on the opposite side from him.
But will Moulds get many targets? And if he does, will they take away from what we should expect from Johnson? Those questions will be difficult to answer until we get deeper into training camp, but the guess here is that the respect Moulds will deserve from opponents will loosen the defense, freeing Johnson from the ample double coverages he saw all last year. And expected to be gone (or at least severely reduced) from the offense of a year ago are those annoying little dump-offs to Johnson. Expect a nice bounce-back year from the Texans’ top wideout.
As for Moulds, his statistics will largely depend upon the development of quarterback DAVID CARR in the scheme Kubiak is teaching him. Remember though that the Broncos did produce two 1,000-yard receivers just two seasons ago, but also know that Kubiak is still more likely to run first.
The rest of the receivers are a mixed bag. All Pro kick returner JEROME MATHIS is hurt, and while he will return midseason, it is probably best to keep him off your draft lists for one more year. That leaves DERICK ARMSTRONG and KEVIN WALTER, both possession types that are not likely to rack up big yards or score many touchdowns.
Can Kubiak Fix Carr?
All of the Texans stunk last year, Carr included. While much of the blame belongs to the former coaching staff and their mediocre gameplanning, Carr has also developed some bad habits as well. Some of those habits are likely the result of the pummeling he has endured the last four seasons, but they are things Kubiak is addressing with Carr already.
So there is some hope for a significant improvement from the former top pick. Kubiak has already proven to have had a positive effect on helping Jake Plummer settle down in the Denver system. Last year, Plummer improved his TD:INT ratio to 18:7, and this is from a guy who, prior to 2005, had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in his career.
And, at least stats-wise, Carr is a more productive rusher than Plummer, too. Under the tutelage of Kubiak, Plummer didn’t stop rushing from his free-wheeling days with the Cardinals, gaining an average of almost 200 yards and two touchdowns per season over his three years thus far in Denver. Carr has rushed for roughly 300 yards a year his young career, and with the way Kubiak likes to have his quarterbacks rolling out of the pocket, expect Carr to keep running.
Will a Texans Tight End Catch a Pass This Season?
So the Texans might actually make some use out of their tight ends in 2006. What a novel idea. Last year, the Texans tight ends combined for 28 receptions, 216 yards, and zero touchdowns. Oof. Enter JEB PUTZIER, who should eclipse those numbers by midseason.
The Texans might decide to involve MARK BRUENER a little more in the offense this year, especially inside the redzone, but keep an eye on the progress of BENNIE JOPPRU and fourth round pick OWEN DANIELS. Joppru, a second round pick in 2003, is hoping the fourth time will be a charm, as he has suffered a series of injuries over the last three seasons that have kept him from even playing in the preseason. Coming from Michigan, Joppru had some ability both as a blocker and as a receiver, so keep him in mind if he makes it unscathed through training camp to Week 1. Daniels, once a quarterback, has potential and could be a name to remember down the line.
Kicker and Defense
KRIS BROWN missed some lowlight reel kicks down the stretch last season, but he still has a fairly reliable foot that can boot a 50-yarder. His fantasy success, however, depends largely upon how quickly the Texans offense develops. Given that the team opens with a brutal schedule against the likes of the Eagles, Dolphins, and Cowboys, stay away from him as your primary placekicker, at least until the offense shows signs of life.
On defense, the Texans are in the process of switching to a 4-3 front. First overall pick MARIO WILLIAMS at defensive end is the key to the change, and how much of an impact he has early into his pro career will dictate just how quickly the Texans defense will be worth having on a fantasy roster. Until further notice, consider this squad in the bottom quartile of your defensive unit rankings.
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