Halfway House

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November 5, 2002
Halfway House

by Bob Hulsey

Take a deep breath. The first season of the new Houston Texans has reached the halfway point and it has turned out to be just about where most predicted it would – and yet the journey has been a bit different than what we expected. What have we learned?

That Charley Casserly is a draft genius …At least when you give him two years to prepare. Six offensive draft choices are starting and all are performing to at least where they could have been projected given where they were selected in the draft. Can anyone point to David Carr, Jabar Gaffney, Chester Pitts, Fred Weary, Jonathan Wells or Jarrod Baxter and consider them busts? Casserly had some critics on Draft Day (myself, among them) for some of his choices, but one can’t argue with the results.

I was particularly disturbed at the choices of Pitts and Weary when the offensive line was considered our strongest position leading into the draft. How wrong I was. Tony Boselli has given us nothing so far and Ryan Young missed the first month of the season. Without Pitts and Weary, the Texans may have needed a body bag for David Carr. Sure, they’ve made rookie mistakes and been beaten at times, but the one great thing about rookies is that there’s room for improvement. I can’t wait to see what these guys will be doing in three or four years.

That Charley Casserly isn’t a genius with free agents James Allen has been adequate, at best. Kailee Wong has been underwhelming, save for one minute in Jacksonville. Keith Mitchell hasn’t lived up to expectations. Kris Brown has been good but he’s also missed some attempts he should have made. Steve McKinney has been a good choice, assuming Carr is to blame for those fumbled snaps. Corey Bradford is hard to judge since he’s made some huge plays but has also had the dropsies at times. Free agency is the only place where the Texans started out on an even playing field with the rest of the league. In fact, they had an advantage with no dead money tied up on past years. I really expected them to do better.

That starting David Carr from the very beginning was the right thing to do Really, the disappointing performance of Kent Graham made it a no-brainer but Carr has already established himself as an NFL quarterback who can lead an offense when folks like myself would have kept him chained to a clipboard and eased him into the league. He’s taken his lumps but has gained the respect of everyone around him. Of course, it’s a little easier to look like a leader when half the guys in the huddle have less NFL snaps than Carr does. I’m impressed with his reads as much as his arm. This is a guy who already looks like a three-year vet. And he’ll only get better. How many of you even remember who his backups are? Would anyone still rather have Jeff Blake, Gus Frerotte, Chad Hutchinson or Joey Harrington under center instead of David Carr? I thought not.

That Dom Capers was a great choice for head coach What a tough job it must be to start a team from scratch and be such a perfectionist. He hates penalties. He hates mental mistakes. But he manages to keep an even temper when his team has their sloppy moments, as expansion teams will no doubt have. I’m sure he got that from leading the Panthers a few years back.

But before we hand him a lifetime contract, remember that some coaches are good at getting teams competitive and others have the skill at turning them into champions. We’ve yet to see how he handles long-term situations. There are a few head coaches out there I’d rather have than Capers, but not many.

That James Allen and Jonathan Wells will both see time at HB Neither one is a "complete back" yet both have talents the Texans can use. Allen seems to do better when the team needs a back that can run outside and in space. Wells excels in the inside running department and seems more decisive in turning upfield. Against some defenses, Allen does better. On other Sundays, it’s Wells who is better. Barring injury, I expect to see the tag-team continue for the rest of the season.

That Gary Walker is our MVP on defense He is collapsing pockets and putting pressure on the passer – something that we haven’t seen Wong or Mitchell do with regularity. Jamie Sharper and Aaron Glenn are both great defenders but Walker is the man that is making this defense look so good. When opponents neutralize Walker, the Texans aren’t nearly as good.

That Jermaine Lewis should have been traded after being drafted in February I can hear it now. "There you go again, Bob…" Well, let’s look at the results. Lewis has been all but erased from the offense. The few passes that have gone his way have either been dropped or batted down. On passing downs, Chris Palmer is opting to use Billy Miller instead of a three-wide formation. And where did that idea go about Lewis running reverses?

While his kick returns have generally been solid, he’s yet to make a big play and his fumble in Cleveland put his team in an early hole. The biggest return play so far featured Jabar Gaffney and Aaron Glenn, not Jermaine Lewis. Does that tell you anything?

We could have had similar results with Charlie Rodgers, Avion Black or Gaffney returning kicks and unloaded Lewis’ salary for a draft pick or two. It’s still not too late. But if the second half of Jermaine’s season looks the same as the first half, his value around the league will have sunk considerably.

That this team isn’t good enough to look past anyone Those of you who got overconfident about playing the Bengals have figured this out. The Texans need to play a game with few mistakes and few penalties to beat any NFL team, no matter how downtrodden. The team lacks depth and must upgrade at some positions before they can win without playing their best.

That rooting for a first-year expansion team is fun Man, has there been a better feeling that whooping the hated Cowboys to start your history? Nothing was going to top that, so all the pressure is off. When they have a bad game, I’m not too upset. When they lose, it was expected. There’s no way I’d be happy about the Oilers going 2-6, even in those one-win seasons. I hated every loss. With the Texans, I just write it off as a learning experience. As long as I see the team progressing and not suffering major injuries, I’m really satisfied. I expect that by 2004, I won’t tolerate what I’m seeing now. But, like watching your kid make those first steps, you don’t care that they wobble and periodically fall flat on their face. All you care is that they get back up and keep trying.

That Reliant Stadium is an almost complete success Other than some grumbling about the sod and the roof being left shut, there is nothing but praise for the new yard from every person I’ve heard. On budget, on time. Looks like a place worthy of the best team in Texas. Hats off to the folks who made this happen.

That a foundation for great football has been laid Solid defense. Franchise quarterback. Good coaching. An owner that is willing to make the team a first-class organization. The future looks rosy even if the Texans don’t win another game this year. In fact, I’m more concerned the Texans will be too good too soon. If so, the fans may become impatient and get Oiler-itis if the team backslides a bit.

Would you rather be rooting for the Houston Texans during the next few years or the Cincinnati Bengals? Or the Detroit Lions? Or the Dallas Cowboys? I rest my case.

Bob Hulsey reminds everyone that he suggested to "take the over" in last week’s Houston-Cincinnati game. What he didn’t expect was that Cincy would beat the over without Houston’s help.

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