Hold Your Horses

Upon Further Review | HoustonProFootball.com Houston Pro Football | Your Balls-to-the-Wall Source for Houston Texans The Advance Scout The Armchair Quarterback GameDay Preview GameDay Review NFL Draft: The War Room Post Patterns: BBS Forum Quick Slant Upon Further Review Site Archives Staff

August 22, 2006
Hold Your Horses

by Bob Hulsey

Since the Texans have jumped off to a 2-0 preseason start, some folks around here are getting a little giddy. It’s understandable. The Texans now have their first winning streak of President Bush’s second term (yes, it’s been that long), so a little crowing is probably in order.

Secondly, this team looks far more prepared, organized, and on a mission than the sad sacks we saw all of 2005. I knew at this time a year ago that the Texans were awful, and I had hopes they were just working out the kinks and would be better during the regular season. It turned out though that they really were that awful. They smelled as bad as Pasadena on a hot, humid and windless day.

This year, the Texans are already the unofficial State Champions of Missouri – having toppled both the men from Kansas City and St. Louis. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

The Chiefs and Rams have two things in common. They are both one-dimensional on offense and uninspiring on defense. I dare say that if Larry Johnson had been able to run wild for four quarters or Marc Bulger had run our corners ragged for 60 minutes that the outcome of both games would have been different. The Chiefs plowed through our run defense when their first unit was in. The Rams appeared to toss the ball around with ease, and Bulger eyed Dexter McCleon the way Michael Jordan used to size up Craig Ehlo for a dribble drive in the final seconds.

The Houston offense seemed to sputter until the second team defenses made an appearance. While they look to be building the semblance of an effective unit, the first team isn’t there yet. Andre Johnson is still dropping passes. Eric Moulds showed some promise the first game but was nonexistent in the second game. The running game has been spotty but Wali Lundy and Vernand Morency do show some promise. The playcalling has been more creative though, and Houston fans will be surprised to see a tight end used as an offensive weapon again.

Defensively, the linebackers appear a bit smallish and are still learning the defense. The secondary, other than Dunta Robinson, is substandard. There’s still plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball before the Texans can start thinking about .500 records or that elusive p-word.

But they are headed in the right direction. You can’t fix the ruins of the 2005 campaign in one year. It’s going to take time and there will be some bumps in the road.

Whatever success the Texans have this year will be directly due to improved line play. Offensively, the new regime brought in Mike Flanagan to anchor the line and call the blocks. He’s a veteran that should be able to fit in and take over very quickly while Drew Hodgdon looks like a capable backup. The draft added bookends Charles Spencer and Eric Winston. Spencer has been on the faster learning curve, and he appears to be the eventual starter at left tackle. Seth Wand has had some good moments in the first two games but has looked lost or overmatched at other times. Spencer doesn’t look polished either, but he does have a knack for staying in front of guys. At 350 pounds, I suppose that’s the easy part for him.

Inside, Chester Pitts, Steve McKinney and Fred Weary appear to be capable of handling the job, and there’s always Zach Weigert to step in if they don’t. There’s certainly depth here that the Texans have not always enjoyed in their young history. Staying healthy will be another challenge. Houston fans have low expectations for the o-line so even modest success will be applauded. If they can actually keep David Carr below 30 sacks on the season, they’ll be treated like gods.

On the defense, the line is where all the attention will be. And it ought to because the Texans have sunk a lot of money into it. There you’ll find three of our last four first-round draft choices (Mario Williams, Travis Johnson and Jason Babin) to go with three well-paid free agents (Anthony Weaver, Robaire Smith and Seth Payne). Toss in the guy who will probably lead the team in sacks (Antwan Peek) and you can see why this crew ought to dominate. They’ll have to, because the back seven looks as vulnerable as a mouse that snuck into a lion’s cage.

While the pass rush looked better than last year, it is certainly not as good as it needs to be to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks. Peyton Manning isn’t about to get cold sweats the night before a Texans game. Richard Smith’s attacking defense should be good for some more negative plays, but it may be as likely to give up big plays, if not more, than Dom Capers’ squad did in 2005.

Demeco Ryans and Morlon Greenwood had some nice moments in St. Louis on Saturday. Phillip Buchanon was his jekyl-and-hyde self. The safeties didn’t appear to be much of a factor, but the Rams are still trying to figure out how to exploit the tight end. We can hope for improvement as the season progresses, but we’re more likely to see this group get shredded a few times this fall.

Nonetheless, it’s good for morale to have posted a couple of W’s. It convinces players to buy into what the coaches are telling them. It makes for a happier locker room and puts some swagger back into their walk. The Denver game next weekend will be their stiffest test yet, if for no other reason than the starters are likely to go as long in that game as they will the whole preseason. And the team lining up against them should be familiar with all of the offense’s little wrinkles. No surprises here. Execution will tell the story.

It should be clear even now that the Texans will be better in 2006. Just don’t expect a miracle. There are still several holes to fill and questions that need answers. The Gary Kubiak Era is off to a good start, which is a good thing since they probably won’t be sharing the spotlight with the baseball team in October like they have the past two seasons.

Bob Hulsey wants to know if the new NFL Head Coach video game has a special T.O. mode where the coach must deal with the constant media distraction of a petulant, bratty wide receiver.

Michael Jordan and Craig Ehlo M. Jordan, C. Ehlo Home

Return to Houston Pro Football


If you have a question, comment or suggestion, contact Bob


Catch up on past installments of Upon Further Review