April 3, 2006
Mouldsing a Winner
by Ric Sweeney
If things work out according to plan, the Texans’ trade for Eric Moulds may rank as the single most significant move in franchise history. Keep in mind, before my hyperbole swallows you whole, that said deal is currently competing against… let’s see… drafting Domanick Davis in the fourth round; uhm… signing Decker to a long-term deal to advertise in Reliant Stadium; uh… right… hiring Lionel Simmons to work the concession stand in front of section 410… In other words, the Texans haven’t made too many splashes in their first five years, so it’s not like Moulds has a lot of competition.
Still, getting a player of Moulds’ caliber has both short- and long-term ramifications that could, at last, put this franchise on the road to respectability.
First and foremost, Moulds is really, really good, and he’ll be joining an offense that’s really, really bad. Case in point: Considered an “off” year by his standards, Moulds’ 81 catches, 816 yards and four touchdowns last season bested not only the output of Houston’s second wide receiver (Jabar Gaffney or Corey Bradford –pick your poison), but very nearly outpaced their combined efforts. Together, Gaffney and Bradford caught 89 passes for 928 yards and seven touchdowns in 2005. And he outperformed Houston’s top receiver, Andre Johnson (63/688/2), despite his having JP Losman (64.9 QB rating) throwing to him in 9 starts (compared to the much-maligned David Carr, who tallied a 77.2 rating). So Moulds very obviously upgrades a unit that has needed upgrades since about oh, 2002-ish.
He also brings a veteran presence to the team; again, something else that has been inexplicably missing from this franchise from the word, “go.” He’s been around since 1996 and I’m guessing he knows how things work. Johnson, the crown jewel (for now) of Houston’s offense, has never had someone like that to mentor him, and considering he’s still struggling to establish himself as the breakout star we all think he can be, that could be significant.
And don’t for one second underestimate how potentially beneficial Moulds could be in Johnson’s development. Many of the top wideouts in football right now have played Padawan to a Jedi in their careers. Terrell Owens had Jerry Rice; Randy Moss, Cris Carter; Torry Holt, Issac Bruce; Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and so on. It’s hard to imagine, in amassing nearly 700 receptions, that Moulds hasn’t learned a trick or two or 19 in his career that could help Johnson elevate his game to the next level.
Not to mention, his mere presence should provide some space for Johnson, who was blanketed the past year and a half like a hospital bed. Maybe Moulds no longer has the speed to break games open, but he’s still a reliable receiver who can, if needed, pick up significant yardage. And let’s not discount his impact on Carr, either, who, like Johnson, has never played with a sure-handed veteran of Moulds’ magnitude. Again, it makes you wonder why, but let’s just call the glass that Charley Casserly shattered into a million pieces half full and move on.
Moulds is going to run the proper route, be at the proper spot and, imagine this is you can, make the catch with way greater consistency than any receiver in Texan history. All those times last year Carr locked onto Johnson will, in theory, be a thing of the past because he’s going to learn quickly that he now, at last, has a dependable outlet on the opposite side of the field.
And please, his age (32; soon to be 33) is irrelevant. Rod Smith, three years older than Moulds, has averaged 79/1,031/5 since turning 33. All in a Gary Kubiak-coached offense, by the way.
Which means 2006 is shaping up to be an interesting year for the Texans. Apparently undeterred by their 2-14 record, the team is moving forward like a playoff push is possible. They’ve added countless veterans this offseason, all of whom share, while not glowing statistics, stabilizing personalities and playoff experience. And next month, they’ll add an influx of fresh new talent for these vets to mold, including 4 of the top 66 players in the draft and the best player overall.
And so for the first time in their history, the Texans have a team I can get behind because, finally, the team seems to get it. After years of going nowhere, the organization is, at last, charting a definitive course. We may be one or two or three years away from the playoffs, but the team seems to understand and respect that they can’t continue to treat the fan base like an extra on Oz. So, while they get everyone up to speed and on the same page as Kubiak, the Texans are putting a priority on fielding a respectable product in the meantime.
Not an easy balancing act, but, for a team that’s lost 15 of its last 20 games, it’s a necessary one. This is a big year for the Texans; the pressure will be tremendous. Not only are there the expectations inherent in any coaching change, but the Vince Young, not Carr faction will hover overhead all year like an STD. If this organization is flat-wrong about Carr; if Reggie Bush’s collegiate sparks fail to ignite at the next level; if Young shows flashes of how he will reinvent the quarterbacking position… things are going to get ugly in 2006.
So Carr has to show he has it, Bush has to show he has it, too. And the Texans have to better than 2-14. It wouldn’t hurt to be better than 7-9, too, but that may be asking too much of Eric Moulds, though adding him to the mix is a positive step in the right direction.
Ric Sweeney writes his columns in a tree of trust and understanding.
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