Posted by Josh Katzowitz
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When the Texans beat the Colts 34-24 in the 2010 season-opener, Houston was well on its way to winning the AFC South and the first-ever playoff appearance for the club. Matt Schaub was going to continue emerging as one of the top QBs in the game, Andre Johnson was going to cement his place as the top receiver in the NFL, RB Arian Foster was going to build on his first-game performance (231 yards and four total TDs on 33 carries) and Houston’s secondary was going to be just fine without Dunta Robinson.
That’s what we thought anyway.
Then, the Texans, sitting at 4-2, lost eight of their next nine games to kill their season. Foster still went on to win the rushing title, and Schaub had a pretty good season. But Johnson didn’t have one of his better years (though to be fair, he WAS dealing with a painful ankle injury that he played through), and the secondary, to be kind, was absolutely horrid. Overall, in fact, the defense was terrible. Yet, coach Gary Kubiak has been retained for another season, and the Texans continue to be slightly worse than mediocre.
But something must change …
New defensive system
That something might be new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. While Phillips’ reign as Cowboys head coach ended in disaster in the middle of last season, he’s still well-respected as a defensive coordinator. In 2011, though, he’s got a big job in front of him.
1. Um, the secondary
Yes, the Texans will need to rethink their entire defensive back roster, because it repeatedly got torched last season. After saying goodbye to Robinson, who went on to a so-so season with the Falcons, the secondary (Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin, Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson) were just tremendously bad. If the Texans can’t get this fixed, it doesn’t matter who’s coordinating the defense, because Houston simply won’t win.
2. Nose Tackle
Houston hasn’t had to worry much about this position in the past because of the 4-3 scheme it used to play, but now that the Texans will go to the 3-4, they need to find a massive NT to eat up blockers and allow his linebackers behind him to make plays. Maybe Shaun Cody is that guy, but he might not be good enough and he certainly hasn’t been an impact player thus far in his career.
3. Second Wide Receiver
It looked for a time like Kevin Walter might be that guy, but he was little more than solid last year. Jacoby Jones is fine on kickoff returns, but he drops the ball too much as a receiver. Though the Texans obviously have much bigger problems, it wouldn’t be a huge shock if the Texans went after Julio Jones in the first round of the draft.
It’s hard to be confident that a Kubiak-led team will ever make the playoffs, but the Texans better accomplish that this year if they want to keep him around. Defense, like we’ve pounded in your head over and over in this checkup, is the true test, and there is plenty of talent in the front seven on that side of the ball. If Phillips can help get that unit in gear, the AFC South is ripe for the taking.
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