It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Houston Texans.
Free agents lost: S C.C. Brown(notes), CB DeMarcus Faggins(notes), FB Ahman Green(notes), LB Morlon Greenwood(notes), C Bryan Pittman(notes), QB Sage Rosenfels(notes), OT Ephraim Salaam(notes), RB Darius Walker(notes), DE Anthony Weaver(notes)
Drafted: LB Brian Cushing(notes), DE Connor Barwin(notes), OG Antoine Caldwell(notes), CB Glover Quin(notes), TE Anthony Hill(notes), TE James Casey(notes), CB Brice McCain(notes), S Troy Nolan(notes).
I'm one of the people who will tell you that the Texans are one of the potential surprise playoff teams in '09, and that they've got a chance to for double-digits in the win column. Of course, I'm also one of the people who said that last year. I might have said it the year before, too. I can't remember.
But I'm saying it again this year, too, and I'll add this on top of it: I feel more confident about it now than I did in either of the last two years. Not because the Texans are better, necessarily, but because of the rest of the division isn't the gauntlet of football hell that it used to be.
Not that it'll be easy, of course. The Titans are still good and the Colts are still good, but I do I think the respective losses of Albert Haynesworth(notes) and some assistant coaches could be very significant. To me, the mountain the Texans have to climb doesn't seem quite as intimidating as it has in years past.
And I like the tools they have in place. Andre Johnson(notes) can make a compelling case as the best receiver in the game. Steve Slaton(notes) is all man. Owen Daniels(notes) is a legitimate weapon. And Matt Schaub(notes) is a better quarterback than anyone realizes, when he's actually on the field.
There are significant questions about the defense, though, as it's still a pretty young group that seems like it can be pushed around up front and beaten deep in the back. That's not a combination that most defensive coordinators recommend.
But there are positives to look at, too. For one, there's a new guy running the defense; a fellow named Frank Bush. He's been a position coach at every defensive position, but this is his first gig as a coordinator. And there's also a pair of young stars in DeMeco Ryans(notes) and Mario Williams(notes), and they're joined by a couple of shiny new toys the Texans picked up in the draft, Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin.
Progress: There hasn't been much in terms of personnel ... no major roster shake-ups, no major additions or subtractions. The progress here, ideally, would come from a bright young defensive coordinator, and a bit of slippage from the traditional owners of the division.
Plus 2 games. 8-8 last year, 10-6 this year.