HOUSTON TEXANS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
RB Arian Foster does the heavy lifting, but this group will only go as far as QB Matt Schaub takes it. Schaub played well while leading the Texans to an 11-1 start, but he sputtered down the stretch. Keys to improvement include more aggressive play calling and better execution in the red zone, a field-stretching wideout emerging opposite WR Andre Johnson and more consistent blocking up front.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
WR — The Texans drafted DeVier Posey in Round Three and Keshawn Martin in Round Four, respectively, last April, yet neither made much of an impact, and Posey tore his ACL in January. Andre Johnson was superb last season, but he isn’t getting any younger. Houston prefers big, physical wideouts who can block as well as they catch.
OL — This group took a step back this season. It still paved the way for one of the league’s more productive run games, but two new starters, ORG Ben Jones and ORT Derek Newton, were too inconsistent. With OLG Wade Smith not assured to be back next season, a spot could become available. The Texans are high on Jones, Newton and ORG Brandon Brooks, but they’re still unproven.
QB — Matt Schaub will be the Texans’ QB in 2013, but his failures down the 2012 stretch really stood out — particularly when considering the level of QB play around the league. Head coach Gary Kubiak is a QB guru, and backup T.J. Yates, like Schaub, is a “system guy.” Drafting a raw, developmental prospect would make sense.
The Texans return plenty of star power, including Defensive Player of the Year DE J.J. Watt and captain LB Brian Cushing, who missed the last 11 games in 2012 with a knee injury. Much like on offense, this unit lost some of its bite in the final quarter of the season, with an inability to slow spread offenses and a lack of takeaways at the root of its woes.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
OLB — Will free agent Connor Barwin be back after a disappointing campaign? It remains to be seen. If he isn’t, the Texans could target a pass rusher early for the third straight year. Houston would like to have Barwin back, and the team is extremely high on Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus. But consistent pressure outside of Watt was lacking in 2012.
FS — Again, a lot depends on another free agent, Glover Quin, a leader in the secondary. Unlike outside ’backer, where Mercilus steps in if Barwin leaves, there is no safety waiting in the wings in the event Quin departs. Quintin Demps and Shiloh Keo certainly aren’t starters.
NT — Fans have been pining for an upgrade here since coordinator Wade Phillips arrived with his 3-4 in 2011. Yet, Houston has consistently stuffed the run with veterans Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell, neither of whom is a dynamic talent. But back issues led to Cody’s play falling off in 2012, putting his future in Houston in peril. Mitchell was a real bright spot, but Phillips also likes him at end. Another big body could be valuable.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (26): OLB Whitney Mercilus / Illinois (GP/GS: 16/4)
Skinny: Doubled sack production of starting OLBs in limited time.
3rd round (68): WR DeVier Posey / Ohio State (GP/GS: 11/0)
Skinny: Rust was apparent early. Came on before tearing ACL.
3rd round (76): OG Brandon Brooks / Miami (Ohio) (GP/GS: 6/0)
Skinny: Rotated with Jones late in season. Should start in 2013.
4th round (99): C-OG Ben Jones / Georgia (GP/GS: 16/10)
Skinny: Took his lumps but improved as season wore on.
4th round (121): WR Keshawn Martin / Michigan State (GP/GS: 16/1)
Skinny: Explosive punt returner still learning nuances as WR.
4th round (126): DE Jared Crick / Nebraska (GP/GS: 15/0)
Skinny: Quiet contributor helped keep starters fresh.
5th round (161): PK Randy Bullock / Texas A&M (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Was poised to win job before season-ending knee injury.
6th round (195): OT-OG Nick Mondek / Purdue (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Only pick not to make 53-man roster. Later re-signed to practice squad.
SUMMARY: Mercilus, Brooks and Jones could all be starting in 2013. Pursuit of No. 2 WR still unsolved after drafting a pair.
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