2011 Recap: The Texans finally broke through in the AFC South, landing their first division title, their first playoff berth and their first playoff win. I guess you have a lot of firsts when your franchise accomplishes nothing for a long time. Relax Texans fans, its a joke. They managed this feat despite losing Matt Schaub to injury for the last six games of the season. His replacement, Matt Leinart, managed to stay healthy for all of one game before succumbing to injury as well. Backed by a strong defense and tremendous run game, the Texans were able to finish with a 10-6 record with TJ Yates at QB. They knocked off the Bengals in the playoffs before falling to the Ravens.
Offseason Review: Unlike the other two teams profiled in this space, the Texans had a fairly uneventful offseason. They did have two big losses in free agency, with Mario Williams going to Buffalo and Eric Winston leaving for Kansas City. The Texans proved last year they have the personnel to succeed even without Williams, but it will be interesting to see what happens to the line without Winston there. I think the most important part of Houston's offseason was that they retained Wade Phillips.
Draft Review: With their first round pick Houston grabbed Whitney Mercilus, who was favoured by many around these parts to be the Titans' choice at 20. Everyone knows I'm not sold on him, but he does fit into that 3-4 defense nicely. To me the best part of Houston's draft came in the middle rounds. In the fourth round they drafted Ben Jones, Keshawn Martin and Jared Crick. The Jones selection is peculiar considering the Texans re-signed Chris Myers, but he does give them some added insurance. Jared Crick is the pick I absolutely love. His stock dropped because of a pectoral muscle, but he is another player that fits into that 3-4 defense. I really liked what I saw from his pre-draft tape.
Most Dangerous Player to the Titans: For the first time so far, this title goes a quarterback. Matt Schaub is the player that will separate whether the Texans are very good or elite this season. Their roster is strong, but when he went down you could tell the offensive spark wasn't there. A great run game and defense can only get you so far.
Underrated Player: Brooks Reed is an absolute terror off the edge. He posted six sacks last year and his emergence made Mario Williams expendable. Has anyone else noticed that Pratt seems to like a lot of Texans players...? There's something wrong with that.
Overrated Player: GM Rick Smith clearly didn't pay enough attention to the Titans last year. It's just not worth it to fork over a ton of money to running backs, but that didn't stop Smith from giving Arian Foster a 5 year, 43.5 million dollar deal. Foster seems like a smart guy and I've read countless reports indicating that the money won't go to his head. I won't argue with that. What I will say is that if you have a great offensive line, a good zone blocking scheme and a pretty good backup RB, you don't need to sign Foster to that deal. You could put Tate or another back into the starter's role and likely get similar production.
2012 Outlook: Every year the Texans are chosen by many as the surprise team of the year. Last year was the first time that they actually met those expectations. They also had a great situation as the other three South teams were either rebuilding or falling apart. I'm torn on their outlook. They have a good coaching staff, excellent roster depth and are still the most polished team in their division. Even with all that on their side, we've seen so many Texans teams fall short that I'm hesitant in thinking they can take out some of the AFC's best.
Predicted Record: 10-6