The Texans set the record last season for most players on Injured Reserve. Despite such nasty setbacks, the Texans made it to 8-8. Kubiak may have came out of this meat grinder a little shell-shocked.
"I know what people are saying, but signing Quinn has absolutely nothing to do with it," Kubiak said about acquiring Gray to expedite a trade for Rosenfels. "I've been a two-quarterback type of guy, but what happened to us last season scared the heck out of me, and I don't want to go through that again." Last year, veteran Bradlee Van Pelt and rookie Jared Zabransky went to camp behind Matt Schaub and Rosenfels. Both were waived. Schaub missed five starts because of injuries. Rosenfels appeared in 10 games and was 4-1 as a starter. With Schaub out, the Texans signed Shane Boyd to the practice squad in October and Craig Nall ot the active roster in November. After Nall was waived, Boyd was activiated as the backup behind Rosenfels. "I don't know what we would have done if something had happened to Sage," Kubiak said. "I don't want to go through that again. I think my philosophy has changed. I've become more of a three-quarterback guy."
It wasn't just the QB position that was decimated. The improved Oline that looked like it was going on all cylinders was ripped to shreds as players like McKinney, Flannagan, and Weary were put on IR. Running backs, receivers, defensive backs...no position was safe from the ghastly reaper. Now it looks like this catastrophe continues to shape the Texans roster.
All told, it was QB, OL and DB that were hardest hit and they now seem to be the source of a potential problem. The Texans seem to have an excess of roster spots dedicated to positions that were hardest hit last year.
Is this a reaction to last years IR nightmare or an attempt to stockpile some talent while addressing a genuine need? You be the judge.
Simply put, the Texans have a glut of talent at Quarterback, Offensive Line and Defensive back going into training camp. This is creating pressure on the Texans' roster at other positions. The Texans trail the rest of the AFC South at Wide Receiver and Defensive End (DE being a particularly needy position).
So how did the Texans get to this position?
Matt Schaub showed early signs of being a franchise QB before he was injured. Sage Rosenfels came in and led the team, going 4-1 as a starter. Despite this, I don't think Smithiak has reached a comfort level at this position since they went out and signed Quinn Gray and Shane Boyd and then drafted Alex Brink.
Maybe Kubiak's instincts are conflicting here. I'm sure he sees something in Quinn Gray, Shane Boyd and Alex Brink that he could develop into a starting QB, but his desire to not face the question of who can you pull out of a hat to start for you on Sunday is driving the QB acquisitions.
Look at Tampa Bay. They have 6 QBs right now. All of them could hypothetically be starters. They haven't released any of the QBs before deadlines force them to because the comfort level they need at this position won't let them. The Texans are facing the same issue.
Loss, Age and Transition all worked to swell the Texans Oline ranks in the offseason. Charles Spencer and Fred Weary were question marks at the start of the offseason. Steve McKinney and Mike Flanagan were old and recovering from injuries. Transition to a pure zone blocking scheme made it necessary to bring in more players that fit the zone blocking mold.
The Texans made the right decisions and moved forward with the idea that Olinemen with question marks would be worst case scenarios. They went after a lot of zone blocking talent in free agency and added Duane Brown in the draft.
The early prognosis for the Oline is that the Texans have gotten lucky with a lot of players. Charles Spencer and Fred Weary will return to the line. Chris Myers and Duane Brown are looking good in the zone blocking scheme. Now the Texans are watching the returning Olinemen to see who can make the transition to the zone blocking scheme. Until they make some hard decisions on the Oline, there will be a glut with enough players to field 3 full offensive lines.
John Hoke & Co. should win a purple heart for the patchwork secondary they were able to hold together. 3rd and 4th string defensive backs were starters at muliple positions. The Texans seem to have attacked this problem with sheer numbers.
One such example is at safety. Will Demps and C.C. Brown are solid starters. Glenn Earl returns from injury to compete for a starting job. Last year, the Texans drafted Brandon Harrison and signed Brandon Mitchell. Now they've drafted Dominique Barber. It seems that the hope is that 2 solid starters and 2-3 solid backups will shake out of this logjam.
So why does it matter who the Texans have in camp?
Each team in the NFL has a nucleus of playmakers. The guys you see on ESPN. The guys every casual fan knows. There are times when they win the game. However, more often than not it's your dime corner or your 3rd down back that wins the game. Think Ahmad Bradshaw.
Another example--the Patriots at one time were solid at RB with Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon, but they had talent stockpiled in RB Kevin Faulk who could provide all kinds of mismatches. They couldn't ride him for 20+ carries a game, but he could win games for them.
Lets look at where the other teams in the AFC South are stockpiling talent.
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It's almost cliched, but these teams have their largest talent stockpiles at their known strengths. The Colts' passing attack. The Jags' pass rush. The Titans' Linebackers. Each of these teams is looking to add depth at a position of strength. Peyton Manning is already throwing to Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, yet they're trying to find yet another stud WR. The Jags know their defense is their strength. They drafted Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves to come in and rush the passer, but they've got 9 other DEs trying to make the team; think Justin Tuck in the Super Bowl.
Where does it hurt?
Everyone knows there's a big question mark down the line from Mario Williams. Who will hit Peyton Manning? When your base defense relies on your four down linemen getting to the passer, they should...get to the passer. Not having an obvious answer to this question on the roster, the lack of talent currently at DE is exacerbated by the glut at other positions. The Texans will probably carry 4-5 DEs into the season. There are currently only 6 on the roster. There's noise about LBs with pass rushing experience and Anthony Weaver will supposedly be healthy, but it doesn't feel like this position has really been addressed yet.
This problem is less obvious. The Texans have a strong WR corps with Johnson, Walter, Davis and Jones. The problem is who steps in when one of them goes down? Do you remember the stretch of games where all there was at WR was Walter, Davis and Jones? Who wasn't praying that none of them would be hurt? Jerome Mathis was the reserve WR/PR who we hoped could step in during a pinch. Now who is there?
The 9 WRs on the roster are something of an illusion. David Anderson can play, but Ryan Grice-Mullen, Darnell Jenkins, LeRon McCoy and Harry Williams are all likely in camp just fighting for a job. Sure, there could be a Wayne Chrebet in there. I hope they step up and impress.
Why this only hurts a little instead of being completey screwed:
Smithiak now has established track record of making winning moves. I think they're aware of the problem and are making plans to fix it. The Texans are looking primed to make a move after the June 1st cuts; either a pass rusher who doesn't latch on somewhere else, like Quentin Moses last year or another veteran pass rusher like N.D. Kalu.
We can see the problem. I can't wait to see the solution.