Apologies for the delay in posting the second part of the final PGB of the season (Part I here). Work, prayers getting answered and Riott's arrival (not to mention his subsequent badarsery) kept my plate full last week. We already checked out the offense's performance against Da Bears, with an eye toward output over the 2008 season; now I turn our attention to the defense and special teams:
I'm also bullish on Tim Bulman, Jesse Nading, and Earl Cochran. All of those guys, especially Bulman, looked like they have the ability to be in a rotation at DE in '09. While none of them may be an ideal long-term solution opposite Mario, I hope that at least one, hopefully two, and perhaps all three, is/are brought back next season. If I have to choose between them, give me Bulman, who has the benefit of not coming off an injury and the flexibility to play DT.
Finally, we come to Anthony Weaver. Anthony Weaver, who signed a five (5) year, $26,500,000.00 contract ($12,500,000.00 guaranteed) in March of 2006. Anthony Weaver, who has posted one more sack than a dead man during his three (3) seasons (none since 2006!) in H-Town. I'll leave the cap implications of parting ways with him to Riott. I'll just say this: If Anthony Weaver is a Texan in 2009, it had better be the result of a drastic, Ahman Green-esque restructuring of his contract (suggestion...$200,000.00 for every sack or tackle for loss?). Further, if Weaver starts another game at DE, I'm giving myself a gasoline shampoo/lit match conditioner job. I can't take it anymore.
2. DT--Tim Bulman and/or DelJuan Robinson were your best DTs last week, as well as the entire season. Considering your Houston Texans "boast" two (2) recent first-round picks that "play" defensive tackle, that's rather troubling.
Staying on DelJuan Robinson...he even stepped in and looked solid at DE when Mario went down in the second half against the Bears. Considering his relatively low salary demands, you'd think the Texans would be interested in bringing him back in 2009.
There's no denying that Amobi regressed in his second season of professional football. He showed flashes of promise as the 2008 season wound down, but flashes ain't enough for the tenth overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft. He has to get markedly better in '09, or the bust talk will get increasingly loud.
That said, Amobi needs a planetoid DT lining up next to him to be able to do the things Amobi can do. I thought Frank Okam could be that guy, but the coaches, via the fact that Okam was not even active for most of 2008, clearly disagree with me. Whose call was that, I wonder? Kubes? Richard Smith? Jethro Franklin? Two of those guys don't have a say anymore, so it'll be interesting to see if Okam sees more action in 2009 (though I think it's far from certain that Okam makes the team next year). If Okam's not the guy to line up next to Amobi, bringing in a mammoth DT, likely via the draft, has to be one of the top priorities of the offseason.
Remember what I wrote above about Anthony Weaver? Plug in "Travis Johnson," and re-read it. Same thing. Self-immolation all around!
3. Quick anecdote about Jethro Franklin from the final game of the 2008 season...one of my buddies procured seats that were a few rows off the field, right behind the Texans' sideline. As such, I had a vantage point I typically don't have last week. What did I see? I saw Tim Bulman and Super Mario yelling at Jethro at various points throughout the game. Bulman in particular looked pretty hacked off. Of course, this could just be heat of the game interaction between a coach and his players, but I found it to be interesting, as players typically don't shout down their coaches. For his part, Franklin looked completely unfazed; he didn't give off the impression that it was a big deal at all. In fact, maybe that's the relationship he had with his players; I don't know. Still, I remembered those exchanges when the slightly surprising decision to jettison Franklin (who Super Mario had praised at length on several prior occasions) came down on the Eve of New Year's Eve.
4. LB--This is easily the strongest unit of the defense. DeMeco is one of the best in the business. Zac Diles, though undersized, was a tackling machine until he managed to kick himself to the injured reserve in early November. Xaiver Adibi looked fast and sure when he finally stepped in for Morlon Greenwood. Greenwood, meanwhile, looked nothing like the criminally underrated Morlon Greenwood we saw in 2007. If Morlon was a pitcher, we'd say he lost his fastball. If he was a horse, we'd shoot him. While Greenwood may still be capable of contributing in a rotation at LB, I'd be surprised if he was plying his trade in Houston come September 2009.
I'm intrigued about how Smithiak will handle LB in the 2009 NFL Draft. Assuming Diles can come back from his injury, I think a starting troika of him, DeMeco, and Adibi has real potential. I like Kevin Bentley a ton, but there's not a lot of depth after him. If you can get a stud linebacker in the first few rounds, do you take him? It's not nearly the area of need that DL or secondary is, so perhaps not. Then again, we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking the Texans are so stacked at LB that they should pass on the best player available simply because of the position he plays.
5. CB--I am positively terrified at watching the Dunta Robinson negotiations play out, because there's a very real possibility that Smithiak has a totally different take on what should comprise a long-term contract for Dunta Robinson than Dunta and/or his agent does/do. If not for the injury, Dunta would be getting paid top corner money. Nor should we underestimate the fact that Dunta is the emotional leader of the Houston defense; in that respect, he'd be awfully difficult to replace. Plus, even coming off the injury, Dunta's the best CB on the roster. I think he's going to get his long-term deal. I hope he gets his long-term deal. I'm still scared.
Jacques Reeves is who I thought he was, though I'll admit that his speed is top-notch. Here's hoping that our as-yet-unknown new secondary coach threatens him with bodily injury throughout the offseason in an attempt to get him to turn his freaking head to locate the ball and/or to get his effing hands up. That, or cut him. I'd be good either way.
I have no idea what happened to Fred Bennett this year. I know he's not as bad as he appeared to be. I also know he's nowhere near as bad as Reeves and/or Petey Faggins, both of whom took snaps away from him. How does somebody go from young stalwart to barely getting on the field? Was it entirely Richard Smith's diabolical work? Jon Hoke's? We may never know.
6. S--A true FS is still nowhere to be found on the Houston roster. Generally speaking, I thought Nick Ferguson and Eugene Wilson did yeoman work in '08. Neither's going to Honolulu anytime soon, but they were tremendous in run support and definite upgrades over Will Demps, C.C. Brown, and Brandon Harrison in coverage. I hope both Ferguson and Wilson return to Reliant Park in '09, though I'm equally hopeful that a young safety acquired in the draft pushes one of them to a backup role.
Demps, Brown, and Harrison? Maybe C.C. returns. Maybe. Demps and Harrison seem like surefire goners.
7. K/P--Kris Brown and Matt Turk go nowhere. Might be a good idea to bring in a young punter to push Turk in training camp, but I'd be surprised if someone besides Turk is punting for your Houston Texans in 2009. What can you say about Brown? A golden leg, plus recovering a fumble against Chicago. What else do you want from a kicker?
8. LS--Welcome to the big leagues, Clark Harris. You were better than Bryan Pittman, and you haven't been suspended for violating the league's banned substance policy. No reason Harris shouldn't be the guy snapping to Turk and Brown in '09.
9. Fake Game Balls: Offense--Matt Schaub; Defense--DeMeco Ryans; Special Teams--Kris Brown.
So there you have it. 8-8 doesn't get you to the playoffs (unless you're the Chargers, that is, who surely showed they deserve to be there last night). Time for us to avert our glances to the majesty that is free agency and the draft. One of these years (e.g., 2009), we'll still be talking about Texans football in January. For now, we have to make due with more of the same wait-'til-next-year we know all too well.