Throughout this long off-season, we have looked extensively at tight ends, planetoid nose tackles, the X-factor/question mark that is Jacoby Jones, tight ends, the secondary, Frank Bush, tight ends, the running backs, the interior offensive line, kickers, and tight ends. These are the primary training camp position battles and areas that will have a massive impact on the 2010 season that is fast approaching. Mere days away from training camp, it's time to look at, arguably, this franchise's biggest weakness: the beginning of the season.
The Houston Texans are notoriously slow starters. The franchise has an all-time preseason record of 12-20 and is 7-16 in Septembers. Under Gary Kubiak, the Texans have a streak of three straight .500 preseasons and their September record is 3-9. That record is even worse when you realize that six of those nine losses are by 10+ points. The blowout slow starts constantly have the team chasing .500, as opposed to a division title or wild card birth.
Last year's 9-7 record was cute, but that won't cut the mustard this season. There is no moral victory in a fourth straight non-losing season that doesn't include football in January. This team has to get over that hump. Jump, jump, jump to see how I think Houston can get over that hump, hump, hump.
How do you take a team that had six of their seven losses occur by eight points or less and get them over the hump? The Texans should look right down the oily Gulf Coast for a role model.
In 2008, the New Orleans Saints went 8-8 and lost six games by a touchdown or less. Led by an electric offense, the former Aints were incredibly close to a breakthrough. Does that sound familiar? Last season, the Saints began their onslaught of the National Football League in the preseason. The Saints set the tone of their season early and won their first three preseason games, including one over Houston, by an average of 24 points. After their bye week, a/k/a the fourth preseason game, the Saints continued to march through the regular season, NFC playoffs, and onto a Super Bowl title. All that success began in training camp as the Saints got right to business and used the preseason to send a message.
When our Houston Texans get to camp on Friday, they should seek to follow the same plan of action. Their practices need to be intense, preseason games should send a message, and the team should have an aggressive, physical attitude from the moment they hit that field. With the fourth preseason game, a bye in Week 7, an extended break between Weeks 13 and 14, and maybe an off-week in Week 17 if they're that good, there's plenty of time for the Texans to stay fresh during the season for those worried about over-exertion from this "Aggressive August" that I want to see.
Does winning preseason games actually matter? Normally, I would say it doesn't, but maybe it does for franchises that are trying to create a culture of winning. The Saints went out to win every single game, and we all know the Texans could use a lot more winning of any kind. In years past, the preseason attitude has been relaxed while our beloved Texans slowly struggle to find their rhythm. I believe the Texans should go out there and play to win every game as opposed to weeks of "shaking off the rust." Given the rough schedule and high expectations, there really is no time to shake off the rust. If things are going to be different in 2010, then fans should see a different attitude around this team starting this Friday, and not September 12th.
The unofficial motto this season is "playoffs or bust." If you have read some of the reports from OTAs then you know the team has a "Super Bowl" chant going on. Whatever postseason target will satisfy you, it will be up to Gary Kubiak to make slow starts a thing of the past so that playoff football is in our future. The journey to January starts on Friday. If we are lucky, then the 2010 journey will look, feel, and end differently than the previous eight.