Part I: Secondary (also includes a brief description of this series).
Part II: Linebackers.
Part III: Defensive Linemen.
Part IV: Special Teams.
To be perfectly honest, this might be the most boring installment of this particular series. I mean, honestly, I could wrap up this episode with: Hey, these guys were really freaking good this year! Alas, Tim's stranglehold on my kittens means that I have to be a little more in-depth on this particular subject. Hop on a jet-pack and jump with me!
QB: Matt Schaub was really freaking good this year! Hooray! There's just about no way in which Teh Schaub isn't Top 10 material, unless you're talking about scrambling. PFF ranks him 6th overall, and that seems just about right to me. Then, consider the high pressure situations in which he excels. Sure, there was the pick against Baltimore, but this man led multiple tying/winning drives against Baltimore, Kansas City, San Diego, Washington, and on and on. There are few QBs who face more intense need-to-succeed drives on a game by game basis as does Schaub. Who else needed to lead his team to the end-zone on every drive as did Schaub?
One may argue that Matt Schaub is not an elite quarterback, and that person may be right. But, for all the bluster, I love having this man on my team. If there's one thing we need to do better, it's keeping Schaub vertical, something I'll touch on once we get to the offensive line.
FB: Vonta Leach was really freaking good this year! Hooray! After the 2009 season, I wondered if the plug had been pulled on the Coke Machine. His downfall between 2008 and 2009 was striking, and I do wonder if an injury played a role in this. In 2010, Leach established his presence early and often, starting with a Colts defense that must literally have nightmares of a #44 coming down on their sorry asses. PFF has Leach ranked third overall, but one must consider we are a play-action driven offense, and we were often (always?) behind. Leach was a man amongst children in 2010.
RB: Arian Foster was really freaking good this year! Hooray! Before the season, there were a lot of people who wanted to draft Ryan Mathews. I was most definitely not one of those people. I didn't expect Foster to become the uber-beast he was, but I never felt like RB was the problem over the offensive line (which we addressed with aplomb).
Foster was amazing from Game 1, and he never slowed down. PFF ranks Foster 3rd overall for RBs, 1st in catching passes out of the backfield, where Foster absolutely was unstoppable. As far as pure rushing, nobody was going to beat Jamaal Charles in 2010 (from? The University of Texas at Austin, thankyouverymuch). Foster could improve in his blitz pick-ups, but we're seriously nitpicking at that stage. If Foster's fluency in pterodactyl is at all to credit for his season, then it should become a Texans' requirement.
We should also give great thanks to the Glacier, Derrick Ward. Ward's season so much reminds me of the Fairey Swordfish plane as it bore down on the Bismarck during WWII. The advanced gunnery of the Bismarck couldn't adjust to the snail-like speed of the Swordfish, which successfully damaged the great battleship. Foster was the Lightning to Ward's Slow Rolling Thunder Over the Hills Down Yonder. It was akin to bring in Doug "Slow, Slower, Slowest" Jones after Nolan Ryan. But Ward contributed 6.2 yards/carry, 4 TDs, and some of the most strikingly glacier-like rushing in NFL history to incredible effectiveness.
Steve Slaton contributed 4.9 yards/carry in his 19 rushes, but he didn't get a single chance after Week 5. As much as I like Steve as a person, as hard as he worked to come back from his horrible neck injury, and as enjoyable as his 2008 season was, we'll never see the same player again.
2011: Leach is a must re-sign. Slaton deserves a chance to compete for RB2, but I don't think he'll ever be close to an average RB again. Ward is an intriguing option to be RB3, as we still have Ben Tate around, and Ward should come fairly cheaply. Getting fresh blood at RB3 wouldn't be a bad idea, but dang, Ward was really good. When we entered 2010, RB was a position to question. Now, it's a position of strength, but the offensive line (along with Foster's incredible vision) have a lot to do with that success.
At QB....well, if something ever happens to Teh Schaub, we're pretty srcewed (sic). Although I cheered the Dan Orlovsky signing, he hasn't developed at all. Matt Leinart is most likely gone, as somebody will see the 1st round pedigree and look past the five cent mind (and penny mechanics). There are very, very few teams who can win without their primary QB, but we are extremely dependent on Schaub to succeed. Developing something behind Schuab, as he ages, is a greater and greater need.
EDIT (with a h/t to The Night Owl): If we were to sign Vince Young, upon Schaub's first incompletion, the VYFBs (Vince Young Fan Boys) would be out in full force. How can I best differentiate the two as QBs? To be a QB in Kubiak's offense, one needs to be able to sell the play-action and be accurate throwing down-field. There's an emphasis on reading the defense and good decision-making. It's really nothing more than a slightly modified West Coast style offense.
Throwing shoulder pads for distance is NOT considered a positive in this offense. Neither is moping.