The Houston Texans are stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. Winning the AFC South two consecutive years and winning playoff games both times shows that this time is ready to take the next step. Gary Kubiak has his players ready and willing to go the extra yard if that's what it takes. The talent is there and the hunger is there, the only question that remains is whether or not this team is tough enough to grind out the win under the brightest spotlight. On the road, in the playoffs, it can feel awfully lonely and depressing if you are down in the 4th quarter, but real winners find a way to come back and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Their offense is extremely effective and explosive at times. They have a lot of consistency because Kubiak has been in charge for eight years, and he is offensive minded. He likes to establish the run behind his zone blocking scheme to set the defense up for the deep ball off of the play action.
Schaub fits the system very well. He started every game last year and clearly had his best season. He threw for over 4,000 yards, won tough games on the road and took home a playoff victory. Yet, all of it seemed like not quite enough after the late regular season let down and the eventual playoff exit. Most people, myself included, think Schaub has it in him to be better than he has been. Another season of experience and maturity under his belt will show in his play this year.
Arian Foster is a stud as a running back. Last season he gained over 1,400 yard on the ground and caught 40 receptions. He led the league with 17 touchdowns and showed just how well he plays in a zone blocking scheme. The problem was he carried the ball 351 times to do it. Among football purists many have believe if a running back carries the ball over 360 times in a season it wears the back out. They are almost guaranteed to have a bad year or likely get injured the following year. I certainly don't want that to happen to Foster and neither do the Texans. That's why they need solid performance from Tate off the bench. He can play well and contribute more than just spelling Foster, but he has to stay healthy too.
At the wide receiver position in Houston only one name comes to mind; Andre Johnson. At times out there he looks like a man among boys. Last season he hauled in 112 catches for 1.589 yards, a phenomenal year. Walter is gone and the team needs someone to step up and take some of the defensive pressure from Johnson. If no one else is able to elevate their game, the Texans may become a one-show act in the passing game and that won't succeed come playoff time.
Wade Phillips is entering his third season as the coordinator of the Texans defense and he has been impressive so far. In his first two seasons his defenses have ranked 2nd and 7th in the league. He has a lot of talent returning for him to work with, expect the domination to continue.
When you look at the defensive line of the Texans you only think of one player, J.J. Watt. He is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 20.5 sacks. He is an absolute beast, and to be perfectly honest, there were times last year when he would beat guys so bad and so consistently it looked unfair. He looked like a father playing with his young son. There is no reason to think his play will drop off.
The linebacking unit didn't do that bad last season, considering the started 5 different inside linebackers. The return of a healthy Cushing is going to be huge. He is a dominant defensive player who the team definitely missed. He says he is 100 percent heading into the season after the knee injury. The one thing that was really lacking last season from this unit is a pass rush. The outside linebackers must find a way to bring more pressure on the quarterback when Phillips asks them too.
The Texans have enough talent on both sides of the ball to beat anybody and are a genuine threat to make it to the Big Game. Lack of talent or coaching is not what held them back last year and it won't be the reason they falter this season. They have reached a point where their success now depends on their mental toughness. It sounds like a cliché, but it is the truth. Schaub must be consistent, they must win on the road, and they have to be able to execute when all the pressure is on. That's what separates the elite teams from the above average ones.