Watching the Bears and Colts battle it out in Super Bowl XLI this weekend caused me to think about the state of the Texans heading into the offseason. Here are a couple of areas that jumped out at me during the Super Bowl and how the Texans stack up to this year's Super Bowl participants:
Weapon in the Return Game: Devin Hester proved, yet again, that a dangerous return man can completely alter the flow (and outcome) of a football game with his ability to score from anywhere on the field. When healthy, Jerome Mathis is as dangerous as any return man in the game. Problem is, of course, that Jerome does not return punts or play receiver, but a healthy Mathis in 2007 would be a very nice asset for the Texans, who need all the help scoring the ball that they can get.
Captain of the Defense DeMeco Ryans showed in his rookie season that he could be to the Texans what Urlacher is to the Bears. His aggressiveness, speed and intelligence gave the Texans' defense confidence and a bit of a swagger down the stretch, and one would think that Ryans is well on his way to becoming the face of the Texans' defense for years to come.
Dual Running Backs Both the Bears and the Colts effectively implemented an offense that utilizes a two-headed running back platoon. The Texans auditioned several running backs in 2006, and with Adrian Peterson potentially being on the board at #8 and Dominic Williams (allegedly) ready to return to the field, this position appears to possibly be on the verge of becoming solidified. I really like the two-back system, and Kubiak's history with the Broncos suggests that he is not averse to stockpiling talented backs.
Downfield Danger Manning/Wayne and Grossman/Berrian are both very dangerous downfield combinations that keep opposing secondaries on their heels. David Carr has never established himself as being capable of completing the vertical pass on a consistent basis, which severely limits the potency of the Texans' offensive attack. The Texans are still in dire need of a lightning-fast WR and a QB who can make plays downfield.
Safety Valve Bob Sanders and Mike Brown, when healthy, are two of the better safeties in the game. They provide a hammer in run defense and a reliable line of defense against the deep passing game. Glenn Earl has had moments of brilliance, but to date, the Texans have not been able to shake memories of Matt Stevens. Michael Lewis, please pick up the white courtesy phone for a local call.
Tight End Desmond Clark and Dallas Clark are both very capable receivers out of the tight end slot, and it appears that Owen Daniels possesses the skills to be the same for the Texans. The Colts showed to perfection that the tight end and the running back can be very effective weapons against the vaunted Cover Two defense, allowing the run game and downfield pass to become more viable options against this scheme that has mesmerized the Texans since their inception.
Offensive Line I felt like the Colts' O-Line deserved the MVP award in Sunday's Super Bowl. They opened up numerous holes for Rhodes and Addai in the run game, and they kept Peyton clean almost the entire game in pass protection. They are no-name guys who simply played well as a unit, and the Texans need more consistent play from their line in order to become a threat to make the playoffs. Keeping the line healthy for most of the season would go a long way towards establishing that consistency, but that has not happened yet for the Texans, either.