The Texans' offensive output in 2007 was a Frankenstein monster, rushing for 1586 yds and receiving 3925 yds. That's like running from Reliant Stadium to Hermann Park in traffic. 19 different players put up either rushing or receiving yards. Sadly, only 9 of those players moved the ball more than 100 yds. So, the Texans roster went under the knife this season. They added 27 brains and 54 hands and then wrapped it all in about 6,285 lbs of talent.
We're going to autopsy the 2007 rushing and receiving stats to see what the Texans have to do if they're going to change themselves from a Frankenstein into the $116 Million Dollar Man in 2008.
For 2 glorious weeks last year, we saw the beginnings of a dominant Texans offense. The passing game was on fire with AJ going for over 100 yds per game and Walter, Davis and Owens all making plays. The running game was picking up steam. Who doesn't remember Week Two when the Panthers scored two quick TDs, only to get smoked the rest of the game? It was a unique feeling. No more desperation. No more "game's over." Everyone sat back, kind of peaceful-like, and waited to see what the Texans would do to win the game. With a fantastic defensive performance and some offensive fireworks, the Texans were 2-0 and rolling.
Then AJ and Ahman Green went down, and tragedy struck from all angles. The Texans would flounder from Week 3 to Week 8. With injuries mounting, Kubiak struggled to field a complete team, with starters changing from week to week. Then, with the bye week in sight, the Texans played 2 weeks of elite football before again succumbing to the injury bug, IR and depth problems. The Texans would finish out the season strong with 2 solid victories and a return to some great football. The Texans' season ended on a high note, but you already know this story.
So how would the Texans' 2007 offensive production looked without the injury bug? Surprisingly, much the same as it did during the injury-riddled season. If you take the production of the first 2 weeks and extrapolate them across 16 games, you end up with an average of 1600 yds rushing and 3500 yds passing. I think it's because the Texans were still growing in 2007; they were just starting to see their potential.
2007 Rushing Offense
Ron Dayne is large and slow, yet he was the force behind the Houston running game. He accounted for 48% of the rushing attack and 16% of the total offensive production by himself. Dayne exemplified Kubiak's mantra of rushing: Hold onto the ball and don't commit turnovers. 6 other running backs carried the ball, but none of them came close to reaching Dayne's production.
This created a Frankenstein effect with so many arms and legs flailing that no running back was able to get established as a consistent running threat. The closest the Texans came was Darius Walker's 3 game stretch where he consistently put up 60-80 yds on the ground.
2008 Rushing Offense
The first thing the Texans did in the offseason was cut 904 yards out of its running game. By deciding to let Dayne go, the Texans have no incumbent rushing leader. There's a big window for one of the several backs on the roster to step up and take the position.
And they'll have to. Kubiak has been calling for rushing, rushing and more rushing. I think he knows what these graphs show: The Texans need to increase their rushing production by 71.5%. That's an extra 1134 yds.
That may seem like a lot, but it's what the Texans need. Their running game calls for a legitimate 1000 yd rusher. And there you go--a gap of 1000 yds for one of the Texans backs to pile up this year.
Kubiak knows what happens when the offense gets away from the run. The great thing about Kubiak is that he gets it right the next year (see Walter, Kevin).
Don't run off and pencil in Ahman Green in as your 1st RB off the board for your fantasy football draft; a lot of things still have to shake out at the RB position before we know who's carrying the ball this year. The graph below is a projection based on an offseason depth chart. Think of them more as RB1-5 rather than specific players for now. RB1 - 1120 yds, RB2 - 640 yds, etc.
2007 Passing Offense
The passing offense was the Texans' salvation in 2007. There were some amazing aerial assaults, lots of people stepped up and made plays in the passing game, and all this without support from the run game.
The silver lining of the injury-plagued 2007 season was the ascendance of Kevin Walter and Andre Davis as well as other players. We also learned that the Texans are a 2 headed monster at QB, capable of starting either without missing a beat.
2008 Passing Offense
Getting a full season out of Andre Johnson will do wonders for the offense. When he was in the game, the Texans consistently scored over 30 pts per game. He has the potential to reach 1600+ yds this season. Will he? Hard to say. Teams will try to double and triple him. The Texans only need to add about 14.1%, or 555 yds more production to their passing game for the year, to reach an elite level.
The biggest improvement in the passing game should be seen in the quality of yards. They'll change from "throw from behind" yards to "attack the end zone from the 40" yards.
Another great improvement that should come is twofold. First, I think we'll see the Texans genuinely make teams pay for doubling AJ. Having Walter, Davis and Daniels on the field gives Schaub one-on-one options to go with the ball.
The second benefit from this is that the Texans should see few to no 8 or 9 man fronts. If the Texans run out of a 3 WR set, the RB should at most see 7 in the box.
It's alive!!! When do you get to see this marvel of football excellence? We won't know until Mike Tomlin watches his team get lit up on September 7th. Until then, keep your chainsaws well oiled.