As the franchise's first great pass rusher since its inception in 2002, end
Mario Williams will invigorate a woeful defense and prove the Texans made the
right call in selecting him No. 1 in the draft instead of Reggie Bush or Vince
Young. Quarterback David Carr will make big strides thanks to the arrival of
four-time Pro Bowl receiver Eric Moulds, the first quality No. 2 receiver the
team has had, and assistant head coach Mike Sherman, who will find ways to make
a beleaguered offensive line more effective.
When longtime Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was named Houston coach
last January, he joked that he would continue to use the Broncos' playbook and
simply change the cover to a darker blue. But no one's laughing at his decision
to implement Denver's West Coast system and its trademark zone blocking, which
helped turn several running backs who were middle-round draft picks into
beneficiary will be Domanick Davis, who since he was drafted No. 101 out of LSU
in 2003 has rushed for 3,195 yards-more than every back selected ahead of him.
The 5'9", 216-pound Davis, who missed three weeks of training camp because
of a swollen left knee and may sit out the season opener, is a good fit for
Kubiak's system, which requires rushers to make one cut and hit the hole.
Because they had
faith in Davis-and in Carr-the Texans figured they would help themselves most
by taking Williams first in the draft. He will have an immediate impact on a
defense that allowed an NFL-worst average of 26.9 points per game and ranked
last in the conference with 4.6 yards per rush in 2005. The 6'7", 291-pound
N.C. State All-America has 4.66 speed and will join fellow end Anthony Weaver,
a free-agent signee who left the Ravens after four seasons, to anchor a new 4-3
defense. Another promising addition is linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the
second-round pick from Alabama.
In an attempt to
fix its lousy pass protection, which gave up a league-high 68 sacks last
season, Houston signed former Packers center Mike Flanagan and shuffled some of
the returning linemen. Only right tackle Zach Wiegert will be at the same
position as last season. There's stability at quarterback because the Texans
exercised a three-year, $8 million option on Carr, who will be throwing out of
more multiple-receiver sets in Kubiak's offense. The arrival of Moulds, who
caught 81 passes for Buffalo last season, will take some of the heat off No. 1
wideout Andre Johnson. New tight end Jeb Putzier, a free-agent pickup from the
Broncos, is another reliable target. Carr has to cut his fumbles-an NFL-high 17
in '05-way back, but he has been urged to scramble more. He rushed for 308
yards last year, more than any other quarterback not named Michael Vick. Says
Carr, with a smile, "The best-kept secret in the NFL."
Maybe so, but
it's no secret that this team is still a long way from playoff contention.
Owner Bob McNair, on the other hand, considers 2-14 an anomaly, citing the
progress the Texans made in their first three seasons-winning four, five and
then seven games-before last year's collapse. "I don't see anybody on the
schedule that frightens me," McNair says. "We view this as a year that
we're going to be competitive."