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4 Houston Texans
Tim Layden
September 03, 2007
A year after passing on Vince Young and Reggie Bush, these expansionists start fresh with a new QB and No. 1 back
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September 03, 2007

4 Houston Texans

A year after passing on Vince Young and Reggie Bush, these expansionists start fresh with a new QB and No. 1 back

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WHAT'S NEW?

After five years at an aggregate 32 games below .500 and nary a winning season, the Texans severed ties with face-of-the-franchise quarterback David Carr, who in the spring of 2002 was the first player drafted in the team's history. It was a decision that even Carr agreed with. "It's been a relief to put the whole experience behind me," says Carr, who took his staggering 249 career sacks to Carolina as a free agent to work as Jake Delhomme's backup. The savior's role now falls to Matt Schaub, Michael Vick's erstwhile backup, acquired in a March trade with Atlanta. He can be expected to hand off 20 times a game to Ahman Green, 30, signed as a free agent after seven seasons with the Packers.

Defensive end Mario Williams is no longer the reigning No. 1 overall draft pick--with all the pressure that designation carries--and no longer suffering from the plantar fasciitis in his right foot that nagged him as a rookie. The Texans will keep him lodged at right defensive end rather than move him up and down the line as they did last year. "There was a lot to learn," says Williams. "I'm looking forward to staying in one place." Behind him the Texans will simplify the defense, with a lot of Cover Two nickel, to avoid getting caught in too many situational substitutions.

WHERE THEY'RE HEADED

The Texans claim to be aiming for their first playoff appearance. "It's time we made the next step," says owner Bob McNair. In reality the next step would be simply contending for a playoff spot into December, rewarding their fans with meaningful games in the last quarter of the season.

Schaub's performance will go a long way in determining whether that happens. The Texans have entrusted their future--and $7 million in guaranteed money--to a quarterback who has started two games in his three-year career while waiting for his chance in Atlanta.

There's plenty of buzz about Schaub's potential. "I talked to guys I know in Atlanta," says wide receiver Keenan McCardell, whom the Texans signed on the eve of training camp for his 16th NFL season. "They told me he's a player. He's got the arm. He's got the game."

Schaub will benefit from running a West�Coast-style offense that's similar to what he learned in college ( Virginia) and with the Falcons. After the trade he moved to Houston with his fianc�e and began throwing with Texans veterans like Andre Johnson, who caught 103 passes last year but had grown weary of Carr's indecisiveness. "Matt gets rid of the ball," says Johnson. "He takes his drop and lets it go. Period. You come out of your break, and it's there."

Says Schaub, "Look, I'm still young. This is my fourth year, and I've only started two games. I can learn from guys here. And I'm anxious to step in there and lead." It will help to find a solid second receiver behind Johnson.

The Texans are gambling that Green has some tread left on his tires after nine seasons, 1,871 carries and 8,491 yards. He's a tireless worker who practices Pilates and yoga to sustain his flexibility and explosiveness. "People who know me--they know what I've got left," says Green. Behind him the well-traveled 1999 Heisman Trophy winner, Ron Dayne, will try to duplicate his performance of a year ago, when he rushed for 612 yards in only six starts, arguably the best season of his disappointing career.

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