Upcoming Texans season appears murky as ever
The high expectations for the Texans following their first winning season (9-7 in 2009) took a big blow Aug. 14 in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
Running back Ben Tate, the Texans’ second-round pick out of Auburn, injured his ankle in the third quarter after a 12-yard carry on only his third touch of the game.
Tate was set to have a big role in the offense this season and for him to be carted off the field with a season-ending ankle injury is a huge blow.
The running back “by committee” trend in the NFL will be in the hands of Steve Slaton, Arian Foster, Chris Henry and Jeremiah Johnson as they all move up on the team’s depth chart hoping to garner the majority of carries as the preseason continues.
Slaton and Foster will have to hold on to the football because head coach Gary Kubiak does not tolerate fumbles and neither should any coach. Slaton had seven fumbles last season, tying for the league lead with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
The Texans have plenty of bright spots on the team despite the loss of Tate, including arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL in Andre Johnson, who signed an extension this offseason that keeps him in Houston till 2016.
Johnson had a monster season in 2009 with 101 receptions for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. Johnson caught passes from Matt Schaub, who looks to improve on his 2009 season of 4,770 pass yards and 29 touchdowns.
Johnson and Schaub were Pro Bowlers last season along with Rookie of the Year linebacker Brian Cushing, who had a rough offseason that included being handed a substance abuse four-game suspension by the NFL while also surviving a Rookie of the Year re-vote.
Cushing and Texans owner Bob McNair appealed the suspension, but to no avail. Last season, Cushing had 134 tackles and four interceptions.
We know as fans not to take too much out of the preseason, but after the New Orleans Saints ripped the Texans 38-20, it can’t be a good sign. Despite having the top passing game in the NFL last season, the defense is in question after an unimpressive preseason game against the Saints.
The schedule is reasonable for the Texans. They get home games against tough non-division teams, including the Giants, Ravens and Chargers. Houston also gets weaker opponents in the Jaguars (twice), Raiders and Chiefs.
The downfall in the schedule is that the Texans play AFC South rivals Indianapolis and Tennessee twice and have brutal road games against the Jets, Eagles, Broncos and Redskins.
The Texans will need a 10-6 season to make the playoffs. My prediction has them at 8-8. The tough games against the NFC East will put the Texans at least another year away from their first playoff appearance.