We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2010 fantasy football questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2010 Houston Texans Fantasy Football Preview comes courtesy of Stephanie Stradley of Texans Chick and FanHouse fame.
1. The biggest question for fantasy players revolves around the running back situation. Who ends up winning the the starting position or at the very least, who ends up with the most touches?
The running backs who get through camp the healthiest and practicing best will see the field first. If it is roughly the same, Gary Kubiak will reward veterans over rookies, so I can see a combo of Arian Foster and Steve Slaton. I could see Slaton taking the role that was first envisioned for him when he came to the team–third down back. I’m concerned for Slaton’s health over the course of the season because of his off-season neck surgery (x-ray’s here). The Texans didn’t draft Ben Tate in the second round because they wanted him to sit but they will want him to earn his time. They want their high round picks to contribute. I’m seeing him getting more touches as the season progresses. Both Clinton Portis (2nd round pick) and Steve Slaton (3rd round pick) had monster seasons as rookies after getting more time as incumbents ahead of them got injured, and the coaches felt they were ready.
By the end of the season, I think Ben Tate gets the most touches, and I think new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will make it a priority that the run offense complements the rest of the offense. Pre-Alex Gibbs work with the offense, it looked like the Texans could either run the ball well at times in the game or pass the ball well but not make both work together. In Slaton’s first season, there were times where the offense looked like it was working together. Last year, due to injuries on the line and at running back, just from observation it looked like the run and pass offense weren’t working well together again. When the running game and passing game work together in this offense, it can be very difficult to stop. I think Dennison will help in doing this.
2. I like Jacoby Jones and was wanting to see more of him last season as Kevin Walter did little to nothing with Owen Daniels out for the season. Coach Kubiak has been heaping praise on Jones, but will that translate to playing time this season or is Walter’s veteran stability going to keep him in the #2 position?
I see Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones as being co-#2s. Walter is more the receiver you use when you want a key possession catch, and Jones will be more used in a playmaker role. This is a key year for Jones. He has had some maturity issues with a past DWI, and being late to meetings, and this is a critical year to see if his maturity has caught up to his undoubted physical skills.
3. Owen Daniels was on a wicked pace when he went down once again last season. He needs to prove he can stay healthy so he can get paid. I know you can’t say if he’ll stay healthy or not, but if he does, do you see him getting back onto the pace he was last season or will the number of injuries finally start to slow him down?
The tight end position is very important to the Texans offense, and at the time Owen Daniels went down, they had a series of injuries to their other tight ends and really had to juggle a bit. The Texans used a combination of players to pick up the receiving targets and actually, the offensive efficiency didn’t go down by Football Outsider measures.
The Texans expect Owen Daniels to not work much in camp but that he will be ready for the season. I think they believe he will be ready, but that they drafted a tight end again reflects the uncertainty with his injury and contract situation.
You should carefully watch the TE situation through camp and the preseason. The Texans tight end coach is very good, and Owen Daniels had a nice rookie season. If OD is not ready to go, whoever is his replacement could have a big season. I’d put James Casey as a good candidate–he has very very good hands, can catch some crazy passes, and Kubiak has talked about settling him down at just the tight end position. He’s a really hard worker and tough, and Kubiak likes rewarding that.
4. Coach Kubiak doesn’t tolerate fumbling it seems. Is that just his MO or was last season a special case? Will he yank whatever RB is in there if he fumbles again this season?
Running backs have two primary rules with the Texans: 1. Always get positive yards; 2. Don’t fumble. Their philosophy is that the defense usually has better athletes on the line but by keeping the defenses off-balance by disguising whether they are going to run or pass, it takes away from that athleticism. To help do this, it is a priority to keep down and distance reasonable so that they have few obvious passing downs. Dancing in the backfield getting negative yards or putting the ball on the ground takes the offense out of their game. But this is not just a running back issue:: the only game where David Carr got benched by Kubiak was when he was having issues with ball security. Last year, they had no clear favorite to be the running back of choice so when players had issues with fumbling, Kubiak sometimes changed backs. Slaton has suggested that some of his ball security issues may have had to do with his neck problem. I think the quick hook on running backs in 2009 had some to do with overall effectiveness, and timing of when fumbles happened in games. They were trying to find any running back who could be consistent. I think that Kubiak would prefer not to have to do this.
5. What is the newest on Andre Johnson wanting more money? Is there any chance he holds out?
I don’t see Andre Johnson being a contractual problem. I believe he wants to get to the playoffs more than he wants extra money this year.