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 2011 fantasy football questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2011 Houston Texans Fantasy Football Preview comes courtesy of our friend Stephanie Stradley, blogger at Texans Chick.
1. With fantasy’s premiere RB and WR, its got to be a great time to be a Texans fan! Let’s start with Arian Foster who had an unreal season in Houston’s backfield. He’s got a balky hamstring and has obviously never had the workload he had last season. Are these reasons to have some pessimism he can repeat the kind of year he had in 2010? Or do you see the same kind of year coming ahead?
I am optimistic about Foster. He’s a great back for this system both for size and skill sets, and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is a veteran of the old school Bronco back system and is committed to the run, especially short yardage and in the redzone. When he was hired by the Texans last year, he said the Texans were going to be able to run the ball, and they were able to run the ball. The Texans offensive line, both starters and backups are all returning, and that is key to the running game functioning. Foster is in great shape, and the Texans do not seem overly concerned about the hamstring and are keeping him out as a precaution. The Texans want Foster to be the primary back and for contract purposes, Foster wants this to be a standout season. He has a chip on his shoulder about the whole one-year wonder thing. (Though he showed signs of being a promising player at the end of his rookie year).
I think if the Texans defense improves with the addition of Wade Phillips this season, the Texans will be able to run the ball as much as they really want to instead of his role going down during shootouts.
Though I think Foster’s skill sets are perfectly suited to the offense, given the injuries to the running back position in general, it is worth closely following the Texans running backs in camp. I expect Foster back and picking up where he left off last year, but if he can’t go, the Texans are committed to balance in their offense, and Dennison with the Broncos has had a series of no-name backs over the years put up big yards.
2. Andre Johnson is pretty unanimously agreed the best wide receiver in football. The only knock is that he could have another season with injuries keeping him out for some games. He already dislocated his finger early in camp, which while not a big deal isn’t a great start for fueling optimism he’ll make it for all 16 games in 2011. Do you think he’s looking good this preseason and will suit up all 16 games and be the league’s premiere wideout?
Andre Johnson looks great in camp as per usual, and I do not think his finger is a concern. (He’s back practicing, and the protection is off the finger). He played for most of last season on an ankle that most players would have sat out. He’s a tough player, and if he is able to play he will.
3. Matt Schaub has spent the past few seasons right on the fringe of being one of the league’s top QBs, but hasn’t quite gotten over the hump. Everyone knows the Texans offense is a force, but do you think Schaub can have that career year we’ve all been expecting?
Schaub will never been a Tier 1 fantasy football quarterback because Gary Kubiak is committed to a balanced run/pass offensive attack. So you would always want to pick Schaub after those quarterbacks who play for coaches who don’t really care about running the ball. But Schaub has had back-to-back +4000 yard seasons, many more yards than a bunch of quarterbacks that are considered by some to be better than he is.
What he hasn’t had is any help from a NFL-caliber defense. Since Schaub has been quarterback of the Texans, he has had only SIX games where his defense and running game have played above average. Compare that to Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Joe Flacco who had six or more above average defensive/running back performances just last year alone.
The Texans will win more games when they can win both shootouts and low scoring games. It’s hard to win with a defense that is among the league’s worst. It’s amazing they’ve won as many games as they have given how terrible the defense has been.
If the Texans have their perfect game plan, they’d like to throw the ball early, get a big lead and then run the ball more. They haven’t been able to do that because no lead has been safe against their defense. I think with even an average defense, the Texans offense will have more opportunities with the ball. Their time of possession went down last year because their defense was worse. It also didn’t help that the Texans offensive starting field position was 32nd in the league. It’s basic math–longer fields make it harder to sustain point-scoring drives.
4. Owen Daniels was looking like a dominant Tight End in 2009 before tearing his ACL after 8 games. He didn’t really look like himself last season and didn’t have a prominent role with the offense. Is there any optimism he can get back to where he was in 2009? Or will we see a lot of Joel Dreessen?
I think Daniels was ranked too high last year and is ranked too low this year by most fantasy analysts. He’s two years removed from ACL surgery and looks like the OD of old in his workouts and in camp: very fluid and catching a ton of balls. Last year, he missed all of camp. He has great chemistry with Matt Schaub, and Schaub will always be looking to get him the ball.
The thing to watch is that Kubiak has said he wants to do more two and three tight end sets. They’ve wanted to do that for a while but couldn’t due to injuries to the TE group. In camp, James Casey has been playing tight end, fullback and third wide receiver and has caught all sorts of balls in red zone drills. He’s a sleeper player to watch, though I worry about his durability over a complete season.
5. Jacoby Jones garnered a lot of noise during the preseason last year, but didn’t come anywhere close to having the big year a lot of people anticipated. Jones decided to re-sign with the Texans in the offseason giving it some hope he could still breakout in 2011. What have you been seeing from Jones so far this preseason, and do you think he can put up a 1000 yard season this year or next?
Fantasy “experts” who ranked Jones too high last year (and this year) don’t understand the Texans offense. They don’t have a traditional #2 wide receiver, and they don’t want one demanding the ball. The offense is supposed to be taking advantage of mismatches, and that everyone is just a target. Kubiak inherited Andre Johnson, so the offense puts a priority on getting Johnson the ball because he is The Andre Johnson, a bad bad man. As for everyone else, the ball is supposed to go to the mismatch, whoever the open target is, whether it is a tight end, fullback, running back, or wide receivers 2 to 4. Different defenses have different weaknesses. So for fantasy purposes, there are too many targets for any receiver other than Andre Johnson being a reliable fantasy option. Jones and Kevin Walter are best used as a bench/waiver wire guy if you don’t have better options a particular week.
In two wide receiver sets, Kevin Walter will sometimes be the #2, other times it will be Jones. Kubiak sees their stats as being sort of a combined #2 wide receiver. Nice for real football. Not so nice for fantasy football.
Owen Daniels gets a bit of a fantasy premium because the Texans offense favors the tight end position more than a lot of offenses, especially against defenses that are poor against TE position, and he has special skills and good chemistry with Schaub. He moves more like a wide receiver.