(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of NFL previews by Covers Senior Analyst Stephen Nover. Today: Houston Texans)
It seemed so promising for the expansion Houston Texans when they upset the Dallas Cowboys on national television in their first game ever.
That was back in 2002. Since then the Texans have dropped 44 of 63 games. Quarterback David Carr has been sacked an average of 52 times during these four seasons, and Houston’s defense hasn’t been as good as it was that first year when it ranked a mediocre 16th.
The Texans have averaged a measly 4 ½ wins per season during their four years in a league that does everything to ensure parity.
Some bookmakers believe Houston will be improved under first-year head coach Gary Kubiak. Pinnacle, for instance, has an over/under of 5 ½ wins for the Texans. Future book odds for Houston, of course, are still in the 100-1 vicinity.
Recreational bettors wouldn’t touch Houston last year, especially after the Texans failed to cover five of their first six. This forced linemakers to inflate Houston’s pointspread on numerous occasions, which got professionals involved. The Texans actually went on a 6-2 pointspread run until failing to cover their last two games.
The Texans probably are going to be undervalued this season. That doesn’t mean they’re going to win six games, though. They may finish ahead of Tennessee, which would have meant something three years ago. Today it means very little.
Kubiak, with a Mike Shanahan background, could be the most promising of the 10 new head coaches. He believes he can help Carr take that next step, calling him the most improved player this off-season.
But we’ve been hearing about how improved Carr is supposed to be for three straight years now. If it doesn’t happen this season, it may never happen. Kubiak intends to let Carr be Carr, which means rollouts and an option to run instead of just sitting in a crushed pocket.
Eric Moulds and tight end Jeb Putzier give Carr a couple of legitimate receiving options, especially Moulds, in case security blanket Andre Johnson is double-teamed.
Mario Williams, the No. 1 overall pick, and tackle Anthony Weaver significantly upgrade a defensive line. Houston’s special teams are good, too, except for the erratic field-goal kicking of Kris Brown.
Taking Williams, however, cost the Texans Reggie Bush. By leaving Bush on the table, the Texans are gambling Domanick Davis starts the season healthy. Davis hasn’t been able to practice during the offseason because of swelling in his knee.
Davis could be in for a monster season under Kubiak, who favors Denver’s style of zone blocking. But Davis never has played a full season during his three years in the league. He’s only 5-foot-9 and frequently is nicked up.
Other factors keep me from proclaimi