by Marc Vandermeer
The Texans organization is at the scouting combine with an eye toward taking their next big step: win the Super Bowl.
To get there, they not only have to replace some of the players they might lose in the upcoming free agency period, they have to get better.
Rick Smith told me that even though the team gets to meet with 60 players, the position coaches make sure they talk to all 300+ players here.
The buzz among the pundits is that the Texans will take a wide receiver in the first round. Of course, that was the buzz last year and the Texans grabbed Whitney Mercilus then took receivers in the third and fourth round.
Gary Kubiak took questions about everything from special teams to Matt Schaub. He said his QB has more freedom to change plays than people think. That was in reponse to a question about the level of autonomy Schaub has at the line. He also said he’s always looking for quarterback talent and praised Case Keenum (and T.J. Yates). But Kubiak was clear the Texans need more production from wide receivers not wearing number 80.
The team’s linebacker needs also came into question. With Connor Barwin set to be an unrestricted free agent, Houston may need help at OLB. But with Daryl Sharpton hurt and Bradie James and Tim Dobbins hitting free agency, inside backer is a concern. Brooks Reed may have the ability to play inside but that hardly solves all the challenges. Kubiak also pointed out how injuries at inside linebacker hurt the consistency in the special teams line-ups and contributed to a lack of production in kickoff coverage and returns.
Rick Smith was asked about the team’s mental toughness and said that the two years of playoff experience will serve the team well moving forward. He also said that having been through the adversity of not playing as well as needed down the stretch could help in the future.
But the biggest immediate challenge is keeping as much of the group together as possible. With Glover Quin, Barwin, James Casey and Brice McCain possibly hitting the open market, there is much work to be done.
The receiver issue is real. Both Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter are ‘on the wrong side of 30.’ And Devier Posey’s health is a huge question mark going into next season. Keshawn Martin will need to step up.
Receivers coach Larry Kirksey acknowledged on Texans All Access that Martin may have hit a bit of a rookie wall. Martin had to learn all three WR postions and two return spots, so it’s understandable. The second year will be interesting. The same goes for Lestar Jean, who just got through with his first season of action. An incoming rookie would hardly be a sure thing to satisfy what the Texans want out of the position. So it’s crucial that their young players take the next step.
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