All Eyes to The Future
Free agency can either benefit a team or be their downfall, over the abbreviated lockout plagued 2011 offseason, the Texans made moves and benefited from free agency, signing key defensive parts and filling in gaps left by players such as fullback Vonta Leach. But this free agency session has gotten off on the wrong foot for the Texans and have had many of their key and successful players whisked away and signed by other teams or cut, players such as G Mike Brisiel, DE/LB Mario Williams, FB Lawrence Vickers, who were signed away, and OL Eric Winston who was cut by the Texans.
Texan fans are ready to hit the panic button as many of the unrestricted free agents have yet to be signed by the Texans, key names such as Joel Dreessen, Jason Allen, Dominique Barber, Neil Rackers, Quintin Demps, and Matt Turk, all key pieces to the Texans team.
Aside from free agency woes, the Texans still have a nagging need in the wide receiver corps, Jacoby Jones specifically, Jones, showed throughout the season that he could not come through during pressure situations and as far as filling in for Andre Johnson, he could not fill those shoes, but in his defense, it is rather difficult to replace, let alone mimic Johnson’s presence on the field. Jones ended the season on a sour note though, possibly causing many fans to be calling for his head, botching a punt return the AFC Divisional game against the Baltimore Ravens, that gave the Ravens momentum and, in the minds of many, the game. Jones is a great contributor aside from receiving and blocked well, much to Head Coach Gary Kubiak’s pleasure, 2011 was arguably Jones’ best year, aside from the error in the playoffs.
Another receiver possibly lost is Bryant Johnson, although he did not get many passes thrown his way, he was able to corral six catches for a total of 90 yards, along with one lone touchdown. The reason for such low numbers is the Johnson did not start a game for the Texans, and consequently, not one of the main receivers, the main attribution to such low numbers, but despite that, the nine year veteran out of Penn State could be flexed at kick or punt returns.
In four years with the Arizona Cardinals, Johnson averaged 2o yards per kickoff return, and 9 in one season of punt returns. Whether Jacoby Jones is to blame for poor punt returns, or the special teams unit in general, the newly declared free agent Johnson, just might be the spark plug the Texans are looking for in the return game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mario Williams is the first and only Texan to be signed away, barring that the Texans do not release anybody, and his absence could not have come at a better time for the Texans. While he was a key piece to the defense and made the defense what it is today, the workload will fall upon second year player Brooks Reed who replaced Williams in Week 6 of the regular season, when he was place on the injured reserve list after undergoing season ending surgery.
Reed racked up 44 tackles and six sacks in only nine regular season games, a promising future lays ahead for Reed, but despite the bright future, many analyst are predicting that the Texans will regress under Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips who is entering his second year on the job, despite no evidence among the Texans that they will regress, it is a trend in his entire career as a coordinator that the second year of his tenure, the team’s production decreases.
Another notable free agent is Quintin Demps, but. unlike the rest, Demps is a restricted free agent, but there is no word yet whether he will be tendered or not, but after a very productive year, it seems logical and very likely that the Texans will resign Demps.
With the draft nearing, the Texans choices certainly will be interesting and important to watch as the Texans have a lot of ground to make up to prevent a regression from last year, with many of the draft choices still up in the air as the Texans try to get their proverbial geese lined up before the draft. With reliable backups on the offensive line, General Manager Rick Smith has a good head on his shoulder and will undoubtedly draft wisely for the Texans and possibly take a middle round draft pick of an offensive lineman, and focus on a receiver or two and add young talent and speed to the receiving corps.
To those worrying about the Texans being stagnant in the free agency moves, do not worry, and refrain from hitting the panic button, the Texans are not the only ones doing this, they are letting the frenzy pass and all the high demands drop, and waiting patiently to strike, with that said many other successful franchises are doing the same, the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, and New England Patriots, just to name a few.
A lot of the uncompetitive teams are busy overspending and trying to snag what they think will make them automatic contenders, while the successful teams scout their prospects and tactfully make their moves. One thing to remember as free agency continues: the Philadelphia Eagles won it all as far as free agency goes, snagging all the big names in the pool, creating what Vince Young said a “dream team” yet despite their offseason championship, it had absolutely no payoff, as their “dream” turned into a nightmare and they missed the playoffs.
– Richard Perez