Grading the Texans' Season: The Good, the Bad and the Seriously Ugly
Ultimately, the 2012-13 Houston Texans season will go down as a disappointment. An impressive 11-1 start gave way to a 1-3 finish, loss of home-field advantage and second straight one win and out in the playoffs. Still, there were some bright spots for the team and some of the individual players this year.
Photos by Groovehouse Keep checking that game plan, coach.
As I went about the process of handing out grades, I tried desperately to place the failures of the last six games, but it's tough when you are still licking your wounds. As a result, most of the grades are passing, but not much, and nobody got an A.
There were times in the first 12 games when the offense seemed unstoppable, but it turned out to be Fool's Gold. As teams began to adjust to an offense that didn't adapt well as the season progressed, the running game bogged down and Matt Schaub's ineffectiveness began to show. As much as blame will be heaped on the QB this offseason, an equal share falls on the play calling, never more evident than in the two blowout losses to New England. On one side, Gary Kubiak continued to call the same plays over and over, convinced execution would win out. On the other side, Bill Belichick was trying anything and everything to create big plays for his best players.
In the end, the slowly diminishing running game, breakdown of the right side of the offensive line, unimaginative play calling and lack of a deep ball threat just killed an offense that looked like a juggernaut through the first two-thirds of the season.
I am sympathetic to Matt Schaub. He is not, nor will he ever be, one of the elite of the elites in the league. That makes him a frustratingly easy target. He also has the personality -- at least in the media -- of a turnip, so it is difficult for fans to line up on his side. But he is still a remarkably accurate passer and manager of the game. Unfortunately, he doesn't make big plays in a league where big plays win games. It is possible that Kubiak holds the reins too tightly, but Schaub is ultimately responsible for executing. His best moment of the season was when he got his ear nearly taken off, came off for one play and demanded, "Give me my fucking helmet" on the sideline. THAT is the guy Houston wants quarterbacking their team, not the guy who fell apart down the stretch and looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
Running Backs: B
Arian Foster put together another impressive season and Justin Forsett demonstrated he could spell Foster for stretches, but with another season almost entirely lost to injury for Ben Tate, entirely too much of the load was put on Foster, despite his yards per carry ranking the lowest of his career. The workload should not be an issue for Foster next year, however. Despite the massive number of carries early in the year, he only wound up with 24 more carries than 2010 and he had 26 fewer receptions. He should continue to be a workhorse next season barring injury.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B-
Despite a slow start blamed mostly on injury recovery, Andre Johnson proved that he is far from over the hill, racking up 112 catches for 1,598 yards, the yardage mark a personal and team all-time best. His touchdown numbers are still disturbingly low, but when you catch the ball 14 times for 273 yards and a 19.5 yard average as he did against Jacksonville, you remain in stud territory. The rest of the wide receiver core remains one of the worst in football. Kevin Walter turned in his second straight mediocre season with 41 catches and the three rookies Devir Posey, Keshawn Martin and LeStar Jean (okay, he's in his second year) caught 22 passes TOTAL. Posey started to come on towards the end of the season but tore his achilles tendon in the playoff game against New England.
Owen Daniels led the tight ends with 62 catches for 716 yards. He continues to demonstrate his value to the team with clutch catches and toughness over the middle. Second year man Garrett Graham filled in ably after the loss of Joel Dreessen to free agency. James Casey remains startlingly underutilized in this offense for someone of his diverse talents. Thor managed a career high 38 catches, but most of them were dump offs and screens.
Offensive Line: C-
Three members of this group are going to the Pro Bowl. The other two positions were manned by a combination of four different players as the season wore on, a rotation that seemed to limit continuity on a line that must have it to play well. Left tackle Duane Brown made the All Pro team and deserved it after signing a big extension in the offseason. Left guard Wade Smith and center Chris Myers were steady and effective in the zone blocking scheme. When you got to the right of the center, that's where things god dicey. By Sunday, rookie Brandon Brooks appeared ready to supplant Ben Jones as the starter at guard and young Derek Newton did the same at tackle. Unfortunately, the tinkering by the coaching staff all season left chemistry in shambles and a line that was unable to open big holes for the running game and pass block effectively as the season dragged on.