LX from Chuco, Texas, writes: You are soooooo defensive about the Texans' org and especially about the lunch-money-victim coaches (Kubes and Phillips). You wrote that "General manager Rick Smith and coach Gary Kubiak crafted and fielded a team that made a major breakthrough last season: the Houston Texans’ first trip to the playoffs." ...Well, isn't that what was expected of them last year. The entire division played horrible, Manning's injury exposed the Colts, Arian proved he wasn't a one-hit-wonder, and the Texans' Def improved (because history showed it would in Philips' 1st yr). Kubes and his people show you just enough each year to say that they improved, but they have yet to beat PHI, SD, BAL, or NYJ ever; win at IND (even if Peyton wasn't playing); or sweep the division. Speaking of history, Matt Schaub will not finish the season-again, both he and Kareem Jackson will hinder late-game comebacks, most of the rookies will be broken by the time the season starts, Phillips' D will struggle, and a guaranteed loss awaits them in Indy (possibly lose the other Colts game because they tend to drop games to rookie QBs).
Paul Kuharsky: So by your thinking, if a team is expected to win its division and does, it doesn’t count as an accomplishment because it only did what was expected?
You and I have different qualifications for being good.
Mine is that you get to and advance in the playoffs.
Houston’s defense was better because history shows it would be under Wade Phillips in his first year? So what, it was better. If you’re going to say they won it in part because Peyton Manning wasn’t playing, then are you giving them a pass for all the years they didn’t make the playoffs because he WAS playing?
You play the schedule you’re given and if you win your division, guess what? You were its best team. The Texans also beat Cincinnati in the playoffs, so guess what? They were also better than at least one playoff team.
And please don’t pretend like you know Schaub’s health future. He played two straight healthy seasons before a freak injury last year. Any QB who had his leg twisted by Albert Haynesworth the way Schaub did was likely suffering that injury.
Travelz from Rio de Janeiro writes: Paul, ... you’re joking right??!!??......... MJD is the entire Jags O, plus heart and soul of team!! And, as a Jax fan, I think I am ready to email ESPN and ask them to get you to submit a drug test, if you think Ras Jennings is ready to handle the load solo, and get weak weaky Gabby a nice level of comfort !!!! You have limited tape or stats at pro level to support the Jennings claim at all !!! Injured most of last year, over his head the year prior, thus he has shown that he is feature back.
Paul Kuharsky: I don’t think I said Rashad Jennings is an NFL feature back on the level of Maurice Jones-Drew. I do think the Jaguars would hand him the ball and be OK with it so long as MJD isn’t around. And trust me, when it comes time to start missing paychecks, he’ll be back. They all are.
He’s not the boss.
Why be mad at the team and not mad at him for not anticipating that the deal he signed just two years ago would be out of sync with running backs in just two seasons? And is being the eighth-best paid back really a crime for one of the league’s top five backs? (Please don’t reply with he’s the best because he led the league in rushing.) Players take their turns -- when you sign, you’re at the top. In subsequent years, you fall down the list at your position.
It’s called life in the NFL.
@indydadof3 writes: How will Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis handle the new defensive scheme?
Paul Kuharsky: Chuck Pagano is a smart guy and he knows those two guys are premier pass-rushers. He’s not going to ask them to spend a lot of time doing stuff they aren’t good at. They will move around and it will make them less predictable and create some confusion. But I envision an adjustment like the one Mario Williams was making last year before he was hurt in Houston. He was surrounded by better players, but had five sacks in five games when he got hurt.
Kevin Cunningham from Portland, Ore., writes: The Texans have four top flight players coming to free agency this summer all at premium positions. Of the four (Duane Brown, Connor Barwin, Brian Cushing, Matt Schaub) which one is the most vital to what the Texans do? I think Brown is one of the best LT in the league, and Barwin is going to cost a ton due to his sack totals and we all know Cushing and Schaub are the leaders on their respective sides of the ball. Can the Texans keep all four?
Paul Kuharsky: Cushing is under contract for 2013 -- due a base salary of $2.193 million. He’ll be in line for a new deal, but he won’t be heading for free agency just yet.
LX from CHUCO, TX writes again: A popular phrase around the NFL is "If you have two starting QB, you have no QB"; shouldn't the same apply to Kareem Jackson and the HOU CBs? Joseph, as you pointed out, seems to agree by saying ??They drafted him here in the first-round to be a fulltime corner, not to be a split-time corner." If you draft a player in the first round, he should be held to a higher standard and be expected to hold the position w/o the aid of a tag-team. This arrangement burns-up an extra spot on the ROSTER and SALARY CAP space (common excuses for cuts in HOU). Jason Babin showed early promise and was cut, Dunta Robinson and Mario Williams were used until they needed a raise, and the defensive CAPTAIN (not a 1st rounder, but just as important) DeMeco Ryans was tossed away like a soiled diaper; with such disregard for high-draft-choices (that actually did their job solo), why is Kareem so well liked? Why doesn't HOU spend a high pick on another CB? They drafted RB Tate when Arian Foster was emerging and hoard TEs as if prepping for an Apocalypse; why not invest in a caliber CB if available?
Paul Kuharsky: They aren’t burning a roster spot by having a Jason Allen or an Alan Ball. They need that cornerback depth no matter how well or how much Jackson plays. It’s just a matter of how much that third guy plays.
I agree, Jackson should be an every down guy. But if he’s not good enough to be an every down guy, then they have to do something else. It’s better than leaving him out there when he’s not good enough when they have a better alternative.
Jason Babin was ages ago and was terrible in Houston, miscast as a 3-4 OLB. They changed to a 4-3 and back to a 3-4 since then. Robinson wasn’t worth what they would have had to pay, and neither was Williams.
And it’s time to get over the Ryans trade. He played less than half the snaps last year and didn’t do a lot. He didn’t fit the system. If you like J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed, who are great in the 3-4, then you have to accept collateral damage like Ryans.
He did. You can.
Finally, having Ben Tate is hardly a bad thing. You seem to be anti-depth. That’s a bad stance, because the Texans won the division last year because of their depth.
@TitanSizedJason writes: In two years time, who will be the better LB for the Titans: Akeem Ayers or Zach Brown?
Paul Kuharsky: I’m not much for such forecasts, but it’s important to note they are very different players. The Titans used to allow for their two outside linebackers to be very similar players. Not these two.
Ayers is a big, strongside guy who should be able to manhandle some tight ends and be an effective rusher. Brown is keyed around his speed and will drop to cover far more than he will go forward to get near the quarterback.
Let’s see them both work in Jerry Gray’s system before a big comparison. Ayers was limited last year as Gray didn’t install a whole lot as a first-year Titans coordinator without offseason work.
Thanks to everyone for the questions.