Originally Published: September 2, 2010
Fernando Medina/US Presswire JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (14): Matt Schaub finally stayed healthy in 2009 and managed to throw for a league-high 4,770 yards. The goal now is to deliver Houston a playoff berth.

Expert Picks (Consensus: 3rd)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Texans:

1. Gary Kubiak is under pressure: The Texans have some premier talent, but there are question areas and depth issues that don't appear to have been sufficiently addressed. The city and fan base have grown sick of undelivered playoff promises. This season might be a referendum on Kubiak, his staff, their approach and their schemes. Kubiak is a mellow coach the players like. But a team generally takes on the personality of its coach. Is Kubiak why the Texans often seem to lack killer instinct and sufficient fervor? Should he at least have a top lieutenant who is fire to his ice?

2. Fumbles can kill Steve Slaton: It was an issue last season, but neck surgery that dealt with arm numbness was supposed to cure the problem. So a fumble in the preseason opener was a big cause for concern. The Texans need a run game to supplement the passing offense. If it comes with a risk of the ball winding up on the turf, Houston is going to be living nervously. That's going to be true even if Slaton is more of the change-of-pace guy in the backfield and catching passes.

3. Darryl Sharpton can play: Of course the Texans will suffer a drop-off without suspended LB Brian Cushing for the first four games. But it looks as if the rookie Sharpton will get into the lineup while the reigning defensive rookie of the year is out. Sharpton took advantage of injuries to veterans, and his early preseason performance put the team at ease about having a capable replacement -- so much so that the Texans will flip Zac Diles to Cushing's strongside spot to open the weakside for Sharpton if they judge that to be their best scenario.

4. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson want to be linked: They expect to have a long time left playing together and would like to become known as one of the great quarterback-receiver duos of their generation. They understand each other. Schaub can make all the throws Johnson needs, and Johnson is able to produce in a consistent way that dictates a lot about how defenses deploy their people against the Texans. To keep it going, the inside protection needs to be better and the other receivers need to be able to take advantage of one-on-one coverage.

5. Kicker will be a big deal: Kris Brown, put on injured reserve Saturday, missed a lot of big chances last season to win or force overtime. Neil Rackers has won the kicking job for now. He needs to start the season confident, and connect on something long and important early. Like the fumbling issue, bad kicking mojo cannot linger or it will exasperate the team and sap a lot of energy from the whole organization.

-- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five


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