INDIANAPOLIS – A capsule look at the Colts' opponent this week, the Houston Texans of the AFC South.
Synopsis: Coming off of a 10-6 season and a second consecutive AFC South title, the Indianapolis Colts will travel to Houston to face the Texans in an AFC South showdown.
If this scenario seems eerily familiar, that is because last season the Colts found themselves in Houston for a week one matchup at Reliant Stadium. The Colts hope to leave Houston with better memories this season, as they were defeated last year, 34-24. Led by a record day from Arian Foster, the running back from the University of Tennessee ran for a team-record 231 yards and scored three touchdowns in the Texans' victory.
However, the Colts would respond later in the season, defeating the Texans, 30-17, in week eight at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Following preseason play, the Texans finished with a 3-1 record, but lost their finale, 28-0, to the Minnesota Vikings. The Colts had a final record of 1-3, and but were able to end the preseason with a 17-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Texans enter the 2011 regular season looking to breakthrough with an AFC South championship, and their journey begins in week one against the Colts.
In 2010, head coach Gary Kubiak and the Texans finished with a record of 6-10, but were able to add a number of key pieces this offseason to bolster an already talented roster. Starting with the 2011 NFL Draft, the Texans began the transformation of their defense, using six of their eight draft picks to improve upon the 30th-ranked defense (376.9 ypg) in 2010.
Defensive end J.J. Watt and linebacker Brooks Reed highlighted the Texans draft class, and Houston will look for each to immediately contribute to the pass rush along with the healthy return of linebacker Mario Williams from injured reserve.
The major offseason acquisitions for the Texans were the free agent-signings of cornerback Johnathan Joseph from the Cincinnati Bengals and safety Danieal Manning from the Chicago Bears. Joseph and Manning will look to step in and help improve upon the pass defense. The Texans also added talent to the secondary through the draft, selecting defensive backs Rashad Carmichael and Shiloh Keo in the fourth and fifth rounds respectively.
Along with the additions of key players on the defensive side of the ball, Gary Kubiak was also able to add former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Wade Phillips to his coaching staff as the defensive coordinator.
Phillips will convert the Texans from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, and he will have a number of weapons to help make this transition as quickly and effectively as possible.
Little needed to be done to the offensive side of the ball, as the Texans finished last season third in total offense with 386.6 yards per game.
Among the weapons at quarterback Matt Schaub's disposal include, running back Arian Foster, tight end Owen Daniels, wide receiver Kevin Walter and wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Colts defensive back, Jerraud Powers is accustomed to facing off against Johnson, and knows full well what to expect from one of the league's premier receivers.
"It's always tough, no matter if it's the first game or the 16th game. (Andre Johnson is), obviously, the best receiver in the league," said Powers. "(I have) a ton of respect for him and the whole Houston offense, so it's going to definitely be a difficult challenge. But it's going to be a fun one. He's a great player and I always look forward to going against the best players in the game, because it gives me a huge opportunity to make a case for myself."
Engineered by the combination of Schaub and Johnson, the Texans finished fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game (259.0), and Powers understands that limiting Johnson will be a key to their success.
"The thing about Andre (Johnson) is that he's such a big-play guy that any time he touches the ball he has a chance of going the distance…He has a great quarterback to get him the ball, he has a great system he's in, and he does a tremendous job of making big plays in that system. No matter how you look at it, he's still going to be out there."
2010 Record:6-10, 3rd in AFC South
*Head Coach: *Gary Kubiak, sixth season as Texans and NFL Head Coach (37-43)
*Last game: *The Texans climbed out to an early 10-0 lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and never looked back. Led by a precise and explosive offensive performance, Matt Schaub went 18-of-22 for 253 yards and one touchdown, and Arian Foster carried the ball 31 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns. The victory allowed Houston to finish the 2010 season with a 6-10 record.
*2010 NFL Rankings: *Offense – Overall, 3rd (386.6); Rushing, 7th (127.6); Passing, 4th (259.0); Defense – Overall, 30th (376.9); Rushing, 13th (109.4); Passing, 32nd (267.5)
*2010 Leading Passer: *Matt Schaub (365-574 comp., 4,370 yards, 63.6 pct., 24 TD, 12 INT, 92.0 rating)
*2010 Leading Rusher: *Arian Foster (327 carries, 1,616 yards, 16 TD)
*2010 Leading Receiver: *Andre Johnson (86 receptions, 1,216 yards, 8 TD)
2010 Leading Sacker: Mario Williams (8.5)
2010 Turnover Breakdown: 0 (Tied 13th)
*First-round draft choice: *J.J. Watt, defensive end. With the 11th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Texans selected J.J. Watt, a defensive end from the University of Wisconsin.
Watt (6-5, 290), was an AP and SI second-team All-American at Wisconsin, and was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. He was also awarded Academic All-Big Ten honors.
*Key free agents acquired: *Johnathan Joseph (Cincinnati) CB; Danieal Manning (Chicago) S; Lawrence Vickers (Cleveland) FB
*Key free agents lost: *Vonta Leach (Baltimore) FB; David Anderson (Denver) WR; Amobi Okoye (Chicago)
*2010 Review: *Heading into the 2010 season, the Texans had high hopes following the best campaign in the organization's history, as the team went 9-7 and finished second in the AFC South in 2009. However, Houston finished the 2010 season with a mark of 6-10, placing third in the AFC South.
Gary Kubiak and the Texans started off the season 2-0 with an opening day victory over the Indianapolis Colts, but by week 11 found themselves below the .500 mark at 4-6.
The 2010 season was one that did not meet the aspirations of the Texans, but it did have its fair share of bright spots.
Running back Arian Foster worked his way up the depth chart to earn the starting job, and he rewarded the Texans with 2,220 total yards and 18 touchdowns.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub continued to establish themselves as one of the top quarterback-receiver tandems in the NFL, as the two led the Texans to the 4th-best passing attack in the league.
Last time in Playoffs: None
*Last time in Super Bowl: *None
*Super Bowl Championships: *None
*2010 Pro Bowl Selections: *Arian Foster, RB; Vonta Leach, FB; Andre Johnson, WR
Quotable I: "It (the defense) has been looking great. Guys have stepped in and played well. It's a pleasure to watch. I think we've made some strides. We're a lot better than we've been in the past, but we're still not satisfied. We still understand that we have a lot of things we can improve on."
--- Texans Linebacker DeMeco Ryans (to the Houston Chronicle)
Quotable II: "Once we went out and got a safety and corner, and we did the things we did in the draft, we felt like - now you never know for sure until they get out and do it - we thought we had good personnel and if we got them in the right places and utilize their ability, we'd be able to do well."
--- Texans Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips (to the Houston Chronicle)