That was, until catastrophe struck in Houston.
On May 7, several months before training camps were to kick-off, Houston found out they would be without the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing for the first four games of the 2010 campaign. Cushing was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell after it was found out he failed a drug test in September of '09.
That was just the first of many blows the Texans would take this season, on the defensive side of the ball in particular.
After taking Auburn running back Ben Tate in the second round (58th overall) in this past April's draft, hoping to make up for Steve Slaton's inconsistent play, Houston thought they had it made on offense. They finally had a guy they could count on in tough situations. As it turns out, Tate didn't even complete his first pre-season game before breaking his ankle and being placed on the injured reserve, ending his season before it even got started.
Before the season had gotten underway for Houston, they already had five guys on the injured reserve (DT Tim Bulman, LB Darnell Bing, WRs Trindon Holliday and Andre' Davis being the other four). Throughout the season nine more were placed on the list, two of them being Houston's top defenders in LB DeMeco Ryans and DE Mario Williams.
Because of the losses on the defensive side of the ball, Houston has lacked consistency and therefore is currently ranked 30th in total defense (dead-last against pass, ninth against run).
Nevertheless, Houston has fought its way through the tough times, starting the season with a big 34-24 victory against defending division champion Colts, and a 3-1 record after the first four weeks of the season (Colts-w, Redskins-w, Cowboys-L, Raiders-w). For their fifth game, against the New York Giants, Houston got tackling-machine linebacker Brian Cushing back in the lineup, but still allowed 30-plus points in each of the next three games (1-2 record over that stretch).
With questions surrounding the running game at the start of the season, the 24-year old second year RB out of Tennessee, Arian Foster, stepped up and made a huge impact right away. He caught the attention of fans right off the bat with a 231-yard, three TD performance against the Colts in the season opener. Throughout the next 13 games Foster would continue his success, putting up six 100-yard performances and scoring touchdowns left and right. At the current moment, Foster has accumulated 1,345 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, both of which are good enough for first in the league.
Unfortunately for Gary Kubiak, having the best back in the league doesn't necessarily translate in to wins. There has to be consistency at the quarterback position as well, and we have not seen that with Matt Schaub this year. I mean, sure, he's had some great games (passing yardages of 497, 305, 314, 337, 393 and 325), but he's made quite a few mental mistakes and has been known to throw interceptions at very inopportune times. Great statline for 2010, but he hasn't been able to finish a couple of costly games, which has certainly helped lead Houston to some of these losses.
If it wasn't for injuries to key players and inconsistency and inability to play football all sixty minutes, just think at where they could be right now. Looking at their schedule and how close some of these games have been (some have had unlucky endings going against Houston, as well), they very well could have a 9-5 record, instead of a 5-9 record. And with how the South has been playing out this year, they would have a great shot at capturing the division and heading to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Joel Dreessen: AP Photo/Stephen Morton
DeMeco Ryans: AP Photo/Dave Einsel