Chris Taylor could help boost Houston run game
Scouts Inc. has ranked the NFL's run games [Insider], and while the AFC South's three playoff teams from 2007 all rank in the top half -- Jacksonville third, Indianapolis eighth, Tennessee 15th -- Houston is at No. 28, ahead of only Denver, Arizona, Detroit and Chicago.
The Texans' run game will be a big story this season. To improve on 8-8 and get out of the cellar of what could be the toughest division in football again, it has to do better than the last year, when the rush offense ranked 22nd in the NFL in yards. With 1,586, Houston collectively outran San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson by just 112 yards. It's not quite as bad as it sounds: 10 teams were worse.
Coach Gary Kubiak lured an old coaching friend, Alex Gibbs, to Houston to teach the offensive line the zone blocking scheme that worked so well for so long when both coaches were part of Mike Shanahan's Broncos staff.
The question could well be more about the backs than the blocking. Ahman Green's knee injury ruined his 2007 season and he has to show he can be a durable feature guy for the Texans. Chris Brown had the same exact issue in Tennessee, which is why the Titans let him walk away as a free agent.
But as Scouts Inc. suggests, it may not take a marquee back to excel in Houston's system.
Third-round draft pick Steve Slaton will have a chance to make an impact as will Darius Walker. But the candidate who could surprise is Chris Taylor. Undrafted out of Indiana in 2006, he played in four games as a rookie and averaged 4.4 yards a carry in four games that season, a half yard better than the rest of the team.
Taylor suffered a season-ending knee injury in July 2007, missed the entire season and will come into camp as a forgotten man to many who aren't devoted followers of the team.