Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson
We will examine each AFC South team's "weak spot" based on its 2008 performance. Houston's weakness was in its giveaway-takeaway ratio.
As the second head coach in franchise history, Gary Kubiak is 22-26 in three seasons in Houston. That record includes consecutive 8-8 seasons the past two campaigns. One aspect of the 2008 season that stands out as problem was Houston's giveaway-takeaway ratio. With 32 giveaways and 22 takeaways, they ranked at minus 10 - that's fourth-worst in the league. Improve that stat, and the Texans should be able to post their first winning season.
Last season only the New York Jets (23) threw more interceptions than Houston (20, tied with the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns for second place). Matt Schaub threw 200 more passes than Sage Rosenfels in 2008, but both signal-callers threw the same number of interceptions: 10. Rosenfels' 5.7 interception percentage is surely the number one reason why he no longer is a Texan.
In Rosenfels' place is former Detroit Lions' backup Dan Orlovsky, whom Houston inked to a fairly big money deal to be Schaub's understudy. Given Schaub's history of injuries, Orlovsky surely could see action in what should be a high powered offense. In Detroit last year, Orlovsky threw eight interceptions in 255 pass attempts, good for a 3.1 interception percentage. It must be noted that he accomplished this despite playing on a winless football team that was often playing from behind Orlovsky values the football much more than Rosenfels.
The Texans also lost 12 fumbles in 2008. Although that can be an arbitrary statistic, only seven teams lost more. Meanwhile Houston did recover 10 fumbles, which put them in the middle of the pack for the league in that category. This pretty much ends up being a wash. Interceptions are the big issue for the Texans.
Despite having one of the most disruptive defensive players in the league and an elite pass rusher in Mario Williams, the Texans were only able to manage 12 interceptions in 2008. Adding free-agent Antonio Smith and 2009 second-round draft pick Connor Barwin could help the pass rush, as former Cardinals star Smith will be the starting defensive end opposite Williams. Smith also can move inside to team up with Amobi Okoye, forming a potentially daunting interior pass rushing duo with a fresh Barwin then lining up at end. Barwin is a very raw prospect who needs to develop more of a pass-rush repertoire, but he is incredibly athletic. The former University of Cincinnati tight end switched to defensive end his senior season and was a productive pass rusher (11 sacks). Plus, Williams surely will demand a great deal of attention from opposing blocking schemes, allowing Barwin to work one-on-one on the edge.
Still, the Texans lack a true ballhawk in their secondary. This is especially true at safety, which very well could be the weakest position on Houston's present roster.
Houston has made steps to improve its giveaway-takeaway ratio, but let's just see if those moves translate into a breakthrough season in 2009.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.