After MNF, roof and roster repairs for Texans
|AP Photo/Michael Conroy|
|The Texans' defense has allowed opponents to score touchdowns in the red zone a league-worst 71.9 percent of the time.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Tuesday or Wednesday, workers will begin replacing the pieces of the Reliant Stadium roof damaged by Hurricane Ike on Sept. 13.
The heavy fabric panels will be laid down by helicopter and then laced in place.
Texans owner Bob McNair said the construction will be finished by the first part of January.
Right about when the work is finished, another repair project will commence, as the disappointing Houston Texans look to fix a team that has come up well short of expectations in 2008.
When the schedule came out in the spring and the Texans saw they were scheduled for their first "Monday Night Football" game in team history, they weren't expecting a battle of 4-7 teams.
"We thought quite possibly you'd have two teams contending for the lead in the AFC South," owner Bob McNair said. "We were certainly excited about that possibility. It was an exciting lineup at that point in time."
Now, instead of showing off a contender looking to make a bid for the playoffs, the Texans' matchup with the Jaguars is about the bottom of the AFC South.
The loser gets last place.
What's gone wrong for a team that came into the season with playoff aspirations and has seen four teams it beat last season -- Carolina, Miami, New Orleans and Denver -- become legitimate postseason contenders?
Well, the team was thrown off when Ike slammed into Houston and the surrounding area, giving players bigger things to worry about than football. The storm forced Houston's scheduled home opener against the Ravens to be postponed, which meant the Texans didn't play a home game until Oct. 5. But the team doesn't want to use the storm as an excuse, and it has plenty of issues unrelated to it.
More significant: An often undermanned vanilla defense that has given up nearly 27 points a game and has allowed opponents to score touchdowns in the red zone a league-worst 71.9 percent of the time; the team has continuing problems turning the ball over; and a knee injury has knocked quarterback Matt Schaub, who missed a game earlier because he was sick, out of the last three games.
McNair indicated he's patient enough to wait for coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith's plan to round into form. Players have repeatedly said they support Kubiak, though indications are many would welcome a change at defensive coordinator, where Richard Smith has come under fire.
While Schaub, receiver Andre Johnson and rookie running back Steve Slaton give the Texans on offensive core of skill players they can compete with, the offseason is sure to include an overhaul of personnel on defense, where end Mario Williams is a top-flight talent who needs more help.
"I'm a patient person as long as people are performing and they're improving," McNair said. "If they're going backwards, I'm not very patient. As long as they are making progress and moving toward the goal that we've established, then I am patient. But there are a lot of things that you can't do in this league. You can't go out if you're unhappy with your players and say, 'Well, I'm going to replace all my players.' Where are you going to get players to replace them? Everybody is under contract.
"If your coaches aren't performing the way you want, you can't just say, 'I am going to go out and fire all the coaches and bring in another group.' Who are you going to bring in? So you have to be patient about it and recognize you have to work within the system. Basically, we've decided we have to build through the draft and that's a long process. We are getting there, and we are making the progress I think we need to make."
But the people already in place need to do a better job handling situations such as the one they faced on Oct. 5, when Houston let the Colts wash away a 17-point lead with under three minutes remaining.
"You keep working hard trying to develop that mental toughness that really allows you to really maintain your poise and control of the game during those crunch times," McNair said. "And a young team has to learn to do that. I think on offense our team is learning to do that and on defense last week they did it, and I hope they're developing that mental toughness that will allow us to shut people down when we need to."
The defense is coming off its best showing of the season. An aggressive bunch held the Browns to six points in Cleveland and won the turnover battle, 5-2.
Schaub could be back from his knee injury against the Jaguars, though it would make sense not to push him.
He's one of only a dozen NFL quarterbacks with a passer rating over 90, and he was playing well before a low hit by Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen left him with a torn MCL in his left knee. Injuries limited Schaub to 11 games in 2007.
"I want to be out there more than anybody, but it's tough when someone dives at your leg and you hurt your knee," he said. "I understand that people are going to label someone injury-prone and I'm fine with that because I know I am not. It's just unfortunate things that happen on the football field. I know what I am capable of and what I can do, I've just got to avoid those unnecessary hits."
The defense's performance in Cleveland is the new cause for optimism. The Jaguars are enduring a down season, but their offense still ranks as a solid notch better than Cleveland's. Schaub said the effort gave the team a "great lift" and that the team hopes it carries over into prime time.
"Things haven't gone how Jacksonville or how we would have liked to have our season go," Schaub said. "But that's where we are right now. All we can do is go out to win a football game."