- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Final Power Ranking: 21
Preseason Power Ranking: 14
Biggest surprise: Houston liked what it saw from Arian Foster late in 2009. The team believed he would feed off the motivation and opportunity it offered him in the offseason. But even plugging him into the Texans' best-case scenario, it would have been hard to envision Foster earning the NFL’s rushing title as a part of a pass-centric offense backed by a shaky defense. He burst onto the scene with 231 rushing yards against the Colts, and it stood up as the biggest rush game of the season. He carried 327 times for 1,616 yards (a 4.9-yard average) with 16 touchdowns. He was also the team’s second leading receiver with 66 catches for 604 yards and two more scores. It was an incredible season.
Biggest disappointment: The defense was not going to be the strength of the team, but it would have been hard to envision just how poorly this group was going to do. The front didn’t hurry quarterbacks enough, and they posted a collective 100.5 passer rating against the Texans. In their last 10 games, they beat only Titans rookie Rusty Smith and Jacksonville backup Trent Edwards. The veteran safeties, Eugene Wilson and Bernard Pollard, were ineffective against the pass and did little to offset the inexperience of the Kiddie Corps Corners -- Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin and the eventually benched Brice McCain. Jason Allen was an improvement when he came in, but not by a ton. Houston gave up 33 passing touchdowns, a number bigger than its sack total (30).
Biggest need: Defense. It starts with a replacement for defensive coordinator Frank Bush and several other new defensive assistants as the Texans are sticking with head coach Gary Kubiak. From there, whether they stick with a 4-3 or unwisely move to a 3-4 which would hurt Mario Williams, they have desperate needs. At least one penetrating defensive tackle, safeties who are comfortable in coverage and fast, and a veteran corner who could lead a young group would be big additions.
Team MVP: Foster. It’s hard to look another direction considering Andre Johnson dealt with an ankle injury all season and missed three games. Foster was steady and could have produced even more but for some questionable play-calling, particularly in the loss at Indianapolis.
Work as a unit: Fullback Vonta Leach earned a Pro Bowl spot for his work leading Foster, but none of the offensive linemen was even named an alternate to the all-star game. The group and tight ends, led by Joel Dreessen, did fine work making things happen for Foster in their first season without the offensive line coach who set up their scheme, Alex Gibbs. The pass blocking was not as good as Matt Schaub was taken down 32 times, even if a share of those were on him. If the Texans can improve there, this batch of relative unknowns could really have an impact in 2011.