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Offseason Primers: Houston Texans

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Texans' best chance to make the Super Bowl in the history of their franchise went by the wayside thanks to a late-season slump that cost them home-field advantage in the AFC. That overshadowed what was a pretty good season for a team that was loaded defensively and had their playmakers deliver strong seasons offensively. It also presents a challenging season ahead.

Getting those playmakers to repeat their feats will be tough. Andre Johnson will be 32 and coming off a career-best 1,598-yard season. But like league counterpart Calvin Johnson, he struggled when it came to scoring, nabbing just four touchdowns. That has to change for the Texans to be effective and it could be tough because the team is thin on receiving talent opposite Johnson. Last year they had Kevin Walter for the seventh straight year opposite Johnson. He stunk (518 yards, two touchdowns) and has since been let go. If they add a speedy receiver via the draft who can fill that role, the offense could be impossible to stop. If they don't, the likes of Lestar Jean, Keshawn Martin and maybe DeVier Posey will compete to start. Utilizing matchup nightmare running back/tight end James Casey isn't an option after he left for more playing time in Philadelphia in March. Houston has a very important hole to fill.

2012 Touches Leaders
862 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Arian Foster 391 (351 car., 40 rec.) 45.3%
Andre Johnson 112 rec. 13.0%
Ben Tate 76 (65 car., 11 rec.) 8.8%
Justin Forsett 66 (63 car., 3 rec.) 7.7%
Owen Daniels 62 rec. 7.2%
Kevin Walter 41 rec. 4.8%
All Others 114 13.2%

Not that passing is their preferred way to move the chains. The Texans again ranked highly as a rushing offense thanks to the exploits of Arian Foster. The Fantasy legend again topped 1,600 total yards and 12 total touchdowns (he had 17 in 2012), but it came at a steep price as he had over 400 carries between the regular season and the postseason (18 games). Not many running backs put up that much work and come back as strong the following year but Foster is a good candidate to buck that trend. An irregular heartbeat discovered last season shouldn't be anything to worry about nor should his overall workload -- which has averaged 21.2 carries per game over the last three seasons -- but it's all worth noticing. And if the Texans coaches notice, we could see his workload lightened to open the season. One big positive is his use at the goal line -- there were weeks last season that were salvaged by his scores and that's bound to continue. Foster remains a very good Fantasy option but one that needs a handcuff.

Outside of those two on offense, there are plenty of questions including whether or not Matt Schaub can push the team past the second round of the playoffs (remember when it was whether or not he could push them to the playoffs, period?). There's also the state of the defense and whether or not J.J. Watt can remain dominant and if the secondary can withstand the loss of Glover Quin. For a team that was so close to being a contender for Super Bowl XLVII, they're being taken as lightly as a team that went 8-8. We'll see if it's warranted in 2013.

Ben Tate -- Potential breakout

2012 Target Leaders
544 pass attempts
Andre Johnson 164 30.1%
Owen Daniels 103 18.9%
Kevin Walter 68 12.3%
Arian Foster 58 10.6%
James Casey 45 8.3%
All Others 106 19.5%

It goes without saying that if Foster stays healthy, Tate's contributions will be minimal. But Foster is coming off a season and postseason where he had not just 400 carries but over 450 total touches. It's a lot of wear and tear on a running back. The Texans are confident in Tate's abilities in the offense and might not be shy about giving Tate around eight touches per week if only to keep Foster in shape. Of course, Foster could always get hurt and that would open the door for Tate to be a high-volume back like he was at the very start of his career when Foster was sidelined. Either way, getting Tate is a must if you take Foster with an early first-round pick but he's also a speculative choice if you don't have Foster. We're talking about a middle-round pick so it's not exactly low-risk but if there's one thing that's in the back of Tate's mind it's that if he gets an opportunity to play he can make it pay off -- literally. He's in a contract year and could be a starter for a team looking to run the zone-blocking scheme in 2014.

Matt Schaub -- Bust

Schaub's numbers in 2012 weren't so far out of line with what he's done in Houston, and that's entirely the problem. His stock tanked last season as he struggled to put up big numbers while younger, more versatile passers were all the rage. Those youngsters are now who Fantasy owners are targeting, pushing Schaub down rank lists everywhere. He might be worth a late pick as a handcuff to one of the young quarterbacks you take in Rounds 5-8, but with the depth at the position and his sliding passing yard average to go with a less-than-stellar touchdown total, he's not the guy many thought he was a few years ago. Schaub might actually not get picked in some smaller drafts. Schaub is worth a late-round pick in drafts strictly as a decent backup Fantasy option and nothing more.

Lestar Jean -- Late-round flier

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Matt Schaub Late-round pick
Arian Foster Top 3 overall
Ben Tate 80-95 overall
Andre Johnson 25-35 overall
Owen Daniels 120-130 overall
Randy Bullock Late-round pick
Texans DST Late-round pick

Consider Jean at the very least a placeholder and at the very most a deep sleeper. It's evident the Texans not only need to upgrade at receiver but are planning on it. You could tell that when they released seven-year veteran Kevin Walter, who did a lot of underrated work but was never great for Fantasy purposes. Coach Gary Kubiak said this offseason that he thinks a lot of Jean and why not after he proved he could work some magic on deep passes. Last year Jean had 151 yards on six catches: One went for over 20 yards, two went for over 40 yards, four went for first downs and another saw him finish in the end zone. Perhaps if Jean proves in training camp that he can do the dirty underneath work while also being an asset on the big plays then he'll earn a starting job and the stats will follow. Whoever starts opposite Andre Johnson will have the look of a late-round pick.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Titans' Lewan says QB Mettenberger still views himself as starter
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(5/4/2015) Even though the Titans drafted quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second-overall pick, tackle Taylor Lewan said that QB Zach Mettenberger, who started six games last season as a rookie, still regards himself as the starter, reports the Tennessean.com.

"That is the mentality that Zach has. He thinks of himself as a starter, and the guys in the locker room do also," Lewan said. "I don't think he is going to give it up easily,"
Lewan was the Titans' first-round pick in last year's draft.

Browns' Pettine: Josh McCown favorite to enter camp as starter
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/4/2015) Browns coach Mike Pettine said in a radio interview Monday that it's "fair to say" that Josh McCown will enter camp as the team's starting quarterback, the Northeast Ohio Media Group reports.

Pettine had said in April that he wasn't ready to name McCown the likely starter for anything, but after the Browns came out of draft weekend without a new quarterback on the roster, it appears the former Buccaneers starter is in line to open camp atop the depth chart at the position.

McCown started 11 games with the Buccaneers last season, completing 56.3 percent of his passes while throwing 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.


Bengals' Tyler Eifert (shoulder) on track for start of camp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/4/2015) Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert is on target to participate from the start of training camp, Bengals.com reports.

Eifert tore his labrum last offseason and dislocated his elbow in the first quarter of his first regular-season game. Rather than return late in the year, he and the team opted for season-ending shoulder surgery. The tight end said that his elbow has been cleared and he's waiting to receive clearance on his shoulder in a few weeks.

"I tried to play through the year. Once I had elbow surgery and I wasn’t going to come back, then I just got the shoulder done," Eifert said. "That’s why I’m excited now because I’m feeling strong, feeling upbeat. I’m not in any pain. It feels good."


49ers' Justin Smith to announce retirement decision in May
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/4/2015) 49ers defensive end Justin Smith plans to sit down with team officials in May and decide whether he'll return for one more season, the Sacramento Bee reports.

"You'll know in about three weeks or so," Smith said Monday.

Smith wouldn't say which way he was leaning. He indicated that the the team's decision to draft a defensive lineman in the first round of the draft did not signal his impending retirement.

"We gave Justin liberty to make his own decision on his time frame," Baalke said after selecting Arik Armstead Thursday. "We went into the draft not thinking about what decision Justin’s going to make or not going to make. We just went in to find the best football player, the best system fit that we could."


Texans agree to four-year extension with LB Whitney Mercilus
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/4/2015) The Texans have agreed to a four-year contract extension with linebacker Whitney Mercilus, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Mercilus will receive $26 million under the terms of the deal, which will keep in Houston until 2019, ESPN reports. He has missed just one game in his first three years with the Texans, racking up 122 total tackles and 18 sacks while forcing four fumbles.


Titans tailoring offense to Marcus Mariota's strengths
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/4/2015) Titans general manager Ruston Webster reiterated Monday that coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff have begun tailoring the offense to fit the strengths of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, NFL.com reports.

"Our coaches have been working on a plan for quite some time now for Marcus," Webster said. "Really to adapting our offense to his skill set -- he has a special skill set. There's really not much he can't do from physical standpoint and he's very bright. That combination is going to allow him to do his own adapting to the NFL game but our coaches have worked very hard on coming up with a system within our system for Marcus. I think it will work well."

The Titans believe that Mariota will work fine under center and reading defenses despite not being asked to do so while playing at Oregon.


Cardinals' Carson Palmer (knee) participates in drills Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/4/2015) Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (knee) worked out Monday, participating with the first-team offense in all drills, NFL.com reports.

Though the action wasn't close to replicating game-like conditions, the quarterback said he received a big mental boost by joining his team after missing the last eight games of the season due to a torn ACL.

"You want all your guys out there," Palmer said. "I know I want my five starting linemen and my two starting receivers. You don’t ever want to see guys on the sidelines. Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to do everything once OTAs start, but I’ll be able to do just about everything. It’s important (to participate) because I enjoy it. I can’t wait for tomorrow and I can’t wait for every day."

Palmer said the injury forces him to "start over from scratch" mechanically, as he works to regain the footwork and balance needed to be successful in the pocket.

“All those little things that still go through my head every couple reps, I’m fighting to get to the point where you just don’t think about that anymore,” Palmer said. “It just becomes natural. Just ingraining all those small mechanical movements is something that takes repetition after repetition.”


49ers GM says LB Aldon Smith developing as leader for team
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(5/4/2015) 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said that linebacker Aldon Smith has started to develop as a leader on the field and that he has a “a great look in his eye,” the team has reported.

"It’s a role I’m comfortable with,” Smith said. “I’m kind of one of the older guys on the team now. I’m one of the guys who has been here for a while, so I’m helping out people who need help with anything, whether that’s knowing where to go down here or football questions.”

Smith served a nine-game suspension during the 2014 season for violating the league's policies on personal conduct and substance abuse.

49ers place Chris Borland on reserve/retired list
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/4/2015) The 49ers placed linebacker Chris Borland on the reserve/retired list Monday, CSNBayArea.com reports.

The move is a formality, as Borland announced his decision to retire in mid-March. The move clears $109.359 in immediate cap space. The 49ers didn't address the inside-linebacker position in this year's draft despite the retirements of Borland and Patrick Willis.


49ers waive/injured Chase Thomas
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5/4/2015) The 49ers have waived/injured linebacker Chase Thomas, the team announced Monday.

Thomas made two special-teams tackles in five games played with the 49ers last season. He tore an ACL while working out earlier in the offseason and will presumably miss the entire 2015 season.


 
 
 
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