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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
Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


Giants QB Eli Manning wants to take offense 'to another level'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Giants quarterback Eli Manning is entering the second year in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system. Manning is ready to take the next step now that he is familiar with the system, reports the NY Daily News.

““This year will be a much easier transition, knowing that we have been through so much of it already,” said Manning, who recently had been working out at Ole Miss with some of their receivers and alumni. “It’s definitely a different starting point. I feel good about it. I feel that I have a good understanding of it.

“But there is still room to grow and that is why I try to keep it as fresh in my mind as possible. Looking at old game-plan sheets and calling plays in my head – throwing routes with receivers trying to call out plays to myself, so you don’t let it slip away. It was new last year and it wasn’t something I have been doing for 10 years, so you want to keep it fresh and go through your reminders and all your checks. So when we come back I haven’t taken a step backwards and have to re-learn things. It is still all there. There will be new stuff and we will be taking it to another level.”

Manning has started all 16 games in each season since 2005, throwing for 39,755 yards with 259 touchdowns and 185 interceptions.


Saints TE Josh Hill wants to grow into new role
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) After trading trading Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, tight end Josh Hill is ready to step into his new role with the Saints, according to the team's offical website.

“I think it might open a few opportunities for me as I continue to grow in my role and just do everything they ask me to do,” Hill said when asked about the trade of Graham to the Seahawks.

Hill recognized that Graham helped him transition from college to the professional level.

“It’s a big difference, especially coming from a smaller school and a smaller city," Hill said. "He was always there for me. We became pretty good friends over the past few years so it will definitely be different without him.”

Head coach Sean Payton believes that Hill is ready to step up.

“Josh Hill is a player that we value a lot," Payton said last week at the NFL annual meeting. "He’s not on anyone’s fantasy first three rounds, I promise you, but he’s a real good tight end. He’s versatile in the running game, in the pass receiving game, a special teams player.”

Hill, heading into his third year in the NFL, has recorded 20 receptions for 220 yards and six touchdowns. 


Cowboys QB Tony Romo excited about this offseason
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is excited about what the offseason holds for him, according to ESPN.

“This is the first offseason where I’ve been able to kind of get after it this early and be able to kind of improve in a lot of different areas that I think you aren’t able to until you get healthy enough to attack it,” Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “I’m just excited about that, really.”

Romo, 34, is encouraged by the fact that he is able to do a lot of different things during the offseason process while working out.

“Now I’m able to do that while actually doing functional strength training through different versions of squats,” Romo said. “I’m not putting anything on my back and doing stuff like that but you are doing a lot of single-leg stuff and different things that I started getting into during the season that helped a lot. Now it’s nice to be able to do that in the offseason.”

Romo has thrown for 33,270 yards with 242 touchdowns and 110 interceptions in his 12-year career. 


WR Dwayne Bowe looks to revitalize himself with Browns
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is looking to revitalize his career now that he has joined the Browns, reports ESPN. Bowe was cut by the Chiefs in the middle of March.

"I have a chance to revitalize myself," Bowe, 30, told ESPN.com via telephone Tuesday. "Just sit back and watch."

Browns general manager Ray Farmer has familiarity with Bowe from their time with the Chiefs. The two sat down and watched tape from the 2010 season when he racked up 15 touchdown receptions.

"Him knowing what I can do, seeing me in practice, making crazy plays, splitting the safeties, he knows I still can do that," Bowe said. "I couldn't showcase that last year. He was pulling up old plays, saying, 'We are going to use you just like that.' Moving around, going on motion, trying to hit the deep ball, trying to break plays."

The 30-year-old wideout appreciated his time with the Chiefs and he has no regrets.

"It's been up and down, but it's been fun," Bowe said. "I don't regret nothing. People can talk about the NFL and playing wide receiver -- I feel I still have a good four more years in me."

Over his eight-year career, he has totaled 532 receptions for 7,155 yards and 44 touchdowns.


 
 
 
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