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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Houston Texans

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It looks like the Texans are heading for a rebuilding year -- but don't tell Andre Johnson. The disgruntled veteran has wondered aloud about his future following Houston's awful 2-14 season and the ensuing offseason.

Not that it's been all bad for the Texans. They've hired Bill O'Brien to serve as head coach and offensive coordinator but also drafted Jadeveon Clowney to rush the passer as an outside linebacker on a team already flush with good defensive talent.

What has Johnson disgruntled is the quarterback position -- arguably the worst in the NFL -- as the Texans head into the preseason with just veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and 24-year-old rookie Tom Savage (the team's fourth-round pick) as the top candidates to start. Even the Raiders with ex-Texans slinger Matt Schaub and rookie Derek Carr look more appealing. So it's no wonder why Johnson (and maybe all of the other receivers in Houston) are disappointed in the Texans offseason.

What the team can and should be optimistic about is a defense that should rebound in a major way. The unit was talented to begin with last season but injuries took a toll. Brian Cushing is back in the middle of the defense, flanked by Brooks Reed moving inside to make room for Clowney. Kendrick Lewis comes over from Kansas City to play safety and J.J. Watt remains on the end, a huge piece to the puzzle. New defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel (who has typically been more effective as a coordinator than a head coach) has a lot to work with and not many holes to cover up. A favorable slate of opponents really helps the cause.

If the Texans can keep the turnovers to a minimum offensively, they should contend for at least eight wins. That might be a lot to ask for considering Fitzpatrick (93 interceptions and 23 fumbles lost in 85 games) and Savage's (19 interceptions in 31 college games) track record.

Not a No. 1 option ... Andre Johnson

Before you wholly discount Johnson, remember who he caught passes from last season. Not exactly a who's who of quality arms. Johnson should continue to receive plenty of targets and remain consistent with what we've seen from him over his last three seasons: the equivalent of 6.5 catches and 89.7 yards per game with very modest (if not lean) touchdown totals. He's had exactly seven games with 10-plus Fantasy points in each of his last two seasons. So long as you count on him for numbers like this (90-plus catches, over 1,300 yards and a handful of touchdowns), you'll be fine.

Still a No. 1 option ... Arian Foster

Everyone is scared to draft Foster because last year was an injury-plagued disaster. Don't be. If there's one thing we've learned from Bill O'Brien it's that he's dedicated to running the football. In each of his last seven stops as a play caller he's had his backs run the ball at least 23.6 times per game, including at New England in 2011. He's also typically favored one back shouldering the load -- O'Brien even said "Arian's going to be a guy that we're looking to lean on, no question about it." Think of last year as a chance for Foster to get well and rest up -- there's nothing limiting him this summer and he should bounce back against what amounts to an easy schedule. Don't expect him to last past pick No. 16 on Draft Day.

Bust ... Garrett Graham

2013 Touches Leaders
785 total touches
Ben Tate 215 (181 car., 34 rec.) 27.4%
Arian Foster 143 (121 car., 22 rec.) 18.2%
Andre Johnson 109 rec. 13.9%
Dennis Johnson 57 (49 car., 8 rec.) 7.3%
DeAndre Hopkins 52 rec. 6.6%
All Others 129 26.6%

The way he finished last season with 29 catches for 341 yards and two touchdowns in six games, you would have thought Garrett Graham would be a breakout candidate. Not so. True, Bill O'Brien modified his offense following his one season in New England when he had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez create matchup problems for defenders. We saw him use big tight ends at Penn State whereas before New England he rarely relied on the position. The addition of C.J. Fiedorowicz, along with second-year tight end Ryan Griffin, should cap the number of targets Graham will get. Gary Kubiak loved getting his tight ends involved in Houston but he's long gone. Graham shouldn't be considered a draft-worthy tight end.

Schedule analysis

Look for Foster to especially get off to a good start as the Texans open up vs. the Redskins, followed by road treks to the Raiders and Giants before returning home to face the Bills. They don't face a tough defense until the Steelers at home in Week 7 (assuming that defense is actually tough). In fact, the Texans' entire schedule is void of any really challenging defenses, or at least it looks that way going into the season. Three tough AFC North defenses is really as bad as it gets. Oh, if only Houston had a quarterback ...

Training camp battles

Who's the quarterback? Watching Fitzpatrick battle Savage won't fire up Fantasy owners since not much is expected from either guy. But Savage could clinch the job if he outplays Fitzpatrick. If not, he'll probably get a crack to take over as the starter if the Texans aren't in contention by Week 10 when the team hits their bye week.

Who's the third receiver? Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins will be the Texans' starters on the outside. Who the third wideout will be remains to be seen. The likeliest candidates are Keshawn Martin (22 catches in 16 games last year) and DeVier Posey (15 catches in 14 games last year). Again, this is a battle that won't impact Fantasy owners much.

Bold prediction

Just how good could Foster be? Behind an improved offensive line and with an offense lacking a premier passer (or even a reliable passer), Foster will have over 300 touches, over 1,400 total yards and at least 10 touchdowns. It will mark his fourth season in his last five where he produced at that level. Fantasy owners who take him between 10th and 15th overall will be generously rewarded.

Injury report: Brian Cushing (knee), probable for start of training camp. ... Johnathan Joseph (toe), questionable for start of training camp. ... Trevardo Williams (knee), questionable for start of training camp. ... Brennan Williams (knee), questionable for start of training camp. ... Arian Foster (back), already practicing at full speed.

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Player News
Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:13 pm ET) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:08 pm ET) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:59 am ET) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


Cowboys' Greg Hardy called 'woman beater' by teammate
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy got into an altercation with teammate Davon Coleman during a voluntary offseason workout, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports

Hardy reportedly questioned Coleman's work ethic during a conditioning drill, which led Coleman to call Hardy a "woman beater."

Hardy was accused of domestic abuse and was found guilty by a North Carolina judge. On the subsequent appeal, prosecutors dropped charges against Hardy and the case was never presented in front of a jury. 

Hardy has been suspended by the NFL for 10 games due to what transpired in that case. According to FOX Sports, the confrontation between Hardy and Coleman remained verbal


 
 
 
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