Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bush Not Texans' Savior
By Ben Valentine

According to the national media, football observers, and anyone who knows anything about sports, it’s pretty cut and dried. The teams for whom the Lombardi trophy has long become a pipe dream are competing for a little prize of their own; a trophy who just took home some hardware of his own this weekend. And as of right now the Houston Texans are the clear frontrunners in the “Reggie Bush” sweepstakes. Considering their play over the last three weeks against a bunch of terrible football teams, they’ve done nothing to make anyone think they’re going to get more than that one win. In fact they’ve probably left many wondering how they managed to get that one W. So as essential locks for the #1 pick, that means taking Bush should be a slam dunk right?

Maybe, but I’m here to tell you that would be the wrong move.

I know; Reggie Bush is a “special player.” He’s got incredible quickness, great agility, and strong legs; the guy is tough to bring down. He’s probably going to make some team extremely happy with their running back position for years to come. But anyone who looks at the Texans; and I mean really looks at this team, knows even if Reggie Bush is the second coming, he still wouldn’t be able to save this team.

The problem for Bush would be the same problem that has plagued Dominick Davis and has nearly ruined David Carr’s career and most definitely his reputation. The Texans have a historically bad offensive line. Just to put some perspective on how bad the protection for Carr has been this year: he’s been sacked 61 times. The next most sacked quarterbacks are Kerry Collins and Drew Bledsoe who’ve been both dropped 32 times. That’s right, Carr has been sacked a whopping 29 more times than the next guys on the list. That translates to 4.62 sacks per game and doesn’t include all of the other hits he takes.

Want to know the guy who led the NFL in sacks last year? You guessed it; Mr. Carr, though last time he was only brought down 49 times. Incredibly, Carr has only missed 4 games in his entire career. That’s not bad for a guy who takes the weekly beating he does. The sad thing is it’s only getting worse. Carr was sacked SIX times this weekend by the Titans, a team that had won three games coming in. That’s why something has to be done about it and fast. The place where the Texans need an impact player isn’t at halfback; it’s on the line.

Of course that would be a change from what this team has done in the past. In its four year history, Houston has never spent a first round pick on a lineman. They highest linemen they’ve grabbed was guard Chester Pitts in the second round of their initial draft. Four others have been drafted. So while you might say that isn’t terrible, this is a team that has suffered from line issues since their inception.

Sitting at the top of the draft board will be Virginia tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. He’s drawn comparisons as a prospect to Orlando Pace. The Texans would be smarter to grab him than Bush. The left tackle is the protection for the quarterback’s blindside and often the key to the O-line. So while he won’t save the line, he would certainly help it immensely. Let’s be frank here; what good is Bush going to do if no one is there to block for him?

Houston has skill players; Carr, Davis and wide out Andre Johnson. But none can be effective with line play this bad. The Texans signed Davis to an extension before the start of the season. Has he gone through a Jamal Lewis type regression? I doubt it. It could be because he plays for the worst line in football. Johnson has been hurt, but his poor stat lines pre injury could have something to do with his quarterback being unable to get him the ball. The O-line is one of the most important parts of an NFL team. The Texans don’t have bad skill players but without protection and run blocking they can’t use their talents to create. It’s an uphill battle every week and as they’ve shown, they’re just not up to it. I’m not sure who would be.

This is a golden opportunity for Houston. The top of the draft is ripe with players teams will be coveting. Not only will Reggie Bush have teams salivating and willing to trade up, but teammate Matt Leinart is also at the top of many team’s wish lists. If the Texans want to trade down, they should be able to get a king’s ransom from someone. They could pick up a few extra picks by dealing down just a couple of spots and still probably get Ferguson. Or they could trade further down and take Miami’s Eric Winston, who is starting to draw more attention these days.

Whatever Houston does, the right move is to deal with that line that is about as offensive as can be at this point. Reggie Bush might be all the flash, but he doesn’t address the team’s biggest problem; one that after four seasons, they still have not solved. And after all that time, isn’t it about time David Carr be able to drop back to pass without having to worry about being hit on his blindside, front side and just about every place on his person?

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