washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Leagues and Sports > NFL > Index > Preview

Three Ingredients in Place For Up-and-Coming Texans

Wednesday, September 8, 2004; Page H15

In the 1990s, the Cowboys boasted the "triplets": Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Houston feels it has another troika of talented Texans in quarterback David Carr -- who wears Aikman's No. 8 -- running back Domanick Davis and wide receiver Andre Johnson. Now all they have to do is lead their team to multiple championships and the comparisons will be validated. This year, at least, the team likely would settle for improved stats and a run at .500.

Carr must be the least-hyped No. 1 overall draft pick in recent memory. Being a late bloomer at a mid-major college (Fresno State), a family man (married with two children) and the inaugural pick of a Southwestern expansion team turn out to be pretty effective ways to fly under the radar. But while all eyes are on USC golden boy Carson Palmer's first season as the Bengals' starter, Carr has already demonstrated the arm strength, athletic ability and poise to be a star in the NFL -- at some point.

_____ Houston Texans _____
Texans Section

_____NFL '04_____
With what may be the most talented group of receivers the NFL has ever seen, look for the game to be more wide open than ever this season.
Officials will put teeth in a rule prohibiting a defender from impeding a receiver downfield.
How the rule is to be interpreted.
Darrell Green knows a thing or two about receivers and shares his all-time top five.
Receivers should get a big boost from the rule modification.
Don't call it the T.O. rule or the Joe Horn rule, but expect a crackdown on TD celebrations.
A WR's tools of the trade
Top 5 end zone celebrations
The NFL's Top 10 storylines of '04

_____Team Previews_____
In predicted order of finish

NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins
New York Giants

NFC South
New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta Falcons

NFC North
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions

NFC West
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals

AFC East
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans
Houston Texans

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs
Denver Broncos
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

Seven backs were taken ahead of Davis in the 2003 draft and he didn't get a start until Week 6, but he piled up 1,382 total yards on his way to rookie of the year honors. In contrast, Johnson was drafted third overall and named first string right off the bat; he led AFC rookies in receptions (66) and yards (976).

Add to that an improving offensive line augmented with the offseason addition of tackle Todd Wade, and what's not to like? Well, there is this one thing -- the defense.

Last season, the Texans were the second-worst defense in the league, which had to be particularly galling to Coach Dom Capers, who made his name in that department. "For us to be the kind of team we want to be, we've got to play good defense," Capers said.

To be fair, the unit was beset with injuries, including season-enders to linemen Seth Payne and Gary Walker, and cornerback Aaron Glenn. With better health, the acquisition of defensive end Robaire Smith and eye-opening play from draftees Dunta Robinson and Jason Babin, Houston's defense should return to its 2002 middle-of-the-pack form.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company