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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.


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.


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