For a team still searching for its first winning season and hoping to crack the top half of the NFL's defensive rankings for the first time in franchise history, the Houston Texans made some, well, interesting offseason moves.

Houston released four starters on last year's defense, most notably linebackers Jamie Sharper and Jay Foreman. Sharper (now with Seattle) had more than 100 tackles in each of the Texans' first three seasons and led the team last year (137). Foreman (now with Oakland) averaged 118 tackles per season during his three years in Houston.

Only one of the four starting linebackers in Houston's 3-4 defense started last season at the position he'll be playing in 2005. Jason Babin (63 tackles and four sacks) returns to the outside linebacker spot, while Kailee Wong (71 tackles, 51/2 sacks) moves from the right outside to the left inside position. Free agent Morlon Greenwood (108 tackles for Miami) will play inside with Wong, and unproven Antwan Peek will play on the outside opposite Babin.

"I like the guys we have there right now," Coach Dom Capers said. "I feel like we have increased our speed and athletic ability."

The Texans' 24 sacks last season were fewest in the NFL, so they must improve their pass rush. The cornerback tandem of free agent Phillip Buchanon and emerging star Dunta Robinson should give Houston flexibility to blitz more effectively.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson, an emerging star for the Texans, should allow Houston to blitz more effectively. The team had 24 sacks in 2004.