Editor's note: This is part of a series on the Patriots scheduled opponents in the upcoming season. The following are questions that have been posed to the beat writers of each particular team. In this case, the Houston Texans.
Five questions about the Texans heading into training camp with John McClain, the beat writer from the Houston Chronicle.
Date: Dec. 12
Time: 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Location: Gillette Stadium
2011 record: 10-6, first place in AFC South.
Playoffs: Beat Bengals 31-10 in wild card; lost to Ravens 20-13 in divisional round.
1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
They finished second in rushing with Arian Foster and Ben Tate helping
them rank first in time of possession. Matt Schaub (Lisfranc surgery on
right foot, missing six games and two playoff games) and Andre Johnson
(missed nine games because of hamstring injuries and sat out OTAs and
minicamp after scope on knee) are supposed to be 100 percent at the
start of camp. If they stay healthy, the Texans should be a Super Bowl
contender. Defense ranked second. Outstanding pass rush. Only one new
starter in ILB Bradie James.
2. Where are they looking to get better?
Special teams. They'll have a new kicker, punter, kickoff returner and
punt returner even though they were good last season.
3. Players on the spot?
Schaub must stay healthy. He started every game in 2009 and 2010. They
were 7-3 and averaging 27.2 points when he was injured last season.
Andre Johnson, who turns 31 in July, has to stay healthy. After Johnson
and Kevin Walter, the other starter, they have no backup wide receiver with an NFL
catch. RG Antoine Caldwell and RT Rashad Butler are new starters
replacing RG Mike Brisiel (Raiders) and RT Eric Winston (Chiefs), both
of whom were cap casualties. CB Kareem Jackson has started for two
seasons but hasn't lived up to being first-round pick. Rookie kicker Randy
Bullock was drafted in fifth round. He's the first kicker Texans have drafted.
They offered Neil Rackers the minimum after he scored a team-record 135
4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
They have five nationally televised games and only one (Packers) at
home. I don't think their record will be good enough to earn home-field
advantage, so I don't think they'll make the Super Bowl. They need for
Schaub to stay healthy.
5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
They won the AFC South, beat Cincinnati in the wild-card round and lost
20-13 at Baltimore in the divisional round without Schaub. They had cap
problems, but they've drafted well and have players to replace those who
were lost. They should win the division and finish like 10-6 or 11-5.