Texans: 8-8 not good enough

December 31, 2007 5:07:54 PM PST
The Houston Texans reached .500 for the first time, proved Mario Williams wasn't a bust and found their quarterback of the future in Matt Schaub this season. They're not satisfied though. As the rest of the AFC South prepares for the playoffs, the Texans are looking ahead and say the only way next season will be a success is if it ends in their first trip to the postseason.

"A lot of people ask me if I set goals. I only have one goal, that's getting to the playoffs," receiver Andre Johnson said. "All the other things happen if you go out and perform well on the field."

Coach Gary Kubiak agrees with Johnson and said it's a mind-set he's been trying to instill in his team since he arrived.

"I would hope that we can get our football team good enough and have enough confidence in what we're doing that every year that if we don't do that, we consider it a big disappointment," Kubiak said of the playoffs. "I'm all in for that, but I know we have to get better as a football team to get there."

The Texans made a two-win improvement from last year's 6-10 finish, but know getting to the playoffs will be even more difficult than this move was.

"We're not going to rest," Kubiak said. "We're going to keep battling. We know that the next step we want to take is the toughest step, but we're willing to do the work, I promise you that."

The Texans are happy about the improvement of Williams, last year's much-maligned top pick who had a breakout season after a disappointing rookie year.

His 14 sacks this season were second in the AFC and the most in Texans history.

"I feel a lot better," Williams said. "It's like night and day from last year to now. The players around me are helping me out and the team is molding together and we're just playing off of one another and it's getting better."

The Texans are encouraged by the development of their young defense led by Williams, rookie Amobi Okoye and linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who was chosen as a starter in the Pro Bowl.

Houston's decision to dump former top pick David Carr in favor of Schaub, the former Atlanta backup, proved to be a good one. He threw for 2,241 yards with nine touchdown and nine interceptions in 11 games.

He missed the last four games with a dislocated shoulder that will require offseason surgery. Kubiak said Schaub's performance this season convinced him he is the quarterback that can lead Houston to the playoffs.

The Texans fixed a number of their problems this season, but remained in a bind at running back after signing 30-year-old Ahman Green to a pricey contract and getting just 70 carries out of him. They believe his knee problem won't require surgery and rest will get him back to 100 percent.

Green made $8 million this year in the first season of a four-year, $23 million deal. Despite his lackluster debut in Houston, Green expects to return next season. Kubiak knows Houston needs some depth at running back with Green's health in question.

"We have to go out and find some young kids," he said. "We have to find some guys that are going to be in it for the long haul and be there and if Ahman is 100 percent healthy and playing every week, then that's a bonus for our team."

Houston will have to decide if they want to re-sign Ron Dayne, who set a career-high in rushing this season with 773 yards filling in for Green.

One free agent the Texans will work hard to keep is receiver and kick returner Andre' Davis. Davis had 33 catches for 583 yards and three touchdowns. He also set a team record with three kickoff returns for touchdowns.

"I've been through ups and downs in my career and to finally be able to get to a point going into an unrestricted free-agent year, this is the way you want to be able to end it off," he said.

"Show people what you can do and show them how valuable you can be. Hopefully it turns out good and I'll be able to say here."

His performance as a returner likely puts the status of Jerome Mathis up in the air. Mathis made the Pro Bowl as a returner in 2005, but has spent most of the last two seasons on the injured reserve.

"I don't know," Kubiak said when asked about Mathis' future with the team. "Jerome has missed a tremendous amount of time in the two years I've been with him. This is a league about what you are doing and you've got to be on that field playing."

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