Coinciding with our Texans TV 2009 season preview series with "Voice of the Texans" Marc Vandermeer, HoustonTexans.com is taking a position-by-position look at the Texans in the days leading up to training camp. Up first: the quarterbacks.
Key player:Matt Schaub (2008 stats: 3,043 yards, 15 TD, 10 INT, 251-380 (66.1%), 92.7 QB rating)
Additions:Dan Orlovsky (Detroit Lions, free agent); Rex Grossman (Chicago Bears, free agent)
Subtractions: Sage Rosenfels (Minnesota Vikings, trade); Alex Brink (released)
2008 breakdown: Schaub and Rosenfels combined for a franchise single-season record in 2008 with 4,267 net passing yards, giving the Texans the fourth-ranked passing offense in the NFL. Schaub went 6-5 as a starter in his second season in Houston and set a new career high in passing yards. His 66.1 completion percentage ranked fourth in the league, and his franchise-record 92.7 passer rating ranked seventh.
Rosenfels was 2-3 as a starter filling in for Schaub. Between Rosenfels (12) and Schaub (14), the team's quarterbacks accounted for 26 of 32 Texans' turnovers last season. Rosenfels was traded for a fourth-round draft pick after the season, and the Texans signed Orlovsky to take his place. Grossman joined the team after OTAs and might have a chance to compete with Orlovsky for backup duties during training camp.
The big question: Can Schaub remain healthy for all 16 games?
Many pundits view the Texans' hopes for a playoff berth as hinging on Schaub's ability to stay on the field for an entire 16 games.
Schaub has missed five games in both of his seasons in Houston. Two of his injuries have been caused by illegal hits that drew fines – Jared Allen's hit to the knee (2008, $50,000 fine) and Drayton Florence's hit to the helmet (2007, $15,000). When healthy, Schaub has been everything that Gary Kubiak expected when the team traded for Schaub in 2007: an accurate passer who can make plays on the move and stretch the field with Andre Johnson.
"Schaub has been working out a ton this offseason," Vandermeer said. "Remember, last season he was recovering from shoulder surgery, so he wasn't able to get into the weight room as much. He definitely looks a little thicker, looks like he's beefed up a bit.
"I think this is as good a chance as any to stay healthy. You've got the best running game the Texans have ever had. The offensive line, they were healthy all season last year (and enter) another year under the zone blocking system. I think this is going to be fun to watch, and he should stay upright."
Camp battle to watch: Orlovsky vs. Grossman
The backup quarterback job seems to be Orlovsky's to lose. He was one of the Texans' top 2009 free agent signings. The Texans like the promise that the fifth-year pro showed in seven starts for the Lions last season. They also like his similarities to Schaub and the fact that he has starting experience at a young age. Orlovsky has a three-month head start in the Texans' offense on Grossman, who participated in only three Texans' mini-camp practices after signing on June 12.
If Orlovsky has an edge in upside, Grossman has a decided edge in experience. A first-round draft pick in 2003, Grossman started 31 games for the Bears, including Super Bowl XLI in 2006. He has thrown for 6,164 career yards with 33 touchdowns and 35 interceptions, with a career passer rating of 70.2. Orlovsky's career passer rating is 71.3.
Grossman has a ton of ground to make up on Orlovsky, but should he impress the coaches enough during camp and should Orlovsky at the same time falter, an interesting competition could develop for the No. 2 job.
Roster size (2009 vs. 2008):Going into the 2008 regular season, the Texans kept only two quarterbacks (Schaub and Rosenfels). I predict they keep three in 2009.
Though he has had some tough luck, Schaub has been unable to stay healthy for a full season so far, and Orlovsky is an unproven commodity at this point in his career. Grossman would make a nice insurance policy at the very least.
"We are seriously contemplating keeping three," general manager Rick Smith said in June. "To have an opportunity to have a guy like Rex who started in the Super Bowl a few years ago, that's a very valuable commodity to have as a third quarterback. If in fact we do that, he's got a chance to be a good third for us."
Final thought:From the "Did you know?" department: From Oct. 19 through the end of the 2008 season, Schaub led the NFL with a 104.9 passer rating. He has thrown 107 consecutive passes without an interception at Reliant Stadium.
If Schaub plays in 14 or more games this season, expect him to put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers. Had he played a full 16-game slate a year ago, his projected numbers would have been 22 touchdown passes and a whopping 4,426 passing yards. Only three quarterbacks threw for more yards than that last season: Drew Brees, Kurt Warner and Jay Cutler.