2010 season in review: Special teams

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Top performers: K Neil Rackers (27-of-30 on FGs, 43-of-43 on PATs), TE James Casey (17 special teams tackles)

Newcomers: Rackers (free agent), KR Trindon Holliday (draft, sixth-round pick)

Major injuries: KR André Davis (hip, preseason), Holliday (hand, preseason), S Dominique Barber (knee, Week 11)

Position coach: Joe Marciano (25th NFL season, 9th with Texans)

Year in review: Rackers became just the second kicker in Texans history after beating out incumbent Kris Brown in training camp. He finished the season ranked fifth in the NFL in field goal percentage (90.0) and seventh in points (124), which tied Brown's 2008 team record for points in a season. Rackers became the 44th kicker in NFL history to reach the 1,000-point plateau in Week 14 vs. Baltimore (12/13).

Punter Matt Turk averaged 42.1 yards per punt, the third-highest mark in team history, which ranked 26th in the league. His net average of 36.8 yards per punt ranked 20th. Turk has averaged 42.4 yards per punt in his career, and only 428 of his 1,100 career punts (38.9 percent) have been returned.

Running back Steve Slaton averaged 19.7 yards on 39 kickoff returns. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones averaged 21.5 yards on 23 kick returns and 7.0 yards on 29 punt returns. The Texans' return game was affected by injuries all season. Injuries on defense forced several key players, including special teams captain and linebacker Kevin Bentley, into less prominent roles on special teams. Holliday, a rookie from LSU, and Davis, a ninth-year veteran, didn't get a chance to help as returners because of season-ending injuries in the preseason.

Long snapper Jon Weeks signed with the Texans in the offseason and handled every snap in 2010. Weeks was accurate on all 136 deep snaps – 63 punts and 73 field goals and extra points.

Tight end James Casey led the Texans in special teams tackles with 17. Rookie linebacker Darryl Sharpton and safety Troy Nolan were next with 13 tackles, followed by rookie cornerback Sherrick McManis with 11. Rackers had eight special teams tackles, giving him 45 in his career. That ranks first among all NFL kickers since STATS, LLC started tracking the stat in 1994.

Season highlight: Week 2 at Washington. The Texans won 30-27 in overtime on Rackers' 35-yard field goal with 3:24 left in the extra period. It was the Texans' first-ever victory in overtime and Rackers' sixth-career game-winning kick. Rackers was 3-of-4 on field goals in the game, with his lone miss coming from 47 yards out.

Safety Bernard Pollard also had a critical blocked field goal in the fourth quarter. The Texans were trailing 27-20, and the Redskins were set up for a chip-shot 29-yard attempt with 6:40 remaining. Pollard came around the left side to block Graham Gano's kick, and the Texans tied the game four minutes later to force overtime.

Season lowlight: Week 14 vs. Baltimore. Ravens wide receiver David Reed returned the opening kickoff of the second half 103 yards for a touchdown, breaking through several tackles along the way. That put the Ravens up 28-7 and gave the Texans a steep hole to climb out of, which they almost did in a rally that came up just short in overtime.

Reed averaged 38.8 yards on six kickoff returns. The Texans' Slaton and McManis combined to average 20.5 yards per return. Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb had two punt returns for 24 yards (12.0 average), while the Texans' Jones had four punt returns for 16 yards (4.0 average). The Ravens' average starting field position was their own 34-yard line, and the Texans' was their own 16-yard line. The Texans started past their own 24 only once out of 12 possessions.

Notable number: 53 – Consecutive field goal attempts that Rackers has made from 45 yards or less. His last miss from within 45 yards came as a member of the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 28, 2008, when he had a 37-yard try blocked. Rackers was 21-of-21 from within 45 yards in 2010.

Key splits: Rackers was 0-of-0 from 1-19 yards, 8-of-8 from 20-29 yards, 5-of-7 from 40-49 yards and 3-of-4 from 50 yards. The three field goals Rackers made from 50 yards equaled the total number of field goals from that distance that he had even attempted since 2008. Rackers was a lowly 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) from 50 yards from 2006-09.

All three of Rackers' misses this season came in the second quarter, where he was 7-of-10. He was a perfect 14-of-14 in the second half and overtime this eason, including two field goals from 50 yards and three from 40-49 yards.

Quotable: "It scares you, but you don't want to take that away from him. He likes to go down there. He will make a tackle. You don't want to lose him, but I think that's what makes him tick. He likes being a part of that. He likes getting pushed around a bit and showing his teammates he'll go down there and make a tackle."
- Texans coach Gary Kubiak, on Rackers' aggressive nature on kickoff coverage

Looking ahead: Rackers signed with the Texans from the Arizona Cardinals last offseason and will return to Houston in 2011. Turk, 42, also is still under contract.

The Texans released Davis after the season. They tendered Jones, whose contract is expiring after four seasons, meaning he'll be a restricted free agent whenever the lockout ends. Holliday is a return specialist with world-class speed, and it will be interesting to see his progress this offseason after what essentially amounted to a redshirt year in 2010.

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