Gosselin: Texans have Super Bowl potential

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Quarterback Matt Schaub could wind up in the Pro Bowl this season, says Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.

Dallas Morning News NFL columnist Rick Gosselin thinks the Texans could win the AFC South this year – and then some.

Gosselin, who has been covering the NFL for 18 years, came to Houston for two days of Texans practice last week. It was his first trip to Reliant Stadium since Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004.

If the Texans' defense can improve from its No. 22 ranking in 2008 to the 13-17 range this season, Gosselin thinks the team's offense is good enough that the result could be a division title, and maybe more.

"I don't think they have to go out and be the Baltimore Ravens of 2000," Gosselin said of the defense. "Back in 1992 when the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl, they had the great offense with Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. The defense only had to play 26 minutes a game because the Cowboys were dominating, holding on to the ball. If you run the ball, you keep your defense fresh, and the Texans can do that with (Steve) Slaton.

"I think if this defense can get down to playing 28, 29 minutes a game, I think this could be a potential Super Bowl team."

The Texans were one of eight teams that Gosselin, a winner of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award, visited during the preseason.

{QUOTE}"Every year, there are four new division champions and seven new playoff teams," Gosselin said. "I think the Texans, much like Miami last year, are a team that can make a quantum leap."

Offseason personnel changes among AFC South powers Tennessee and Indianapolis factor into Gosselin's prediction. The Colts, coming off of a 12-4 season, are ushering in a new head coach in Jim Caldwell. The Titans, who were 13-3, have said goodbye to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

"I think the Colts are going to miss Tony Dungy, and I think Tennessee will be hard-pressed to match what they did last season," he said. "I think if they come down a little, the Texans come up – and with this draft, they should come up – the Texans have a shot at winning the division title this year."

When it comes to the draft, few writers' opinions are most respected than Gosselin's. He annually ranks about 500 players on his personal draft board, and he's a tough grader. Only two teams warranted a grade higher than a B from Gosselin this year. One of those teams was the Texans, and they got an A .

"They've done a good job of drafting in the last of couple years, and I think this particular draft was a grand slam," Gosselin said.

Gosselin had tight end James Casey, a fifth-round pick, rated as a third-round value. He thinks that Casey can help the Texans right away by creating mismatches in two- and three-tight end sets. Gosselin also liked the value of getting Brice McCain, the fastest cornerback in the draft, in the sixth round.

Top picks Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin drew raves from Gosselin for their athleticism. He thinks they'll improve the Texans' front seven, a critical area of improvement.

While Rick Smith has developed an impressive track record in the draft, his biggest move as general manager was acquiring quarterback Matt Schaub from the Atlanta Falcons in a 2007 trade. Schaub played like a top-10 quarterback when healthy last season, but he has missed 10 games with injury over the past two seasons combined.

Is the sometimes spectacular, sometimes injured quarterback capable of leading the Texans to postseason glory?

"Without question," Gosselin said. "Is he Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? No. But is he Phil Simms? Yes. Phil Simms won a Super Bowl for the Giants and took them to another one. You don't have to be the greatest quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl; Trent Dilfer proved that. If the Texans are as good as I think, I think you could see Matt Schaub in the Pro Bowl this year."

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at *twitter.com/NickScurfield or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at imatexan.com/profiles/Nick_Scurf/.*

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