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Houston Texans

Kubiak looks to '08


On Monday, the Texans' season truly came to an end. Players cleaned out their lockers after ending the season with a 42-28 win over Jacksonville and finishing with the best record in franchise history at 8-8. Head coach Gary Kubiak also held the last post-game press conference of 2007, reviewing the ups and downs and looking forward to the team's future.

Draft talk: With the 2007 season in the books, Texans fans knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time until draft talk began. And the media wasted only a few precious seconds before asking Kubiak about the Texans' draft needs in 2008.

For the head coach and general manager Rick Smith, it is too early to answer that question. They are just beginning the process of evaluating this year's talent.

"As an organization, we have to prioritize those needs," Kubiak said. "The tricky thing in football now is you have a chance to address some in free agency and then you address the draft. A lot of times, you don't know what's going to happen for you in free agency, so your draft status or the direction you're going to go in the draft can change."

There are several prominent players with contracts expiring this year, namely wide receiver André Davis, starting outside linebacker Danny Clark and defensive end N.D. Kalu. Their play will be examined before the Texans begin looking at free agent prospects outside of Reliant Stadium.

The franchise does know one thing it will do in next year's draft: pick in the 18th spot. The Dolphins will get the first pick because they finished last at 1-15. The Texans will pick after the Minnesota Vikings and before Philadelphia Eagles.

**Click here** for more information, including the Texans' 2008 schedule.

NFL injury toppers: By the end of the season, the Texans' injured reserve squad looked a like a waiting list for the Nintendo Wii before Christmas. It was long and filled with primetime players.

At one point in the season, there were 17 Texans on the injured reserve, which was the most in the NFL. The team cut it down to 15 on Dec. 13 by waiving tackle Kevin Barry and cornerback Jason Horton.

Starters like cornerback Dunta Robinson, running back Ahman Green and center Steve McKinney were all forced to cut their seasons short with injuries.

Robinson, who tore his knee and hamstring, is not expected to return until midseason of next year.

Then, there were the injured players who were not lost for the season, but forced to miss a handful of games. Two-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson missed seven games with a left knee sprain. Quarterback Matt Schaub missed five games with various injuries, including a shoulder injury that will probably require surgery in the offseason.

In fact, the Texans led the league in games missed by players due to injuries with 235 players. They were followed by the Buffalo Bills with 217 games missed by players due to injuries.

The secondary bore the brunt of the Texans' injuries, losing Robinson and safeties Glenn Earl, Jason Simmons and Brandon Harrison. The Texans could focus on using high draft pick for safeties and cornerbacks.

"We played with an entirely different group the last nine weeks of the season," Kubiak said. "We made adjustments. The coaches made adjustments that, to me, were effective. They gave us a chance to win throughout the back end of the season, but at the same time, some of the simplicity that we had gotten to because of our changes really ended up hurting us in some games.

"We have to look hard at our secondary. We have to have guys that can go out there and lock some of those guys down so we can be aggressive and blitz and those types of things. I think our secondary is a concern."

Consistency counts: Kubiak's other chief concern will be getting his team to play with more consistency, especially in the turnover department.

The Texans gave away 150 points off of 38 turnovers this season. It's a problem that begins with the quarterbacks, who threw 21 interceptions this season.

"Our football team, I would say offensively, we probably took a lot more chances then I really like to take," Kubiak said. "From a standpoint, if you run the ball better, you're not taking some of those risks that we were taking.

"I think we can cut down turnovers just by the type of team we have if we're running the ball better. There's no secret to it. It's just looking at, facing the facts, and moving forward. We'll do that, and that'll have to start in day one of the offseason program."

Running the ball better will require the return of Green, who missed most of the season with a sore knee. Kubiak expects the Pro Bowler to be 100 percent when the offseason officially begins.

"I think one thing that's obvious is that we have to get consistency in who's running the football," Kubiak said. "We went out and we chased that last year in free agency with Ahman. Of course, that did not work out with his injury this year, so that was extremely disappointing for our franchise and the steps that we have taken.

"We're counting on Ahman coming back and being 100 percent. He can be a huge factor for our team when he is."

Playoffs next step: The team has improved under Kubiak in each of his two years as head coach. In 2006, Houston gained six wins. This year, they picked up two more, finishing with the best record in franchise history at 8-8.

Now, the logical next step is a playoff berth.

"Really, that's the ultimate goal," Kubiak said. "That was something that we started chasing this year. We thought we had a good enough football team to do that this year. That will be our goal from now on, and that was talked about last year and that won't change.

"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 we don't do that we consider it a big disappointment. I'm all in for that, but I know we have to get better as a football team to get there."

Players feel the same way.

"Whatever it takes to get into the playoffs," said linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who is getting excited about his first Pro Bowl. "However many wins that takes, that's the standard we're trying to get to. We're trying to do something special each year and trying to move this organization forward and going to the playoffs will definitely do that."

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