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Houston Texans

Oooh that smell...

Can't ya smell that smell?

Okay, I'm dating myself, but no, I'm not talking about Lynyrd Skynrd.

But for those who listen to Andre Ware on SportsRadio 610, you know about the smell.

It's that sensation that you get when you walk out to your car in the morning and it's not quite as light as it used to be.

It's that sensation you get when you hear the marching bands practicing over at the high school.

Or like for me, it was the smell of agriculture wafting over Kyle Field as I sat …err….stood there watching Montana State rack up 500 yards in a spirited but losing effort against a lackluster group of guys wearing Maroon and White.

Well, at least the guys on the field appeared lackluster. The 80,000 of us in the stands were having a great time.

As an aside, I couldn't help but notice the players on the Montana State bench turning around and watching in bewilderment as the 32,005 human beings in the student section sawed varsity's horns off for the third time during a timeout late in the game.

Words can't adequately describe the looks on the faces of the kids from Missoula and Kalispell, but it was worth the price of admission.

Football games at Kyle Field are truly a Texas treasure. And no, I'm not an Aggie, so there.

Back to the smell.

It arrived on Saturday when we flipped the calendars to September and when many of us conducted our fantasy drafts.

It's the smell of football season!

Texans Week kicked off with a large and festive gathering of Texans fans at the Kemah Boardwalk on Sunday. I'm a big fan of this event since it's close to my house. I haven't missed one since they started coming down this way.

The courtyard at the Boardwalk is perfect for this party. There's a stage for the live band (love that Cajun music) and plenty of room for booths where fans could get autographs of Texans players, cheerleaders and ambassadors, or select from a wide variety of food and drink.

There's a balcony outside several shops where you can hang out and watch the proceedings from one level above.

There's also a rickety retro roller coaster around the corner – the Boardwalk Bullet – which is quite an amazing stack of 2x4's. It's small and compact, but still delivers a thrill based on my observations from the sidewalk below.

One thing you have to watch out for at the Boardwalk are the fountains that geyser up without notice from the central courtyard. It's a kids' favorite but it's not an area to take a stroll in your Sunday best.

I arrived early with my wife, who went upstairs and shopped for Christmas ornaments while I walked the courtyard to take in the sights and sounds and talk to people.

I recognized Nate Griffin from Texans TV so I went over and introduced myself. We had a nice chat. If you haven't seen Nate's videos, check them out. They are great.

I also said hello to Marc Vandermeer, who makes the trip down to Kemah every year. This year they put Marc to work, as he emceed some spirited contests of musical chairs where Texans fans competed for free tickets to the home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

SportsRadio 610's Adam Wexler and Jeremy Foster were broadcasting live from a 3rd floor balcony overlooking the courtyard.

Jacoby Jones, Fred Bennett, Shantee Orr and Eric Winston took turns signing autographs for hundreds of excited Texans fans.

But of course, the big news of the day was the trade that sent Jason Babin to the Seahawks for Michael Boulware.

When I first learned of the trade, all I could think of is wow! That's a big name we're getting. This is exciting.

With all due respect to Jason Simmons, the Texans badly need help at strong safety and the acquisition of Boulware will help shore up an area that's been flapping in the wind since Glenn Earl was steamrolled by Cedric Benson in the first week of the preseason.

But as always, I checked the fine print.

First the good news.

Boulware was the Seahawks' top rookie in 2004. He started all 16 regular season games and the postseason in 2005 and had interceptions in the NFC title game and the Super Bowl.

But according to a recent article in the Seattle Times, Boulware fell out of favor quickly in 2006 due to performance issues and eventually lost his starting job after six games.

The Seahawks signed Brian Russell and Deon Grant during free agency and Mike Green won the backup strong safety spot, leaving Boulware an odd man out.

But why?

Clare Farnsworth of reported recently that Boulware had not played well in the preseason, prompting club president Tim Ruskell to say that Boulware needed to show something in the Seahawks' preseason finale Thursday night against the Raiders to ensure staying with the team. However, Boulware couldn't play in that game due to a strained hamstring.

The injury bug seems to be a bit of a concern with Boulware, who had knee surgery after the 2005 Super Bowl. He also suffered a concussion during Week 4 of the 2006 season and had arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder during the past offseason.

So what are we getting in Boulware?

I don't know, but I do know that sometimes there's more than what meets the eye when players "fall out of favor" with their coaches.

Maybe there are legitimate performance issues. Maybe there are legitimate injury issues.

His salary is stout, with base amounts of over $5 million for this year and next. His contract expires after the '08 season. But maybe it was the system…or the coaching. We know how that goes, right?

As far as Boulware's reported performance issues, the thing I'm seeing in various web searches for news articles is the criticism of being often "out of position" in pass coverage.

Today I wrote Jose Romero from the Seattle Times and this is what he had to say about Boulware:

*"He was out of position too often on pass plays and overaggressive against the run. He never seemed to fit the Tampa 2 the Seahawks use...might be a better fit in a 3-4 or Cover 2. He was hurting, to be fair, but not when he lost the starting job. He would also be good as a nickel LB...he just never made the transition from OLB to safety."

The story behind this trade of tweeners is that Babin was a defensive end in college and the Texans tried to turn him into a 3-4 OLB before moving him back to 4-3 rush DE. As opposed to Boulware, who's a guy that played OLB in college and after one or two good years in the NFL is struggling to make it at strong safety.

As far as Jason Babin, I wish him well, but I can't help but think back to that day during the draft when my heart stopped as I heard ESPN's Chris Mortensen say that the Texans "have made a trade for a guy they like so much that they gave up the rest of their draft to get him." Of course, Mort's words weren't entirely true, but it still was a high price to pay for yet another riverboat gamble that didn't pan out for our former GM.

I was in such disbelief that day that I recall writing a lengthy column on this website about that trade. I need to go back and dig that one out.

For now, I'm bullish on Boulware. Maybe the change of scenery will be just what the doctor ordered to rejuvenate his career, but we will have to wait and see.

You can email Alan Burge at:

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