- The Washington Times - Friday, October 21, 2005

The Houston Texans were on the rise in 2004, missing a .500 record only because of a season-ending loss to lowly Cleveland.

And with receiver Andre Johnson and running back Domanick Davis turning into bona fide stars, quarterback David Carr finding his groove and cornerback Dunta Robinson becoming one of the league’s standout rookies last season, the Texans looked like they would be better in 2005.

Only that didn’t happen. Sunday’s 42-10 rout in Seattle, which general manager Charley Casserly called “embarrassing,” left Houston as the league’s only winless team at 0-5 heading into this week’s game against the NFL’s only undefeated team, Indianapolis (6-0).

“We’re banged-up [with Johnson, defensive end Gary Walker and linebackers Kailee Wong and Jason Babin hurt], and we haven’t played well,” Casserly said. “You can get into one of these things where it snowballs on you.”

It started snowballing in the opener at Buffalo, where the offense commited five turnovers. Then, after being thrashed by Pittsburgh and losing a tough game in Cincinnati, the host Texans fell to Tennessee in a game a good team would win.

And with three of their next four games against the Colts and Jacksonville (4-2), the Texans’ task only gets tougher. Carr, who has Houston’s only rushing touchdown, has been sacked 30 times already. Houston, ranked last in the NFL in offense, has scored just one touchdown in each game. Its defense, the second worst in the AFC, has forced just one turnover and has just one sack from a lineman.

“We had made progress in each of our first three years, and we had a better team coming back this year,” said Casserly, who built the franchise from the ground up in the 33 months. “But the injuries to key people have really hurt.”

So has the Texans’ perennial weakness at offensive tackle, a condition that can be traced to the ill-fated gamble on injury-prone Tony Boselli, their top choice in the 2002 expansion draft. Carr has been sacked a staggering 169 times in 48 career starts, although Casserly said the top choice in the 2002 draft isn’t as shell-shocked as some believe.

“When David has time to throw, he does a good job,” Casserly said. “Offensive tackle is a hard position to solve unless you use a high draft pick, and we’ve used those picks on other positions. Good tackles aren’t sitting there in free agency.”

While Texans owner Bob McNair has been a big supporter of Casserly and coach Dom Capers through the years, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer already has been fired this fall, and he might not be the last to go.

“There’s no gloom and doom here,” Casserly said. “All of us have been through tough times before.”

Big foot found

Arizona’s Neil Rackers has made all 18 of his field goal tries this season, including five from beyond 47 yards.

“Some call it the zone,” Rackers said. “You go out there with a clear head and just hit the ball.”

Imagine how bad the 1-4 Cardinals would be if not for Rackers. They have reached the end zone just twice in 36 red-zone chances and have just five offensive touchdowns, all on passes.

Paid in full

After Stephen Davis missed most of last season because of a chronically ailing right knee, Carolina restructured his contract so the former Pro Bowl running back wouldn’t receive his full $2.2 million salary if he played in fewer than six games. Davis, 31, cleared that hurdle last week. Although he has rushed for just 318 yards (3.1 a carry), he does have seven touchdowns and can earn an additional $3.75 million in incentives.


Titans backup quarterback Billy Volek told the Tennessean in Nashville during training camp that former Secretary of State Colin Powell was the person he most would like to meet and that rocker Billy Idol was his favorite poster on the wall of his childhood bedroom. Powell responded with an autographed photo. Still no word from Idol.

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