With free agency and the draft process revving up, there are plenty of questions for every NFL team. But for most, there's one issue that trumps the rest. This is the latest in a team-by-team look at the offseason tasks that just can't get botched.
When the Texans’ season ended in New England, where Houston got its second beatdown in as many trips to Foxborough, most of the panic was directed at Matt Schaub. Yes, Schaub threw for 343 yards — one less than Tom Brady — but it required 51 attempts to get there. In today’s NFL, teams just don’t win Super Bowls without their best player residing under center, and although Schaub has put together his share of solid years in Houston, he isn’t the type of quarterback who wins in January. Or at least that’s how the thinking seemed to go.
That opinion of Schaub may be true, but in evaluating how far apart the Patriots and Texans actually were, the more telling difference was among those getting the throws, rather than those making them. New England spent almost the entire game shorthanded (as the Pats had been for the most of the year) after Rob Gronkowski reinjured his forearm. The typical Patriots still had their impact — Wes Welker had eight catches for 131 yards, and Aaron Hernandez added six for 85 — but it was the output of a lesser name that said everything anyone needs to know about the New England offense. For the entire regular season, Shane Vereen had eight catches for 179 yards. He totaled about half that against Houston, hauling in five passes for 83 yards, two of them for touchdowns. Vereen lined up all over the formation, and New England used the reserve running back to constantly exploit the coverage deficiencies of Houston’s inside linebackers. It was the exact type of opponent-specific game planning that has made the Patriots a problem for the past decade.