HOUSTON -- It seems every summer many predict the Houston Texans are going to break through and get that elusive first playoff berth.
Is this the year?
Isn't that the team theme song?
As we ready for another NFL season, the Texans are again a chic pick to possibly win the AFC South and/or make the playoffs.
They have a potent offense, one that finished third in total offense last season. They have also made major improvements on defense, including hiring top defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
So is this the year?
"We say it so much we beat it into the ground," Texans receiver Andre Johnson said. "The only way we're going to make the playoffs, or go out and win a Super Bowl, is to go out and do it. There's no reason for us to keep talking about it over and over and over. "
There is no denying this is a big year for Texans coach Gary Kubiak. There were a lot of people surprised that the Texans brought him back for another season after the disappointing 6-10 record of 2010.
Another bad season and Kubiak, who is 37-43 in five seasons, will be out the door.
If he's the added pressure is bothering him, it's not noticeable when talking to Kubiak, who is always laid back and always accommodating with the media. If there is a more easy-going coach, I can't think of one.
"It's a big year for this organization and this football team," Kubiak said. "I understand we failed last year. We were 2-8 the last 10 weeks. That's failure. I'm wearing it right now. We're wearing it as a team. We have to go do something about it."
And finally end the this-is-the-year mentality.
Here are some other camp observations:
---Running back Arian Foster, who led the NFL in rushing last season in his first as a starter, doesn't want to hear any of that one-year wonder stuff. It annoys him in fact. When I brought it up, he got a little testy.
"What else is new?" Foster said. "There's always somebody saying you can't."
A year ago, Foster was battling for the starting job in camp. Now he's a Pro Bowl player with a rushing title on his resume. Not bad for a player who went undrafted out of Tennessee.
I asked him if always knew he had that in him.
"Yeah," he said.
"From Tennessee," I said.
"From the 5:30 morning runs while you were sleeping," he said.
"No, I was up," I said.
"No, you were sleeping or you were drinking coffee," he said. "There's a difference."
OK, so I was sleeping. But you get the point. Foster wants people to know that he won't be a one-hit wonder.
For money reasons, he better not be. He is in the final year of his two-year deal that will pay him just over $500,000. The Texans have to do something with him, but they will likely wait until midway through the season to do so.
Now you know why he is so testy.
"He's got a chip on his shoulder every day," Kubiak said. "He came up the hard way. He's earned it. He's proud of what he's accomplished last year. He's expecting to be an even better player this year. That's what makes this kid what he is."
Following up Act 1 isn't going to be easy.
---By signing corner Johnathan Joseph and safety Daniel Manning as free agents, the Texans will start four players in their secondary who have been corners in the NFL. The other starting safety will be Glover Quin, who started at corner the past two years for the Texans, and likely Jason Allen. In my mind, this is the prototype for the new NFL secondary. Coverage matters much more than how you play the run, thus the four cover people on the back end. "The way they are throwing the ball, you want as many proven cover guys back there as you can get," Joseph said. "Everyone wants to run four wides and spread you out and throw it 50 times a game. So having a 225-pound safety who can't cover doesn't make sense." Joseph and Manning can't work until Thursday when the CBA is completed, but they have been right in the middle of all the coaching on the field the first two days.
---First-round pick J. J. Watt is already running with the first team at left end. The coaches were raving about how quickly he picks things up. He also practices with a high level of intensity. Second-round pick Brooks Reed, who is making the conversion from college defensive end to outside linebacker, has some pass-rush ability.
---Keep an eye on rookie quarterback T.J. Yates. In the two days I watched him, he impressed. He is listed as the No. 3 behind Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, so he won't play much, if at all, but he has some skills. The ball gets out of his hand.
---The Texans have three good receivers in Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. They have an opening for a fourth. One player who has been impressive early on is undrafted free agent rookie Terrance Toliver. He is a big receiver at 6-2 who did some good things for LSU. He was hurt by bad quarterback play there, but he has a chance. Dorin Dickerson, who was a college tight end at Pittsburgh, is also in the mix in his second season.