Will inexperience at cornerback hold the Texans back in 2010?

INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 08: Pierre Garcon #85 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball while defended by Jacques Reeves #35 and Glover Quin #29 of the Houston Texans during the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 8, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts won 20-17.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Merry preseason, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing whether or not inexperience could derail the Texans’ playoff hopes.

As we head into a new season, you get the sense that the Houston Texans are on the verge of making their first playoff appearance in franchise history. They have a great core on offense featuring Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub and Owen Daniels (when healthy), as well as several young defensive playmakers in Amobi Okoye, Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans.

But unfortunately, the Texans still have plenty of question marks at the cornerback position, enough to make you wonder if this team will once again come up short in their bid to make the postseason.

Their top corner left via free agency this offseason when Dunta Robinson signed with the Falcons. Some pundits will point out that Robinson struggled last year – and he did, recording zero interceptions despite playing the full 16-game slate.

But I asked both Daniels and wide receiver David Anderson this offseason about what Robinson brought to their team and they both essentially said the same thing: Toughness. Despite being 5’10” and 182 pounds, Robinson often played like a middle linebacker in that he never shied away from contract and loved coming up to make a big hit.

With Robinson now in Hotlanta, the projected starters in Houston are Glover Quin and first rounder Kareem Jackson.

Quin started as a rookie last year so he does have some experience. He has the size and athletic ability to hold down one side of the field for Houston, but he needs to trust his instincts more in order to make plays. That will come with more experience, but for now he struggles when in zone coverage and he needs to read a route, break on the ball and make a play.

After Robinson left, the Texans knew they had to address the cornerback position, which is why they took Jackson in the first round of April’s draft. He’s arguably the most athletic cornerback on the roster and is blessed with outstanding speed and agility. At some point very soon in his career, he could make people forget about Robinson.

So then what’s the problem?

The problem is that Jackson doesn’t have any game experience yet. It doesn’t matter if the kid can run a 4.3 and stay stride for stride with any receiver in the league because experienced route running and body control will win out every time. And considering the Texans usually have problems with the Colts twice a year (the same Colts team that can beat you with Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie), that’s a problem.

The other issue is that the depth behind the starters is thin. Brice McCain is technically still battling Jackson for the starting right cornerback position, so at least the team views him as a potential starter. But quarterbacks aren’t going to lose sleep at night if they have to compete against Jacques Reeves, Fred Bennett or Antwaun Molden.

There’s no doubt that the tandem of Quin and Jackson could be good in time – very good, in fact. But as of right now, neither of them have enough experience for anyone to say that cornerback won’t be an issue for Houston at some point this season.

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