HOUSTON A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, but it ends early with a foot full of blisters.
The Houston Texans are somewhere in the middle of that journey, somewhere between expansion franchise and Super Bowl champions. Somewhere between drafting Andre Johnson and retiring Andre Johnson. Somewhere between filling a team with solid, selfless Eric Winstons, DeMeco Ryanses and Joel Dreessens and seeing all its Eric Winstons, DeMeco Ryanses and Joel Dreessens walk out the door.
Is it time to panic?
No. Definitely not. But that hasn't quelled a miniature freakout among Texans fans, who are starting to get a little uncomfortable with the way this offseason has gone. Winson, Ryans, Dreessen and Mario Williams are all gone. Every week the Texans seem to lose somebody. Every time there's personnel news, Texans fans are peaking through their fingers, afraid to look but unable to turn away.
You are either getting better or getting worse, and there is no doubt about this: The Texans have gotten worse this month. A lot worse. They lost premier players at three different positions (rush end, linebacker and offensive tackle), and replaced them with diddly poo. Houston's biggest offseason move this year has been resigning running back Arian Foster, but that doesn't make the Texans better, it only kept them from getting worse.
The Texans feel like a basketball team drowning in an opponent's run. They just need to get to halftime and re-set this thing.
This sounds like I'm ripping the Texans, but I really don't know what else they could have done. They just didn't have the cap room to keep the entire team together, and at least they got something in return for Ryans. It was a fourth-round pick. For a two-time Pro Bowler. It was kind of like trading a working TV for a scratch ticket. But still. It's something.
So no, I am not ripping the Texans, but I'm also not blaming anybody who is. This offseason has hurt the team, certainly and significantly and the Texans are going into next month's draft needing to strike some oil.
Good news is, they've done it before.
Their first two draft picks in 2011 were defensive end J.J. Watt and linebacker Brooks Reed, who started most of the year, and became stars. Their fifth-round pick was quarterback T.J. Yates, who led the team to the first playoff appearance and playoff win in franchise history. The Texans got two important players from the 2010 draft, too, in running back Ben Tate and cornerback Kareem Jackson, who turned things around after a poor rookie season. Then there are Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin and James Casey from 2009 and Duane Brown from 2008. The 2006 draft was one of Houston's best. They got Williams, Ryans, Winston and Owen Daniels that year.
The point is, the Texans are pretty good at this drafting thing. They need a wide receiver and maybe another defensive linemen or pass rusher. Wouldn't hurt to find an offensive tackle, either. Maybe with that fourth-round pick.
So even though the Texans have not lose the core of their first playoff team, this still feels vaguely like a rebuilding year. They've come a long way since 2002.
It's time to patch up some blisters.