RATHER THAN sulkabout his unceremonious release from the Patriots late last February, pass rushspecialist Rosevelt Colvin embraced the opportunity to peddle himself to teamsas a free agent, touting his selling points as if he were a real estate agentin a down housing market. "I'd probably compare myself to an olderhome," says Colvin, 30, a contributor on two Super Bowl winners in his fiveyears in New England. "There are a couple of issues to deal with, but ifyou can get over those, I can be useful."
Indeed, enteringhis 10th NFL season, Colvin is a bit of a fixer-upper. He missed the last fiveweeks of the 2007 regular season and all of the playoffs with a broken rightfoot and is still bothered by the effects of a right-hip injury that nearlyended his career in '03. If they'd kept him, the Pats would have taken a $7.6million cap hit.
Despite hisdisrepair, Colvin, who led New England in sacks in 2005 and '06 and has 52 1/2for his career, found no shortage of bidders. With a wife and four kids, hewould only take offers from teams looking to buy, not rent. "I wasn't atthe point where I felt like I wanted to start jumping around, year-to-year,signing one-year contracts," he says. "I was looking for acommitment."
In June theTexans gave him one, trumping an offer from the division-rival Colts andsigning him to a three-year deal that averages $2.84 million. Much as thecontract is a score for Colvin, it's also a risk for the Texans. First there'shis age and injury history; then there's the learning curve he faces movingfrom purely a stand-up linebacker in New England's 3--4 scheme to more of adown defensive end in Houston's 4--3.
This isn'tColvin's first go-round in a 4--3—he earned All-Big Ten honors playing thescheme at Purdue and had 10 1/2-sack seasons with Chicago in 2001 and '02—butthat was at linebacker. In addition to learning the Texans' terminology and gapresponsibilities, he has found adapting to new demands in practice a grind."Whereas in the last five years I might've been asked to rush four or fiveyards and settle down, now I need to go six, seven, eight yards, all-out,"Colvin says.
At 6'3" and250 pounds, Colvin is also a bit undersized to be an edge rusher, but he'sconfident he can handle his responsibilities. "They're not asking me toplay nosetackle," Colvin says. "I have to be able to get it doneagainst the tight end or the tackle at my weight."
If hesuccessfully makes the switch and stays healthy, the savvy Colvin will be aboon to a young Houston defense that hasn't finished above 24th in the NFL inthe last three years. "Rosey's got the ability to rush and drop intocoverage," says coordinator Richard Smith. "That would be an advantagefor us." Outside of third-year end Mario Williams, who rebounded from aplantar fasciitis injury as a rookie to have 14 sacks last year, the team putlittle pressure on the—quarterback in '07; Amobi Okoye, a rookie, was the onlyother Texan with more than three sacks, and his chief job is as a runstuffer.
Even with astronger pass rush the Texans will have a tough time improving on last year'sfranchise-best 8--8 finish. Not only do they figure to be overmatched againstAFC South foes Tennessee, Jacksonville and Indianapolis—Houston was 1--5 in thedivision in '07—but they also have a demanding nondivision schedule. What'smore, ace cornerback Dunta Robinson isn't expected back from knee and hamstringinjuries until midseason (newcomer Jacques Reeves, late of the Cowboys, fillsin); feature back Ahman Green, 31, missed 10 games last year with a kneeailment; and the offensive line is porous and was already banged-up incamp.
The Texans' onlychance for their first postseason berth depends on a fearsome pass rush. Andfor that to happen, Colvin has to bring the house.
PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP WITH 2007 STATISTICS COACH GARY KUBIAK (14--18 in NFL), thirdseason with Texans
Chris MYERS [NewACQUISITION]
SACKS 5 1/2
Jacques REEVES[New ACQUISITION]
(R) Rookie(college statistics)
2007 RECORD 8--8NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 22/11/14 DEFENSE 19/25/24
7 at Pittsburgh
21 at Tennessee
28 at Jacksonville
2 at Minnesota
16 at Indianapolis
23 at Cleveland
1 JACKSONVILLE (M)
7 at Green Bay
21 at Oakland
NFL Rank: 8
Opponents' 2007 winning percentage: .547
Games against playoff teams: 8
SI.com's NFL personnel expert Michael Lombardievaluates the Texans' units.
Depth is there, but Schaub must prove he can last 16 games.
Steve Slaton and Chris Brown have a shot at the No. 1 job.
Good speed and ability to run after the catch.
The underrated Daniels fits the offense perfectly.
New line coach in Alex Gibb; new anchor in rookie Brown.
Much improved; Williams is a big-time player.
Ryans is a tackling machine; unit needs more depth, talent.
Concerns at safety; Dunta Robinson must come back healthy.
Brown has the big leg to make the long kicks.
The youngest first-round draft pick in history at 19,Okoye didn't act his age as a rookie in 2007. He was a force in the middle,using a quick first step and a low center of gravity to beat offensive linemenfor 5 1/2 sacks while plugging the running lanes. The fact that he's 6'2",302 pounds and still isn't fully grown has Houston coaches salivating over hispotential.
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EXCERPTED FROM SI
August 19, 2002
FOR FIVE years the Lockridges have waited for Sept. 8,the day the NFL returns to Houston, the day their Texans open against the GreatSatan up I-45. "When I was born, my mama told me, 'You hate theCowboy,'" says Chris Lockridge, 36, two fresh Texans tattoos blazing on hisarms. "And I've hated 'em all my life." Meet the Texan Freak, a newlyrampant species in Houston.
Free access to all TEXANS stories and photographs from the SI archives, plusvideo clips.
THORNY ROSE Colvin brings a Super Bowl pedigree, but also a history of injuries.
JOHN BIEVER (COVER)