After a 2010 season when the Houston Texans went 6 and 10 overall and finished 3rd in the AFC South, and fans seemingly had their hearts ripped out with every loss, in particular this game ender against Jacksonville, there is reason for optimism in 2011.

The teams potent offense returns fully intact with all five starters from the line coming back, plus back up swing tackle Rashard Butler, which is critical with the shortened offseason. The main worry last year was one of the leagues worst defenses, especially against the pass.

The defense should see much improvement in 2011 with the addition of Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips. Phillips may have struggled as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, but he is a proven DC. He will implement his patent 3-4 defense, moving Pro-Bowl defensive end Mario Williams to outside linebacker.

Phillips impact can be seen in this season's draft as six of the teams eight overall picks were on the defensive side of the ball. The team should see an immediate impact from DE J.J. Watt who's been plugged into the first team's end position opposite veteran Antonio Smith. The team should also see impacts from second round picks LB Brooks Reed and CB Brandon Harris. Reed will step in and see time as a pass rushing specialist opposite Williams, while Harris will step in a fill the teams nickel-back role.

The team didn't stop there as they saw the need for a veteran cornerback after moving last season's top defensive back Glover Quin from CB to Safety. Bringing in CB Jonathan Joseph from Cincinnati should help out last season number one pick CB Kareem Jackson the most as he'll be bumped down the depth chart to second and won't be expected to cover the opposing teams #1 wide receiver. Houston knew it needed improvement from the Safety position too, even with the move of Quin, and signed Texas native Danieal Manning who can return punts and kickoffs if need be.

The Texans must do better in conference games, particularly against the Colts, but there's no reason to think Houston can't make the playoffs with the return of one of the top Quarterback-Wide receiver tandems in Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, and last seasons league leading rusher Arian Foster. If they don't do better in 2011, it will probably spell the end of the Gary Kubiak era.