HOUSTON - Matt Schaub had more than a little bad luck in his first season as a starter.

The Houston Texans quarterback had helmet-to-helmet hits in consecutive weeks that led to a hip injury and a concussion before missing the last four games with a dislocated shoulder that required surgery. When he was on the field, he was often without his starting running back and top receiver.

As he prepares for his second year, the West Chester East High graduate has to assume things will get a little easier.

Not that his first year in Houston after spending 3 years as Michael Vick's backup in Atlanta was all bad. The 26-year-old, who played collegiately at Virginia, threw for 2,241 yards with nine touchdowns in 11 games.

Perhaps more important, Schaub established himself as a leader of a young team. It's a job he has taken seriously since arriving in Houston last spring.

"He's sharp. He knows what he's doing," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's more familiar with this football team. I see him taking even more of a leadership role because he's so much more comfortable with what he's doing."

Kubiak often praised Schaub's poise and confidence. Despite a strong showing from backup Sage Rosenfels late last season, the Texans believe Schaub is their quarterback of the future.

He got off to a great start last year and led the Texans to the first 2-0 record in franchise history. Countless hours of offseason work equaled a great rapport with Andre Johnson and the two combined for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games.

That pairing combined with two solid games from Ahman Green had the Texans' offense looking more potent than ever. Things quickly changed for the team and Schaub when both Johnson and Green were injured.

He prefers not to talk about what could have been last season if the trio would have remained healthy, instead focusing on 2008.

"We don't like to look in the past and talk about things that already happened," he said. "We talk about what we can do in the future and what we're looking forward to getting done this season."

Though Johnson's injury was difficult to deal with, Schaub said it allowed him to get to know his other receivers better.

"For the other guys like Andre' Davis and Jacoby [Jones] to step in there and play well for us and see what they could do, they really rose to the occasion and played well," Schaub said. "It gave us the confidence that if that kind of thing happens, we're ready."

Schaub has recovered from the surgery to repair his non-throwing shoulder. He said he feels great and he looks good in the Texans' offseason practices. Those sessions are conducted without pads and with no contact though, so he's eager to see how he feels after taking some hits.

He doesn't have any specific areas he wants to improve on this season but rather hopes to elevate his overall game.

"Just more growth," he said. "To keep going in the right direction. Get more in-depth in the offense and understand what the coaches are looking for from me. I want to be out there on the field playing consistent." *