April 23, 2014

Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell, It is Time to Earn Their Check.

As of right now Houston fans, I hate to break it to you but there will be no space eating monster coming in, as of now, to occupy the nose tackle position for the Texans. The Texans have left it in the hands of the 301 lbs. Shaun Cody and the 289 lbs. Earl Mitchell, and they will get all they want this Sunday versus the New Orleans Saints. If there is anytime for the our nose tackles to earn their game check now would be a good time to do so. 

Shaun Cody came to the Texans via free agency in 2009 from the Detroit Lions when he signed as an unrestricted free agent with a three year deal. Cody came into the league as a 2nd round draft pick by the Lions, but was lost in those terrible Lions teams. As for Earl Mitchell, he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft and played in 15 games as a rookie and totaled 28 tackles and one sack.

Early in the preseason the Texans were exploited up the middle by the New Orleans Saints running game, with Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas running into the second level without being touched. Everyone knows that this is a cause of concern especially with what the Texans are lining up against in the Superdome.

The Saints have an experienced and big interior line with one of the best centers in the league Olin Kreutz (292 lbs.) and two of the best offensive guard tandems in the NFL with,  Jahari Evans (318 lbs.) and Carl Nicks (343 lbs.). The size differential is staggering and red flags should be waving for what seems to be a big advantage for the Saints. If the Saints can double to the nose to the inside line backers it will be a long day for the Houston defense, and the Texans will be in jeopardy of giving up some major yards on the ground.

Fans may see that we need to stop the Saints passing game, but the best way through any defense is to go right through them. In this case the middle in anchored by Cody and Mitchell, and the odds are not looking good. The job at the nose position relies on the fact they must take up blockers to keep the inside linebackers free to make plays. If the inside backers are making plays behind or at the line of scrimmage then the nose tackle is doing their job. Nose tackle is not a glamorous position, but a very important one in the scheme of the 3-4 defense. Cody and Mitchell can not play head up with the inside force the Saints have, so expect defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to put the nose on the move with slants to prevent a big push from the Saints offensive line. The Texans have to control the line of scrimmage, and they can’t out muscle them, but they can definitely out quick them and that is up to Phillips and his ability to get Cody and Mitchell to perform.

In my eyes, it seems like Cody and Mitchell have done an admirable job in the first two games of the season, but there has to be room for improvement. The problem is that it is hard to tell if the nose tackle is the real problem up the middle, or is it the fact the recognition of the inside backers is not quick enough to the point of attack. The nose and the inside backers work together as a small piece on the defense, and if those three are not on the same page on runs right up the middle it can get ugly quick.

I am all for the signing of a big nose tackle, but let’s see who Cody and Mitchell handle a real test before we all quickly pass judgement. Like I discussed before if Wade Phillips was truly concerned at the position, I think there would have been someone already brought in. It seems Phillips knows what he is doing defensively and it’s hard to doubt his decisions to this point, but he will have his work cut out for him this Sunday in the first true test for this much improved Texans defensive unit.

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