March 22, 2018

Conspiracy Theory: The Defensive Line

In this series we look at the moves the Houston Texans have made since the free agency period and during the draft and let you know what is “really” going on at Reliant and with the team in 2012.             




         We’ve heard it before: “In a Wade Phillips’ one-gap 3-4 defensive scheme, a big beastly nose tackle isn’t a necessity.”  It may not be a “necessity,” but wouldn’t it be better?  Our current starting NT Shaun Cody himself initially expressed some reservation about his role and size to get the job done as the new defense was implemented in 2011.  Cody is 6’4″, 301 lbs., while a typical 3-4 NT is around 330 lbs. Cody’s a decent lineman, just perhaps not a perfect fit within the Texans scheme. He catches some heat from fans when ends and backers have to step in to further clog running lanes and doesn’t get to the passer very often at all. Obviously our defensive ends are solid for 2012: Antonio Smith (signed through 2013) and J.J. Watt (signed through 2014) are about as unyielding in their spots flanking Cody as any fan could wish.

We also have Earl Mitchell, who notably bulked up from 287 to 308 in the offseason and who rotated in the position with Cody throughout 2011, splitting the duties almost 50/50. Mitchell has more quickness and while he can play the spot, the fans still clamored for a bigger (read HUGE) guy to block the lane. The fact of the matter is, Cody and Mitchell were good enough to contribute to the Texans 4th ranked run defense, but in the long term, are their contributions a help or a hindrance?

The 3-4 NT position has been called the most physical in football and one of the hardest to fill. In Phillips’ single-gap scheme the Texans claimed they weren’t looking for a big blocky NT through the draft or free agency. Yet in through the Undrafted Free Agent door walks Hebron”Loni” Fangupo (6’1″, 323 lbs., and strong, lifting 36 reps of 225 lbs. at the 2012 NFL Combine), the biggest and blockiest defensive tackle available for the cost.  The thing is, Fangupo is the complete opposite type of NT Phillips has employed in the past, which means the question is “why did Phillips/Kubiak/Smith bring Fangupo in and what’s up their collective sleeves? This is where the Texans 2012 Defensive Line begins its new look with an eye toward the future and the future is looking very Fangupo friendly.


  1. Cody’s 3 year contract with the Texans ends at the end of the 2012 season and we’re looking at a future uncertain for Cody but ripe with possibility for Fangupo, and to a lesser degree Mitchell. In regard to Shaun Cody, he has been in the league seven seasons, only produced 3 career sacks and never more than 25 tackles in a season. Most NTs in a 3-4 scheme put up Cody’s career numbers in a single season.
  2. See the financials. Cody is making $2 Million this year. The average NT earns about $1.26 Million.  We are getting below average production but paying an above average price. If a rookie like Fangupo can step in and make 20 tackles, eat up blockers and a sack each year of his rookie contract, we’re getting better production for less money. It’s a smart financial move.
  3. In regard to Mitchell, while he’s taken near 50% of the plays at the position, he had only 1 sack and 14 tackles in 2011. He just doesn’t seem to be cut out for our NT needs. The bonus with Mitchell is that he is moveable within our scheme.  He’s pretty light (still) and quick for a NT and could fit more easily as a defensive end or even has the possibility to be traded.
  4. And now the pros for Fangupo. He’s a huge guy. He can clog a running lane by just being his enormous, ridiculously strong, unmoveable self.  While Cody and Mitchell have shown issues blocking their one gap, Fangupo has the size and strength to not only ensure his single gap gets blocked, but can likely get his hands on one of the other blockers and slow him up significantly as well.
  5. Another positive for Fangupo is looking at how well young players have flourished under Phillips. Look at what he did with J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed, two guys who came out of college with some doubters but who produced and big under Phillips.

All signs within the offices at Reliant are pointing to a future filled with Loni Fangupo. Keeping Cody around this year to close out his contract makes sense, as he is serviceable in the position and could provide the mentorship the UDFA Fangupo needs to become a professional. After 2012, however, Cody would likely be more beneficial to another team. Keeping Mitchell on the D Line either as an end or eventually backing up Fangupo or both also makes sense.  As does ultimately trading Mitchell if he is unable to contribute to the level of Fangupo or recent draftee Jared Crick, since Mitchell would have some trade value on the open market.  As Tim Jamison took 30% of the defensive snaps in 2011, we’re not seeing him going anywhere, potentially leaving Mitchell the odd-man out.  This is the future, Texans fans. As secretive as the organization is, rest assured they are looking to keep our second-ranked defense fresh and need to avoid the dreaded “year two Phillips defense dropoff.” Inserting the ginormous Fangupo into the middle of the mix makes perfect sense to achieve this goal.

Discuss amongst yourselves and share your views. We are interested to hear what Texans Nation thinks about the issue of the future of the Defensive Line of the Houston Texans. 


Previous Fangupo articles:

You can see our earlier draft profile on Fangupo here. 

You can view our recent One to Watch feature on Fangupo here


Conspiracy theory series links:

Conspiracy Theory: The Wide Receivers

Conspiracy Theory: Linebackers

You can follow Claire Bear on Twitter here.

13 Responses to “Conspiracy Theory: The Defensive Line”
  1. Lydia says:

    I never realized Cody was underproducing. Good move for the Texans thinking ahead, but I sure will miss On the Nose if/when Cody leaves.

    • Patrick D. Starr says:

      I don’t think it is the fact the Cody is under-producing, it is more of a position issue with the NT. Cody is a good NT in this scheme, I would say Mitchell is the one that is under-producing. It will be interesting to see if Mitchell’s weight gain helps him this season.

      The point the Texans can get the same production from Fangupo or whoever at NT could prove big especially in the terms of financial terms. Fangupo if he makes the squad will be for close to rookie minimum $390k where Cody is due $2 million this season and Mitchell is due $490k with a similar bonus for the season.

  2. Ha, Lydia! Part of the “conspiracy” might’ve been Wade’s unhappy w/ his lack of inclusion in “On the Nose,” and maybe he’s looking for a replacement host, lol. It just got too long. But I’m a huge “On the Nose” fan, too. I’d miss it a lot!

  3. D. Roque says:

    Like the article. “Blockiest” LOL!

  4. Aaron aka Bubbles says:

    So are we getting sponsored by Fangupo’s Agent.. The site is showing a whole lot of love to a UDFA.. ??

  5. The Gardener says:

    Most NTs in a 3-4 scheme put up Cody’s career numbers in a single season.
    – I don’t find data that agrees with this idea.

    All signs within the offices at Reliant are pointing to a future filled with Loni Fangupo.
    – all of them?

    I agree with P Starr, I don’t think the NT’s are underproducing, they seem to be doing exactly what they are asked to do in this scheme.

    And if it’s so hard to fill this position, we should be celebrating that smith has filled our roster with starting and developing talent.

    I do get and like the conspiracy theory theme.

    • Patrick D. Starr says:

      I know I’m pulling for Fangupo to end up with the Texans some how and way.

    • The Claire Bear says:

      All hyperbole contained in the article plays into the conspiracy theory idea, meant to be provocative and start conversation, so I’ve been enjoying the chatter.

      In terms of underproduction, I would attribute my idea on that to the money issue, are we getting what we pay for? Obtaining young talent as we have and keeping it fresh gives us options for the future and could help with the financial struggles, while keeping opponents on their toes.

      Hoping Wade works his magic!

      Thank you for the feedback.

  6. ThaFreak99 says:

    I think that we should keep Cody to replace Dougherty…

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