March 21, 2018

Ed Reed Makes Sense for the Texans

Guest Spot from Tx Cleaver…….


Complaining is easy.  Pointing out problems is even easier.  Texans management is paid to do neither.  They are tasked with finding solutions for current problems, and avoiding future issues.  In that context, let’s look at their decision to let Glover Quin walk, and make a run at Edward Earl Reed, Jr.

Texans issues relative to defense and safety:

  1. Salary cap (paydays to JJ Watt, Cushing, Kareem Jackson ahead.)
  2. Dismantled by competent QBs
    1. Big plays against (missed assignments, no safety cushion)
    2. Big plays for (minimal interceptions)
  3. Relatively young defense
  4. Status quo


Cap flexibility

The Texans cap issues are well-documented.  To avoid a cap hell situation, management has to plan beyond the upcoming season in managing the contracts of their players.

The Texans apparent strategy is to bring in a veteran like Ed Reed as a short-term fix at safety, and presumably draft replacements. Assuming I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, this is a wise strategy, given their cap circumstances (and yes, being in those circumstances is its own topic.)

Strong safety does not merit a large cap allocation, unless the player is a game changer (Quin is not.)  An Ed Reed + draft prospects plan avoids unnecessarily committing money to this position (Quin’s deal with the Lions is over $5M/year, as I understand it) and this year’s draft is apparently deep in safety talent.

The Texans have the luxury of mid-round compensatory picks, where safety value is normally highest.  They can draft two rookies, add Eddie Pleasant to the mix, and hope that two of them work out long-term, and play on rookie contracts.  The importance of having contributors playing on rookie contracts cannot be overstated.  The salary cap does not allow all starters to get paid like veterans.

Note: Glover Quin was on the field from the moment he was drafted…in the 4th round.

If draft replacement plan does not work, the issue is in player evaluation, not cap management.


Big plays against

Quarterbacks exploit mistakes in coverage, and safety is the ideal position to minimize or cover-up mistakes.  Quin played as a strong safety, and was not available as a safety (pun!) blanket for rest of the secondary.  Obviously part of that is due to the issues at inside linebacker.  Part of that is also due to his limitations as a safety (susceptibility for sticking his nose into the play.)

A veteran safety presence should lessen the number of missed assignments, improve pre-snap reads, and improve in-game adjustments.

Perhaps most importantly, a veteran safety can make QBs question whether shots into coverage are worth the risk.  Is the worst case scenario an incompletion?  Or is it an interception?  Last year, it was an incompletion.  When elite (there’s that word!) quarterbacks get going, there is little that can be done in man coverage, given modern coverage rules.  Defenses have to force them to rethink taking those shots, which leads to….


Big plays for

Tackling is good. Tackling also implies a completion was made, and yards were given up.  Tackling is fine against teams that can’t continue to push the ball down the field (12-4, in the Blaine Locker division!)  Tackling is simply not enough against the best quarterbacks, as it implies that they’re getting additional opportunities to make plays.  The only ways to negate the best quarterbacks are either keeping them off the field or generating turnovers.

A ball hawk at safety, more so than a sure tackler, changes the calculus against such teams.  The Texans have the luxury of having two sure-tackling cornerbacks in Jackson and Joseph.  With competent play from the inside linebackers (that’s another topic), they don’t need both safeties to be tackling machines.  They DO need them to be turnover threats.


Young group

Despite having some veterans on defense, the Texans as a whole have a young, naïve defense.  The defense can be very competent and then collapse in minutes. There is a tangible value to the intangibles brought to a squad like this by a veteran, Super Bowl champion, Hall of Fame shoo-in, leader like Ed Reed.

Seth Payne noted on Twitter that the Jaguars brought in legendary, all-decade player Carnell Lake at the end of his career, and his impact was significant on the younger guys (including Payne himself, a defensive tackle.)

I don’t want to belabor this point, as intangibles talk quickly turns to hyperbole.  However, consider the Ravens defense for the last ten years.  Is that ALL due to Ozzie Newsome and his scouts?  Or does some of that credit go to the mentoring from the leaders on the defense (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, etc.)?  Players like this set a tone, and the Texans have been short on those kinds of players since their inception.


Status quo

Let’s not forget that for all of the purported talent on the Texans defense, the unit as a whole was not good.  For long stretches of games throughout the season, it was JJ Watt and everyone else.  The Texans need playmakers.  They need mentally and physically tough guys.  Adding Cushing back to the mix will help, but they also have to roll the dice and deviate from “on the right track.”  I could go on, but that’s a topic for another day.

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