March 22, 2018

Jay’s Take: Talking Defense

After my visit to Texans camp, I can say without a doubt that they will be impressive on defense this year.  Just looking at their approach, they look focused and ready.  The staff does a great job of keeping the veteran players fresh and motivated for the common goal, which is the regular season.  The key to the season will be two things: injuries and getting off to a great start.  These two keys can be said for the offense as well.  Every post I will go through each position and give my input throughout the season.


Defensive Line

With the three starters, there is a good mix of veterans and young starters.  JJ Watt and Antonio Smith are Pro Bowl players.  They both are great in the run game and rushing the passer.  They work well on stunts and games on the interior in Nickel and Dime packages.  Earl Mitchell isn’t the prototypical 3-4 Nose but gets the job done with strength and quickness.  To be honest, he outplayed Cody last year and I think this will be his breakout year.  Behind them they have developed good depth.  Jared Crick looks like he has finally gotten over college injuries and has added 10-15 pounds of good weight.  He could be a good 5-10 play guy that could help later in the season in passing situations.  Daniel Muir has impressive physical gifts. He’s a big man that has the quick feet needed to become a three down player.  He was hurt with an ankle injury but looked good upon the return to practice.  Chris Jones looks like he is a natural pass rusher and I think that’s the main reason for drafting him.  He doesn’t do anything great but when you watch him rush he always seems to be back by the QB.  Terrell McClain will have to really standout over Muir in order to be the top backup at the Nose position.  There is a lot of depth and competition but that’s a great thing for a team that struggled late last year with depth and productivity.



This is the area with the most questions.  The inside position will only go as far as the health of Brian Cushing. I will say he looked great in practice.  He looked fast, strong and quick.  I think it will just come down to his confidence in the knee and getting back into football shape.  He has seen every run play there is and his natural instincts always has been a huge plus for him.  The passing looks and his reaction time is all he is looking to get back used to in camp.  The other inside spot will be the biggest competition defensively during camp.  Joe Mays and Sharpton are two of the same players.  Both are stout guys that have some quicks and fast twitch.  The biggest problem has been injuries for both.  I think the addition of Mays has inspired Sharpton and will be an ongoing competition well into the season. I can’t pick a starter right now because the games haven’t begun but I think it will be a two-headed monster throughout until one really steps forward.

The outside starters are set with Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus, both young and coming into their own.  Mercilus had six sacks last year in backup duty but must get to that 7-10 range in order for the defense to dominate.  Brooks Reed, like Mercilus, had a great rookie year and fell off in his sophomore campaign but I think injuries were a big part of that.  The Texans need at least 6 sacks from him also.  Both players, when healthy, can bring the heat from the outside.  Behind them is the unknown.  Sam Montgomery comes from LSU but has been on the mend with injuries and being out of shape.  He is making the transition from college DE to OLB. The good thing is that Wade won’t put him in a position that he won’t succeed and he has a history of taking players in the same situation and having results.  Willie Jefferson has been a huge bright spot in camp with his athletic ability and pass rush.  The time the starters have missed has allowed Jefferson to shine and get noticed.  He will also be a big contributor on special teams. His size and speed will be hard to handle for opponents.  Justin Tuggle has been improving as well and is moving up the depth chart as well.  He’s physical and willing to learn.  Trevardo Williams is struggling right now with being physical and the pace of practice.  The pre season games will be key for him.


Defensive Backs


The four starters are all Pro bowl caliber players and are arguably the best unit in the NFL.  Rick Smith has done a great job of drafting young players that can provide depth and also help on special teams.  McCain, Harris and Carmichael are all players that have played and will be called upon in different packages this season.  McCain especially is having a great camp.  The same can be said for Roc as well.  Shiloh Keo is a player I’d like to see become more consistent and dependable.  He is a liability in the pass game but can help out in the box.  DJ Swearinger has shown that he is a budding star in this league in a couple of years.  He’s been a surprise and blessing all in one.  With Ed Reed out, he has stepped right in and shown he is more than capable as a rookie to be counted on.  He is in a great position to not only learn from Reed but also play with Manning until Reed’s return.  When Reed returns, I can see him having an impact in the Nickel packages and a S/LB role.


You can follow Jay Foreman on Twitter.  He is an 8 year NFL veteran and original Houston Texan.


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