March 22, 2018

Wade Phillips and the D, Looking at The Big Picture

The discussion about the future of Houston Texans’ coaches has become the topic throughout Houston in the middle of this eight game losing streak. Answers are being looked for on what exactly has gone wrong with the season.  With some questionable decisions on personnel, these decisions have effected the makeup of this team.

One area that seems to get a free pass at times is the defense and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Looking at the big picture of what Phillips has brought to the Texans started in 2011 with a top-notch defense that played at a high level. That defense had the likes of Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing, Antonio Smith, Connor Barwin, newly signed Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning and a rookie named J.J. Watt. Phillips walked into a gold mine of talent in Houston that produced some great games filled with turnovers and a unit that got to the quarterback with ease.

This is not about numbers, this is about the eye test and which players have been on the field prior to the Phillips Era in Houston. The talent level is a concern and it is pretty evident lately in Houston.

As talent left, the Texans and the team opted to fill it through the draft. That is where the good times stopped for the Texans on finding defensive players.


Pre-Wade Phillips (2007-2010)

General Manager Rick Smith arrived in Houston in 2007, and in that year and in 2008 he really struggled early in his draft process and missed with some key picks. Most notably, his first ever pick as the general manager of the franchise in Amobi Okoye. In those two years, he found some roster players who filled the depth in Fred Bennett, Zach Diles and Dominique Barber. Things were so bad in Houston during those seasons that players were lost in the shuffle and the Texans were depending on players who were not starter caliber.

The players that were drafted were


Amobi Okoye

Fred Bennett

Brandon Harrison

Zach Diles



Antwaun Molden

Xavier Adibi

Frank Okan

Dominique Barber


If you erase those two seasons (which you can’t) and look at what Smith and his scouting department did in 2009 and 2010, there is a night and day difference in the talent they were able to snag.

Take a look.



Brian Cushing

Connor Barwin

Glover Quin

Brice McCain

Troy Nolan



Kareem Jackson

Earl Mitchell

Sherrick McManis


Smith found seven defensive starters for them in these two seasons and produced a solid special teams player in Sherrick McManis. If you look even more into this group, Troy Nolan is the only one not in the NFL anymore.  Connor Barwin and Glover Quin were offered deals to go play elsewhere and both are key starters for their team’s defensive unit.

The group that was assembled ended up being part of the franchise’s best defensive unit in 2011 ever assembled. Throw in the fact that all of these defensive picks were all good players and made a difference on the field.


Key Free Agent Signings and Waiver Claims

Antonio Smith (2009)

Jason Allen (2010) Claimed from the Dolphins

Quintin Demps (2010)

Tim Jamison (2009) Undrafted Free Agent


Defensive Draft Picks with Wade Phillips

Entering his first season with the Texans as defensive coordinator, Phillips brought his vaunted 3-4 ideas and gave the defense a new look. He shifted cornerback Quin to safety and moved Barwin and Williams to the outside linebacker positions. It is easy to make these moves when the talent is there, and with these moves he put together a solid defense.


J.J. Watt

Brooks Reed

Brandon Harris

Roc Carmichael

Shiloh Keo

Cheta Ozougwu



Whitney Mercilus

Jared Crick



D.J. Swearinger

Sam Montgomery

Trevardo Williams

Chris Jones


If you look at the defensive picks, really only one has been anything for this franchise, and that is J.J. Watt. When you look at the rest of the picks, there is a good chance that D.J. Swearinger is already approaching the second most productive player of this group of players. Roc Carmichael, Cheta Ozougwu, Sam Montgomery and Chris Jones are no longer with the team, due to being waived, and these are draft picks. All but Montgomery are with other NFL teams and playing in the NFL. Jones is a sack machine for the Patriots, Carmichael is starting for the Eagles and Ozougwu made a position change to defensive end to fit his skill set.

The other players on this list have been unproductive as players and all have played key parts in the failure of the Texans’ defense. Shiloh Keo was cut in his rookie season and now, by default, is this year’s starting safety. Second round pick Brandon Harris has gotten little opportunity to produce and it is evident he has some speed issues on the field. Jared Crick has been nothing more than depth for the defensive line, and outside linebacker Brooks Reed (2nd round) and Whitney Mercilus (1st round) were drafted with top picks and both have done little as impact players for the defense.

The rookie outside linebackers in 2013 were little help for this team. Trevardo Williams was so over matched on the first day of training camp he was stashed on the injured reserve to open up a roster spot. As for Montgomery, he was brought in as an outside linebacker and then moved to defensive end because he could not keep his weight off. Then to make matters worse, Montgomery was waived due to violating team rules on a trip to Kansas City. There has been news that Phillips and linebacker coach Reggie Herring were pushing to draft Montgomery, and they got their wish, a bust.


Key Free Agent Signings and Waiver Claims

Johnathan Joseph (2011)

Danieal Manning (2011)

Joe Mays (2013)


Now there is no known fact who makes the exact pick, but there is a trend here that should not be overlooked. The evaluation of the defense changed when Phillips arrived due to scheme and what he wants on the field. There has to be some communication on what Phillips and his staff want with their defense and, since 2011, the draft picks have been full of misses.

The solid picks changed in the year 2011 and there has only been one real change to the system. There has been a decline in skill players to replace the departed players he has lost off the defense. There have been free agent signings, but NFL teams are built through the draft and it is apparent that has not happened.

There needs to be change somewhere and it starts with the evaluation process. Phillips was brought in by Owner Bob McNair and there were some good perks to come with the defensive coordinator position, and having input on draft picks was one of them. Maybe the game has passed up Phillips with his evaluation, but one thing is for sure players were being found prior to the Phillip’s era in Houston.


You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans.

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