The Houston Texans are coming off a year in which the lost a key player at almost every spot defensively. And even without players like Brian Cushing, Jonathan Joseph, Brooks Reed, and Daryl Sharpton they still managed to put together a 12 win year, and had the NFL’s DPOY. Coming into the 2013-14 season this defense needs to stay healthy to make the deep playoff run that’s expected by the team and coaches this season. They’ll also need certain players to step up and make big plays throughout the season. Here’s 5 players that the Texans will need to have an impact to get them to their team goal of a Super Bowl title.
1. JJ Watt: Of course the reigning DPOY is first on this list. After having a season for the ages Watt may need to be a more disruptive force than he was last season. His 20.5 sacks and 15 deflected passed shows you just how much of a force the kid is. If the Texans defense is going to be better than last year I honestly believe Watt will have to be better. That may sound crazy but as much as he did, he could still do more. One thing he can do is make sure everyone on that defense understands where the ball is at all times. Watt’s gotten other lineman on the Texans in the habit of putting their hands in the air as well to tip passes. Many of those passes didn’t get caught after being tipped, that would make a huge difference defensively. Also Watt played most of the season still not at 100% after injuring his elbow before the start of the regular season last year. This guy had maybe the best year ever statistically for any defensive linemen, with a bum elbow. If that’s true this year could be historic for Watt.
2. Brian Cushing: The Texans MLB is the soul of this defense. Even with everything JJ Watt did last season the Texans defense never really seemed as aggressive as it was before they lost Cushing to injury last year. They did win the AFC South title and a playoff game, but the defensive unit was definitely not the same without him. Cushing was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009 and in each season Cushing’s played all 16 games he’s recorded over 100 tackles. The Texans know with him on the field they can count on him being a factor in every facet of the defense. As long as Cushing is healthy, the skies the limit for Wade Phillips defense.
3. Jonathan Joseph: After a very disappointing 2010 season the Texans wanted to bolster their secondary and make it better quickly. They went out and signed both CB Jonathan Joseph and S Daniel Manning that offseason. Since coming to the Texans J-Jo has been as advertised in terms of making an impact and stopping opposing WR’s consistently. Last season Joseph was hampered by injuries. When he’s healthy the Texans pass defense is one of the best in football. When asked this week if he’d watched film from last season and noticed a difference in his play compared to his debut season with the Texans his answer was “yes.” Sports hernias slowed him last year and it was noticeable toward the end of the year. If the Texans have any chance at winning the AFC and getting to their goal of the Super Bowl they’ll Joseph healthy.
4. Ed Reed: The Texans let their starting safety walk, as Glover Quin left to play in Detroit for more money. The thought was that they’d be able to get future Hall Of Fame S Ed Reed in free agency. The Texans got Reed and are hopeful after a surgery on his hip this offseason he’ll be ready for the week 1 game against the Chargers. Reed has personally told close friend and new teammate WR Andre Johnson he’d be ready by week 1 so I think he’ll be out there. What Reed brings to a defense is really unquestionable. His ability to find the ball and make plays has spoke for itself for years. As a member of the Ravens Reed broke almost every stat record he could at the S position. And now the greatest ball hawk the game’s ever seen will be playing with JJ Watt. A pass tipping machine, and Watt isn’t the only player that looks to get his hands on passes on the Texans defense. He’s got it instilled in the whole units mind, if you can’t get to the QB find where he’s throwing it and get your hands up. Reed will only benefit from this type of play. I believe he could have one of his best years as a pro on the Texans mainly because of that.
5. Shane Lechler: As you read this you’re probably thinking why I put a punter on this list. Obviously it’s a special teams position, but when your teams P can make the type of differences in a game Lechler can they become defensive players. Imagine starting every drive inside your own 20 against the Texans defense. Imagine stopping them, then them having to punt from their own 20-25 yard line, and still you’re starting from inside your own 20. That’s the advantage Lechler gives the Texans. It’s the opinion of many people that Lechler is the best at his position in the game. His average punt last season was 47.2 yards. Only 10 players in football had higher averages. Of the those 10 players, 1 only played 3 games last year. When Lechler became a free agent the Texans were a team he’d thought he could sign with. The last time the Texas native was a free agent the Texans showed interest but the Raiders made him the highest paid P in the game. Now after sitting through many years on a losing team Lechler’s come back home to help the Texans win big.