Houston Texans Defense No Longer Vanilla Flavored?
This year the theme of the defense is "aggressive." Texan fans have heard that before, but maybe this is the year it may actually happen. Watching in training camp, the line as a group looks to be penetrating upfield faster, and when they do blitz, the blitzes look less predictable. How games will be called remains to be seen, though first-time defensive coordinator Frank Bush said Tuesday that Gary Kubiak is going to give him a lot of freedom on that side of the ball.
From the beginning of training camp, rookie linebacker Brian Cushing has played first team snaps, and coaches often have him lined up with the defensive line. At 6-foot-3, 262 lbs., Cushing sometimes looks more like a defensive end, though you can see his quickness in coverage. He has been all about football in camp, and he just recently purchased a hyperbaric chamber to aid in recovery.
The hope is that disruption caused by the defensive line will help the unproven Texans secondary out. Staring CB Jacques Reeves is out for 6-to-8 weeks with a broken fibula. Corner Dunta Robinson refuses to sign his franchise tender until the season begins, hoping to pressure the Texans into promising not to franchise him next year if he reaches various incentives.
This leaves Fred Bennett on one side of the field, and rookie Brice McCain getting first team snaps. Tall and long-armed, Bennett had a very encouraging first year but had a forgettable sophomore season. McCain has speed to burn but at 5-foot-9 may have difficulties against bigger receivers. With the absence of Reeves and Robinson, rookie Glover Quin has also seen first team snaps. Basically, the entire secondary is a tryout.
Recently the Texans signed veteran Deltha O'Neal to bring another body into camp, and someone that the coaching staff knows well.
The Texans defense has been so bad for so long that the feeling is that if they just play to league average, that might be enough to get them into the playoffs. The offense has numerous players with yet another year in the system. The defense? Pretty much open competition at both the safety and cornerback positions, and experiments on the defensive line to see which rotations work best.
The key to the Texans season is for this young defense to gain confidence in getting off to a fast start. The Texans had a brutal early road schedule last year, with a hurricane-caused bye week in September, and had a hard time getting their feet under them. This year, they start three of four at home. The young secondary will get its first big test in Week 5 against the Cardinals. This year they will look to get more stability on the defensive side of the ball, not having to continuously exchange starters while desperately trying to find some combination that plays better.