The Houston Texans had their first ever winning season in 2009 and had a ton of promise entering the 2010 season. The defensive effort was not even close to on par with the offensive, which led to a disappointing 6-10 finish.
Many had picked the Texans as someone to make a deep playoff run, and that topic is trending this year as well with the hiring of Wade Phillips plus a great 2011 draft.
With the 11th overall pick the Texans took Wisconsin defensive end JJ Watt, who was a monster at the NFL Scouting Combine. He showcased athleticism that nobody thought he had and the Texans were lucky that he fell in to their lap.
They expect Mario Williams to make the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker, so Watt is likely going to become a starter right away.
With their second round pick they got incredible value in Brooks Reed from Arizona. Reed is a guy that many thought would go in to the first round due to his ridiculous time in the 10 yard split. He is a fantastic player that will contribute for the defense that lacked multiple pass rushers last season.
Things just kept getting better and better for the Texans as players seemingly fell in to their laps. Third round pick Brandon Harris was listed as high as a late first rounder and Rashad Carmichael was a late second to early third rounder they ended up with in the fourth round.
Both are good young corners; their pass defense was worst in the NFL and it is clear they knew that going in to the draft—their first five picks and six out of eight were defensive players.
However, one knock against Harris is that he can’t read routes well and often gets confused in zone coverage. That is something he will have to work on if he wants to become the full time Nickel cornerback.
What Harris struggled at Carmichael seemed to excel at, as most people pegged him as a better zone coverage guy. It is not out of the question that the Texans could move Glover Quinn to safety, start Harris opposite Kareem Jackson, and play Carmichael as the Nickel corner.
Are these defensive players the key to the Texans making the playoffs in 2011? Well, when you play in a division with Peyton Manning, it can’t hurt to stockpile defensive players.
Wade Phillips is the key to putting it all together. While he was no good as a head coach everywhere he went, he has been a well respected and excellent defensive coordinator. His 3-4 defenses nearly always ranked near the top of the league.
Every time he’s taken over as a team’s coordinator they’ve shown drastic improvements. With how amazing the Texans’ offense is, it will take only an above average defense to take them to the next level.
Expect to see the Texans in the playoffs next year.