Brit Flicker Page
CHECK OUT FOOTBALL AND FUTBOL’S BOOKSTORE
It wasn’t until Wade Phillips was hired as Defensive Coordinator in 2011 that the word “defense” could even be said in Houston while keeping a straight face. Upon Phillips’ arrival and the implementing of his 3-4 scheme, the Texans Defense went from a perennially poor unit with a few stand-out players to one of the best in the AFC. Chalk full of young talent, they are nearing the cusp of dominance, and the two-time defending AFC South Champions have set their expectations very high for 2013. Let’s take a look at how this season’s defensive line is shaping up.
J.J. Watt are six of the most dominating letters in the NFL. The AP Defensive Player of the Year, Watt posted a ridiculous 20.5 sacks and 16 passes defended last season while generally wreaking all forms of havoc for opposing offenses. Without question, he will again be the focal point of Houston’s defense; and entering only his third season as a pro, it’s entirely conceivable he may even improve on 2012′s totals.
Joining Watt in the trenches again will be 8-year veteran (and 2011 Pro Bowl selection) Antonio Smith on the opposite side, and nose tackle Earl Mitchell plugging the middle. A 2010 third-round pick out of Arizona, Mitchell will get his first shot at being an every-down player in ’13, with former starter Shaun Cody still an unsigned free-agent and recovering from multiple injuries. Head Coach Gary Kubiak will really need Mitchell to excel at stopping the run with only third-year journeyman Terrell McClain behind him on the depth chart.
Smith, who’s coming off a career high 7 sacks is 2012, should be able to find continued success with Watt’s presence attracting so much attention. Second-year man Jared Crick is set to continue his mentor-ship of Smith’s role in the scheme, a place he is being groomed to fill once the 31-year-old’s peak has passed. A Second Team All- American at Nebraska in 2010 when he posted 9.5 sacks as a Junior, the Texans stole Crick in the fourth-round of the ’12 draft after he missed most of his Senior season with a torn pectoral muscle.
After a disappointing campaign in 2012, the Texans decided not to re-sign ’09 second-round pick Connor Barwin, and allowed him to ink a six-year deal with Philadelphia this off-season. Not that Barwin’s presence will be all that missed after posting a lackluster 3 sacks and 34 tackles last season, but it will be imperative that someone adequately fills that role in the defense for Houston to be successful.
Although they may not be expected to break into the starting line-up right away, there is a trio of rookies that are looking to make an immediate contribution. The Texans made another great value pick in third-rounder Sam Montgomery of LSU. Possessing the intangible speed and power combination needed to play the end in Phillips’ scheme, Montgomery was a 2011 First Team All-American, and was named First Team All-SEC in ’11 and ’12.
Taken in the fourth-round out of Connecticut, Jamaican-born Trevardo Williams is UConn’s all-time sack leader with 30.5 and was a First-Team All-Big East selection in ’12. Like Montgomery, Williams is extremely versatile and a good fit for what Houston tries to do defensively; and both players will most likely find themselves taking some snaps from the outside-linebacker position as well.
Sixth-round selection Chris Jones’ 12.5 sacks last season was the third highest total in the nation. A First-Team All-American selection at Bowling Green, Jones was also 2012′s MAC Defensive Player of the Year. All told, the trio of Montgomery, Williams and Jones combined for a hefty 32 sacks between them in 2012. Now that’s a youth movement.
If the learning curve remains high, and Houston’s young troop of players on the defensive line can step in to fill the secondary roles, this group should remain a dominant force in the trenches in 2013.