Ask almost any Houston Texans fan who Public Enemy #1 is on the Texans roster and the name Kareem Jackson will come flying out of their mouth so fast that it will wrap around your head and slap you in the face before you can finish getting the question out of your mouth.
CB Kareem Jackson has been the scapegoat of the Texans woes for many games in the Texans past and present seasons, and for good reason. Watching replays of Jackson against the New Orleans Saints is about as painful as having a tooth removed without any sedative. He was constantly being beat in coverage, was juked out of his shoes a few times, and had his back to the QB so often that you would have thought that he was the WR and not the defender.
Now, you may say that I am exaggerating about Jackson’s pitiful performance against the Saints but Bill Barnwell, in his article The 25 Least Valuable Players in the NFL said this about Jackson,
Even the best cornerbacks usually look pretty bad as rookies, but Jackson allowed a league-worst 11.1 yards per pass attempt last season. If there’s ever a Sporcle quiz on matching a receiver’s name to the back of his jersey, Jackson will ace it.
By the way, Barnwell had Kareem listed as the sixth least valuable player in the league. One NFL commentator said it best when he stated that Jackson would not have even been a first-round pick if he had not played for the national champion football team of Alabama.
This week Jackson is listed as questionable and will most likely not play. Rumor currently has it that CB Jason Allen will be starting in his place with Brice McCain as his backup. Allen and McCain could rotate in and out of the position throughout the game.
However, Jason Allen is not exactly a spring chicken any more either. The average age of an NFL CB is 26 years old, Allen turned 28 this past July.
Perhaps his age is not all that much of an issue, but his play-making ability could be brought into question. Allen had six interceptions last season, three while playing for Miami and three for Houston. Those interceptions, however, came against average wide receivers. They were not against the taller, faster receivers that he could face this week.
Moreover, Allen’s 2005 hip dislocation injury seems to plague him to this day. His play does not seem as smooth and fluid as it should for a cornerback. He does not get his hips turned up-field quick enough on many plays and quick, one-cut receivers can handily beat him with a quick move.
Fortunately, the Texans have one last hope at the CB position. Brice McCain, the lesser known defensive back on the team, is a soft- spoken, quick-footed, athletic player who could step up for the Texans in a big way.
McCain was selected as a sixth-round pick by the Texans back in 2009. However, that pick was not indicative of McCain’s true potential as a cornerback. Perhaps NFL scouts were relying too heavily on his stats and not looking at his overall athleticism but the fact remains that while at Utah very few QBs threw the ball to McCain’s side of the field. Therefore, while his stats may not have been those of an all-American players, his freakish athleticism and speed would have made him a first-round pick if he had played for a national championship school.
I expect McCain to start making some noise for the Texans. His 4.33 time at the combine was the fastest of all CBs. He has not lost that speed and is still freakishly athletic. Watching him on the field is like watching swan lake with the addition of pads and helmets. He plays the position with a graceful fluidity that would make most CBs jealous. He is able to maintain his composure under pressure and is not often beat in coverage.
While McCain may not be the starter for the Texans right now I believe that, under DC Wade Phillips, he could become the starter. His great speed and athleticism are a base-line to build upon. The pressure that the front seven brings means that opposing QBs are forced to get the ball out of their hands more quickly. That means that throws are quicker and, in most instances, lack the finesse that they need to make the great plays. Using McCain’s speed and ball-awareness could allow the Texans to capitalize on the inability of opposing teams to break off huge plays.
Either way, fans of the Texans have to ask themselves one question…”Is Brice McCain worse than Kareem Jackson?” If the answer is no, then let McCain have a chance at starting. If Mario Williams can become a linebacker and Glover Quin can become a safety, then Brice McCain can become a starter at the CB position for the Texans.