Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has a talented and veteran starting four penciled in at the top of the depth chart at defensive back headed into the ’13 training camp.
Houston’s starting four in the base 3-4 scheme consists of players who were at one time drafted in either the first or second rounds, and all four will be entering at least their fourth season in the NFL.
Though the Texans aren’t super young at spots in their defensive back starting four, they are built to win now, and these four players have the experience to match the rest of the defensive unit as they were a part of the 10th ranked defense overall last season.
The youngest of the four starters is Kareem Jackson, who is entering his fourth season after being drafted in the first round of the ’10 draft at No. 20.
Jackson is coming off a ’12 season where he had 53 combined tackles and four interceptions at the left cornerback position. For his career, he has 166 tackles, one forced fumble and seven interceptions.
“He’s made giant leaps the last two years, and we expect him to make more leaps this year,” Texans defensive backs coach Vance Joseph told houstontexans.com. “He wants to be a great corner, a Pro Bowl player. That’s the way he’s worked, that’s the way he’s studied.”
At corner, Jackson had one interception return for a touchdown last season and defended 16 passes. In the postseason, he had six combined tackles in two games with two defended passes.
At strong safety, Danieal Manning, a two-year Texan and former Chicago Bear, played in 16 games in year two in Houston. The former second-round selection in ’06, Manning recorded one of his three career sacks last season, with three forced fumbles (one recovery) and two interceptions.
“He has great physical ability, is a great tackler, has great ball skills, but now he’s going to be a master of the game,” Coach Joseph said of Manning to houstontexans.com.
In ’12, Manning scored his first career defensive touchdown, and totaled 59 yards in the two aforementioned interceptions one season ago.
A future Hall of Famer, Ed Reed joins the Texans following a season where he won his second Super Bowl title with the Baltimore Ravens. As a free safety, Reed is entering his 12th season in the NFL, after playing his first 11 seasons in Baltimore.
“Ed’s got the highest football IQ I’ve been around as far as a player,” Joseph told the teams official site. “He knows what that position entails. He knows how to play the position.”
Reed, a first-round pick in ’02, will be a free safety for the Texans, where he’s coming off a year of 58 combined tackles with four interceptions. His career numbers include 606 combined tackles, 11 forced fumbles and 61 interceptions.
The former Raven had no sacks last season but recovered three fumbles and scored one touchdown.
Johnathan Joseph, a ’11 All-Pro selection, is beginning his third season in Houston after playing his first five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. In ’12, he totaled 57 tackles and two interceptions in 14 games, adding to what now is 373 tackles and 20 interceptions for his career.
“J-Joe had a great spring,” Vance Johnson said to hustontexans.com. “Last year, he was obviously injured a lot, so it was kind of an up-and-down year. For a corner, when you have injuries to your legs and hips, that makes a difference because you make your money with your legs.
“He’s got great quickness and great long speed. He plays with great technique. He wants the challenge.”
Also high on the Texans’ depth chart are CBs Brandon Harris, Brice McCain and Roc Carmichael. Other safeties include Eddie Pleasant and Shiloh Keo.
Rookie DBs on the roster are Johnny Adams (Michigan State), A.J. Bouye (Central Florida) and Travis Howard (Ohio State).