There’s been a lot of chat about wide receiver with the Texans, and not enough about some of the forgotten positions of interest this offseason.
Receiver is the Texans’ biggest need no doubt, since the team stalled in the Divisional Round again. But with a few free agents shipped off to the Eagles and Jaguars, and others left to loiter on the market, there’s other areas for Gary Kubiak to fill – and one of those is at nose tackle.
Nov 4, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans nose tackle Shaun Cody (95) celebrates deflecting a pass against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Free agent Shaun Cody has heard nothing in terms of his future in Houston, and it looks like Earl Mitchell is now the Texans’ man. Cody was signed to a two-year, $5.75 million contract in March of 2011, but doesn’t appear high on the Texans’ spending list, leaving general manager Rick Smith with the job of scouting a backup.
But evaluating how much of a need the backup nose tackle is for the Texans isn’t hard. Cody, to put it simply, was a cork up the middle for four seasons, and at the most a big 307 pound guy that Wade Phillips could throw into a short yard situation to stop the run. Last year Cody had 17 tackles in 12 starts, while Mitchell had 31 in three, with a forced fumble – so it’s not hard to figure the Texans’ thinking here.
The importance of finding a young backup though can’t be overlooked. The nose tackle has become a successful part of the Texans’ new 3-4 scheme that Phillps has helped orchestrate, and if Mitchell was to be hurt, the Texans top rated rush defense would fall apart. There’s also been a call for a nose tackle for a while now in Houston, and this is the time to probably get one.
So with that in mind, here’s a few guys the Texans might take a look at in early or later rounds come April:
Jesse Williams, Alabama
The Texans would have to go early if they wanted to draft Williams. He’s a projected first round pick to some, but will probably fall in the middle of the second to a team seeking a power tackler.
Outside of Star Lotulelei, Williams is one of the best nose tackles available this year. He shows a lot of agility to get under the pads of blockers and drive towards the quarterback or running back, but can struggle with speed sometimes. Williams is considered fast for his position running 4.9 40 time, but is also a huge threat to any pass protection. He had only one sack in 2012 with the Tide, but 37 total tackles and relies heavily on his upper body strength. All of that sounds perfect when it comes to giving tough customers Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady a hard time next year. There is some work to be done on Williams’ stamina as he projects to be only a two or three down back – but there’s time to work on that in the gym behind Earl Mitchell in practice.
Kwame Geathers, Georgia
The Texans would like to bring someone in that could click with a 3-4 defense immediately, and Kwame Geathers could be that guy.
Geathers isn’t the usual kind of slow nose tackle that struggles to shift his weight around, which is a big plus sitting at 342 pounds. He has fast and busy hands that help to move a blocker away, and like Williams, pushes lineman backwards to get at the quarterback. He had only one sack last season, but five tackles for a loss and a blocked kick.
Like most others, Geathers is a dominant presence on any team. He struggles with discipline sometimes and allows defenders to get stuck into his pads, and also needs work on reacting to the snap quicker – but adapting to the Texans’ offseason drills could help with that. If Williams isn’t available and the Texans seek a nose tackle between the fourth and fifth round, there’s probably not many better options with guys like Williams and Jonathan Jenkins likely long gone.
Jose Jose, UCF
Team meetings with draft prospects normally turn out to mean zilch. But still, since the Texans showed interest in Jose Jose earlier in March, this is a possibility we have to consider.
There’s a lot of issues that come with Jose, probably more than there are positives. He was allegedly released from his scholarship due to assault with a firearm, and also engaged in an off field argument with UFC coach George O’Leary. All of this makes me wonder why the Texans even bothered speaking to him, but if there’s one thing that the Texans might gain from Jose, it is a big body. Jose currently weighs 321 pounds and is trying to get down to 310. He blocked an extra point attempt in 2011, and is probably a cheap pickup for the Texans – likely to go undrafted and straight into free agency.
Jose didn’t workout at the Combine, so it’s hard to see what he truly offers. If the Texans were to draft him in the fifth round or later, it could be a wasted pick.
Follow Ryan Cook on Twitter.