What is that strange number you ask? That’s the number of first round picks the Houston Texans have had over the past 12 years in the NFL Draft. But why do I mention this?
Many good franchises have learned to build the roster through the NFL Draft. And there is no pick that is as crucially important as a first round pick. The first round is where NFL teams improve their rosters, finding players that can start for their teams within a year or two, players that teams and fans hope will turn into one of the best at the player’s respective position.
So first round picks are important. Big deal. What does this have to do with the Houston Texans? Everything. Because with those 13 picks, the Texans have selected a whopping 11 defensive players. So you could say defense is a little important to this team.
Of the 15 first round picks the Texans have made since their induction into the league, the last 8 of them are still on the roster:
2008 – Duane Brown – OT
2009 – Brian Cushing – ILB
2010 – Kareem Jackson – CB
2011 – J.J. Watt – DE
2012 – Whitney Mercilus – OLB
2013 – DeAndre Hopkins – WR
2014 – Jadeveon Clowney – OLB
2015 – Kevin Johnson – CB
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When I look at these picks, the first thing I notice is 2009-11. 3 defensive guys. If you look at a depth chart, you’ll notice that each of those guys has been a huge building block in each part of the defense. Brian Cushing has been the only sure thing at linebacker over the past 5 or 6 years. Kareem Jackson has improved every year to be a great corner in the secondary. And I don’t even need to say anything about the reigning Defensive Player of the Year on that D-line.
In addition, you have three other defensive players, all of whom are still looking to improve. Whitney Mercilus has been inconsistent for a few years, Clowney is still recovering from last year’s surgery, and Kevin Johnson hasn’t even played in a preseason game yet. All three will be intriguing to watch this season.
But the first round of the draft can’t cover every starting spot on the defense. Jared Crick is a prime example of a good player coming out of a later round (the 4th, to be exact). Then throw in some free agent acquisitions, like Johnathan Joseph and Vince Wilfork, and you’ve got the 2015 Houston Texans Defense.
So with all this talent, I ask the question: Can the Houston defense be the best in the NFL this year?
It might be a bit too soon to make this claim, as we’ve only seen one preseason game (and it didn’t involve the Texans). But with all the talent that the squad has on paper, it looks as if the Texans defense could be a force to be reckoned with.
In the secondary, you’ve got Rahim Moore and Stevie Brown at safety, along with Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, and a host of other cornerbacks who all look ready to compete. While Moore may be new to the team, he was seen as a great pickup by the Texans as a centerfielder to their secondary. Pair that with 3 or 4 good cornerbacks, and you’re good to go.
Moving into the linebackers, we find the “weakest” position on the team. Brian Cushing is great when healthy, but he’s struggled over the last few year and hasn’t looked himself, although he’s rumored to be looking more and more like his old self. Next to him you have Mike Mohamed, who was fantastic in coverage for Houston last season. Bookended by Mercilus and Clowney (when he returns from injury), this unit could be scary, but only when healthy. But as scary as that sounds, it’s nothing compared to the nightmare up front.
Watt. Wilfork. Crick. This could very well be the best 3-4 defensive line in the nation. Watt is an absolute monster, wrecking havoc wherever he lines up. Wilfork plays like two normal size NFL players controlled by one mind, eating up blockers and running backs without moving an inch. And then there’s Jared Crick, who unfortunately seems like he’s becoming the third wheel in Watt and Wilfork’s relationship. Crick has been underrated for years, and will be both a quality run blocker and pass rusher this season.
But what do you guys think? Is this unit really one of the best, if not the best, defenses in the league? Answer the poll and comment below to let us know what you think!