Ten wins seems to be the NFL’s perennial win count that guarantees a seat at the table in the playoffs.
The Houston Texans are coming off of a season which saw a seven game improvement in the win column after Bill O’Brien took the reins. Coming into year two of brand new systems on offense and defense created a slower start to the season than the team would have liked, but it is starting to pay dividends heading into 2015.
In their first preseason contest the defense surrendered only one third down conversion, and they gave up a total of one net yard in the third quarter.
Even for third and fourth stringers, that’s an impressive stat line.
You can discount those stats as irrelevant due to it not being the regular season, or you can dig in and see why this squad truly has playoff potential. The leap from year one to year two has been tremendous, and I can’t wait to see what they can do against Peyton Manning and the Broncos this week.
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I wrote a piece back in June about how the Texan’s defense would be top 5 in 2015 once everything was said and done. I want to up the ante and modify that prediction.
I believe this Texan defense has the talent and potential, especially with 8 former or current first round draft picks starting or seeing significant playing time, to rival the Seattle Seahawks for the NFL’s top defensive unit title. Anchored by J.J. Watt, the defensive line could be one of the scariest of all time. All-Pro nose tackle Vince Wilfork requires two blockers to truly stop him, and the same goes for Watt. Give the Texans three more pass rushers on any play and the offense then must keep a running back or tight end back to block. This creates huge mismatches along the line and there is bound to be a free rusher 90% of the time. Just imagine what this defense can do if Jadeveon Clowney returns to the form that most scouts and experts predicted.
The Texan’s secondary was by far their weakest link last season, but the front office executed some offseason moves that bolster the unit significantly. They used their first round draft pick in 2015 to address this issue, and took lightning-quick cornerback from Wake Forest, Kevin Johnson. Kevin Johnson has shown out positively in training camp thus far, and should see significant playing time. Safety Rahim Moore came to Houston via Free Agency. He is a former Denver Bronco, and knows how to play the “center fielder” role at the safety position. The Texans have signed a plethora of contenders to play strong safety after releasing the troubled and on-field liability, D.J. Swearinger. Eddie Pleasant, Andre Hal, and Stevie Brown look to be the top competitors for the job and each has shown flashes of play making ability throughout camp. This secondary looks to be much improved not only due to talent, but also increased comfort in the defensive system.
The Texan’s group of linebackers is what intrigues me the most. The report out of camp is consistently saying the old Brian Cushing is back. People often seem to forget just how great Cushing was before he had back-to-back season ending injuries. He was the AP and PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009, and was selected to the All-Pro team in 2011. If he can get back to that level of play, this defense becomes that much more intimidating. The Texans also bolstered their linebacker corps in the NFL draft by selecting Benardrick McKinney out of Mississippi State in the second round. He provides an athletic, hard hitting, and intelligent presence to fill the gap next to Cushing inside. If Clowney can come back healthy, pairing him and Whitney Mercilus at outside linebacker could be a devastating duo.
The more I write about the Texan’s defensive potential, the more excited I get to see them realize that potential and wreak havoc on opposing offenses. This season should prove to be a wild ride.
Bold prediction: The Houston Texans end the 2015 campaign as the league’s top defensive unit.