Nov 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) and the defensive line reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Texans 28-23. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Front Seven (Defensive Line and Linebackers)
Nose Tackle Vince Wilfork has a rejuvenated spirit and looks like he’s in similar form to his Patriots heyday. His veteran presence in the locker room simply cannot be measured, but every player that you speak to from this group refers to something that Vince taught or told them. J.J. Watt will continue to be himself, and I suspect that opposing offensive coordinators literally lived in the film room this off-season to try to figure out how to slow that monster down.
Jared Crick will be a major beneficiary of Wilfork. Louis Nix is gone and its hard to not root for Christian Covington who came from being an undrafted free agent from Rice to making the roster. Covington is a kid with an amazing story who (he and his mom lived in a car and ate hot dogs from convenience stores to survive).
He played well and deserved this roster spot. With Wilfork as a mentor the sky is the limit for this kid. Even though he’s a bit undersized as a nose tackle, I’m sure that Romeo Crennel can’t wait to find a way to use this guy in his system.
Jadeveon Clowney continues to recover from microfrature surgery, and while he hasn’t seen much action in pads, he looks like he’s near to game-ready shape. Clowney is going to be used as a pass rushing threat and he will thrive in that role. Whitney Mercilus will probably have a pro bowl season if he performs as well as he did late last year and in camp.
Brian Cushing is back to enforce the law over the middle and his presence as a defensive field general is going to have more of an impact than perhaps anyone.
Bernardick McKinney is an absolute physical specimen but his lack of polish on pass rushing skills (pursues at bad angles on occasions) and inability to take advantage of his length and speed sent him to the bottom of the depth chart, but keep an eye on him when he steps on the field as the weak side linebacker.
Mike Mohamed should be hearing his footsteps as he will pressure him for the spot at some point this season. McKinney will need to show that he can be the consistent run stopper that the Texans were searching for when they drafted him in the second round of this years draft, but when he gets it together it’s just a matter of time for Mohamed.