You expect to hear names like J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, and Vince Wilfork when talking about the talent on the Houston Texans defense, but key to the team’s success have also been several young players who are just now making their name in the league. Players like Benardrick McKinney, Kevin Johnson, Christian Covington, Andre Hal, and John Simon may not have much experience, but they’ve made plays worthy of seasoned veterans.
Up front on the defensive line, everyone knows about J.J. Watt, and the massive Vince Wilfork, while on the downward slope of his career, is still a talented defender. Jared Crick is in his second season as a full time starter at defensive end, and he’s been playing very well also. The team is hoping that rookie defensive tackle Christian Covington, who recorded his first sack in Week 10, can continue to improve and make an impact up front.
The linebacking corps in Houston is absolutely stacked, with Brian Cushing calling the shots from the middle and Whitney Mercilus emerging as a top pass-rusher. It’s the young guys who have been making a difference this year though, with rookie Bernardrick McKinney leading the team in tackles in each of the last two full weeks he’s played, and third year player John Simon already more than doubling his career tackle total through only nine games this year.
The secondary may be the most improved part of the Houston defense over the last several weeks, and this is in large part due to the contributions of rookie Kevin Johnson and second year player Andre Hal.
Johnson has started only five games this year, but he’s still got the fourth most solo tackles on the team, and he’s made a few key plays including a pick last week against Tennessee and helping force a game-sealing A.J. Green fumble agains Cincinnati. Hal has stepped in for a struggling Rahim Moore, and though he hasn’t been dominant, he managed 2 interceptions and a touchdown back in Week 6 against Jacksonville.
When you’ve got the best defensive player in the league, you can afford to have some weak spots on defense, but the last few weeks these Texans have been playing like they can beat anyone in the league. 15 different players have at least 10 solo tackles and 10 different people have created turnovers for Houston. The team is getting input from everyone across the field, and especially from these talented young guys.
It seems like the Texans have a good defensive squad to build around, and hopefully these players can continue to improve as the season progresses. At 4-5 the Texans are far from being out of the playoff race, so these young defenders will likely be relied upon more and more down the home stretch.