Houston Texans: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – Defensive Line

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Jan 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) is sacked by Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. The Texans won 30-6. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) is sacked by Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. The Texans won 30-6. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aug 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws in the pocket as guard Louis Vasquez (65) against Houston Texans nose tackle Christian Covington (95) at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws in the pocket as guard Louis Vasquez (65) against Houston Texans nose tackle Christian Covington (95) at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

The Bad is where the defensive line is likely to start the season. Even if Watt returns for the first game he figures to be something less than 100%. He is coming off two significant surgeries within 5 months and will be only 6 weeks removed from his back surgery. He is a super athlete with an extraordinary motor, but he is human. The question is whether we will get enough of The Good later in the season to offset the early season Bad.

Watt’s first surgery dealt with the groin and core muscles he tore last season. A strong core protects the back, but rehabbing the back takes time away from conditioning the repaired core. I’m not a doctor, don’t even play one on TV…or in a sports blog, but the nature of the injuries and the relationship between the muscle groups makes me believe the rehab period will exceed the Texans’ optimistic projection.

In The Bad scenario Watt is relatively ineffective, the other end performs adequately but without particular distinction and Jadeveon Clowney plays much as he did last year when available, generally good, occasional flashes of excellence, but without the relentless penetration and pressure that is Watt’s trademark. That is the foreseeable start of the line’s 2016 season.

This will not be a Top-10 defense as long as the D-line is underperforming. My current expectation is that the D-Line starts in the bad scenario but excels when Watt is fully recovered. If that occurs within the first quarter of the season, The Good will balance The Bad, thus meeting the full season expectation and producing great momentum heading into the playoffs.

Next: The Ugly

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