Houston Texans vs. Cardinals: Defensive Impressions
By Bob Dove
Defensive Impressions – Don’t be misled by the scoreboard. Starters played most of the first half defensive snaps and except for two tipped passes the first half defense was pretty ordinary. At least it looked ordinary against one of the NFL’s best offenses.
The Texans gave up 5.4 yards per rush in the first half. Defensive linemen Christian Covington, D. J. Reader and Devon Still shared most of the first half snaps. They got little penetration, no pass rush, left many running lanes and were generally pushed around by a very good offensive line.
Covington didn’t display the quickness and strength that was evident against the Saints. Reader and Still spent most of their time chicken fighting at the line of scrimmage (if one unsuccessful bull rush after another is characterized as chicken fighting). Brandon Dunn followed the same script when he was on the field.
There were bright spots.
John Simon had one spectacular play where he tipped a pass, intercepted it and returned the interception for a touchdown. He got some moderate pressure on the quarterback and set the edge well. Unfortunately setting the edge is only half the equation as a lack of inside fill left too many cutback running lanes.
Jadeveon Clowney played most of the first half and was consistently disruptive. It doesn’t show on the stat sheet, but he spent the entire afternoon pressuring the passer, setting the edge and chasing down running plays. This will be a very stout defense with Clowney, Mercilus and a healthy J. J. Watt applying pressure and disrupting running lanes.
During his short time on the field Vince Wilfork tipped a pass and Andre Hal intercepted the deflection. That play led to the Texans first touchdown. Overall, the secondary gave up some key passes, primarily because they got little help from the pass rush.
Next: Second Half