New Faces, Same Outcome, Texans Takeaways from 2016
3. Houston’s defense is about to go from good to scary great
Despite losing three-time DPOY DE J.J. Watt and CB Kevin Johnson due injuries, the Texans’ defense pieced things together and played lights out. The unit finished with the No. 1 ranked defense for the first time in franchise history, but what people should be aware of is that the nation’s top defense is about to get a lot better.
With Watt off the field, the spotlight turned to a number of new faces in 2016. DT Christian Covington and DT D.J. Reader both saw extended action and looked impressive while ILB Benardrick McKinney led the team with 129 tackles. The big three that really stood out for Houston though was DB Quintin Demps, OLB Whitney Mercilus and OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney.
Demps led the team with six interceptions and earned AFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for December. He accomplished a rare feat of getting at least one interception in four straight games. Mercilus began his breakout to stardom last season, but in 2016 he proved that his game is no fluke. The one-two pass rush of him and Clowney terrorized opposing offenses all season as the two combined for 13.5 sacks.
Last but not least, Clowney finally played a full healthy season and showed critics why Houston chose him first overall in 2013. Although NT Vince Wilfork is contemplating retirement, the position he plays is one of the easiest to replace. Both Covington and Reader have shown starting capabilities. The team will be getting Watt and Johnson back, pair them with the weapons that stood out in 2016 and Houston has the chance to produce one of the best defensive units in the past decade.