3. A revamped defensive line and secondary
Football Outsiders ranked the Houston Texans 23rd in the league in defensive efficiency ranking last year, and Pro Football Focus even argued that the Texans had “arguably the worst secondary in the NFL at the end of last season.” These low rankings were attributed to the many injuries in the defense, including Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt who were both injured very early in the season.
The pass defense, also, was very weak due to the injury, lack of skill and age. However, during the offseason the Texans took their defensive struggles and made a full 360. First, Romeo Crennel regained the reins of the defense by becoming the new Texans defensive coordinator, a year after being assistant head coach under Bill O’Brien. This move should provide a new face to the defense as Crennel has shown success coaching this defensive group after their stellar defensive season in 2016.
Another relieving sign for the Texans is the return of Mercilus and Watt from their season-ending injuries in 2017, giving Clowney some help along the defensive line. Another positive sign for the Texans’ improving defense is Zach Cunningham, a 2017 second round pick from Vanderbilt, who is looking to add to the 90 combined tackles that he had last year.
With his impressive stats, Cunningham should be able to fortify the Texans’ run defense, making the run game especially difficult for the Patriots this week. Additionally, Texans general manager Brian Gaine made sure to improve the secondary during the offseason with the free agent signing of Aaron Colvin.
Colvin, a great slot corner from the Jacksonville Jaguars, “ranks first in coverage snaps per TD allowed since 2014” according to Pro Football Focus. This will ease the burden of facing Patriots receiver Chris Hogan who will be targeted greatly in the season opener.
On top of all of this, the Texans made headlines after the signing of Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu from the Arizona Cardinals. Mathieu will hopefully be able to mitigate the threat that Rob Gronkowski poses. Expect the Texans defense to stymie the Patriots, which can lead to a Texans win.