The Houston Texans have one of the best-run defensive units in all of the NFL entering the 2019 regular season.
Pro Football Focus on Tuesday released their rankings for all 32 run defenses in the NFL, and going into the 2019 training camp and regular season, the Houston Texans are coming in ranked as the second-best run defense in the entire NFL.
Last season — according to the grades of Pro Football Focus — the Texans were the third overall graded defense with a grade of 90.1, with the Chicago Bears graded first last season at 93.1 and the New England Patriots at 90.3.
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In a closer look at the Texans defense from a season ago, they had a 91.9 run defense grade — second in the NFL — but overall tackling hampered the unit with a grade of 62.7 as it was evident there were members of the defense who had issues making open-field tackles.
As for the No. 2 ranking going into this season by PFF, Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus wrote this in his explanation of having the Texans as the second-ranked run defense, with only the Chicago Bears ahead of them:
"“Not too many teams rank highly in run defense off the backs of their edge defenders, but that’s how dominant the Texans duo is. Jadeveon Clowney is arguably the most dominant run-stopping edge in the NFL today after a 91.2 run-defense grade last season while J.J. Watt isn’t too far behind after an 88.7 run-defense grade in 2018.”"
There is more to the run defense than the great play of Clowney and Watt, as we all know their numbers and what they bring to the defense. Another member of the Texans defense who is on tap for a very strong season is free safety Justin Reid.
As a free safety, Reid had a run defensive grade of 70.9 overall, which was ninth on the team a season ago.
The second-best returning run defense grade returning to the team for 2019 is linebacker Benardrick McKinney, who was third overall a season ago at 89.2. Also, don’t forget defensive lineman D.J. Reader at 77.8 in his run defense grade during 2018, as the combo of McKinney and Reader could surprise many with their potential play ahead of them this upcoming season.
The run defense is key to slowing down the opponent and forcing them out of a possible game plan, and Houston will need to stop the likes of Marlon Mack, Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry twice a season for the team to have success in the standings.
Last season, Fournette didn’t play against the Texans due to varying reasons, while Mack with the Colts played one regular-season game against Houston where he rushed 14 times for 33 yards and a touchdown. In the Wild Card playoff game, Mack had 24 carries for 148 yards and one touchdown run.
When he faced Houston last season, Henry had a Week 2 game where he rushed 18 times for 56 yards, and later in Week 12, Henry had just eight carries for 30 yards.
Since there are still questions that need answering for the Texans offense entering the 2019 season, the defense — at least early on — will need to be leaned on heavily this season. Improving against Mack should be near the top of the list this season.
If Houston can stop the run in ’19, they’ll have a good shot to repeat as division champions, and according to PFF, Houston has the players to make that happen.
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