Houston Texans pass defense has high expectations in 2019, but does PFF think so?
The Houston Texans’ pass rush defense is one of the best in the NFL, but what does Pro Football Focus think?
The pass rush of the Houston Texans will not only be key for stopping the likes of Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota and Nick Foles twice each this season, but it will be the key for this franchise in taking another step in their progression if they want to become the top team in the AFC in 2019.
Last season, the Texans finished fourth in the Pro Football Focus league-wide grades for pressure defense to measure their pass rush with a grade of 78.6, with only the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams ahead of them. All four of those teams qualified for the playoffs, while the Rams ended up playing in the Super Bowl, representing the NFC.
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In 2018, the Texans totaled 43 sacks as a team with J.J. Watt leading with 16, followed by Jadeveon Clowney with nine and Whitney Mercilus with four sacks. Also from PFF last season, individually Watt had a pressure grade of 89.7, with 13 QB hits, 48 hurries and five batted passes. Clowney totaled 12 QB hits and 42 hurries, while Mercilus collected 10 QB hits and 28 hurries.
Entering the 2019 NFL season, PFF has ranked all 32 pass rush defenses in the league, and they have the Texans being a little worse compared to last season by having the Houston squad fifth overall. In the article by Michael Renner of PFF, he wrote the following on the Texans and their pass rush, focusing on the veteran Mercilus:
"“This group desperately needs Whitney Mercilus to get back to his best. Mercilus had a decidedly down 2018 season after returning from a pec injury that cut his 2017 season short. He racked up only 42 pressures. Not even 29 years old yet, there’s hope Mercilus can return to form that saw him rack up 122 pressures in 2015 and 2016.”"
Mercilus does need to be a bigger part of the rush defense and the overall defense of the Texans in ’19, and with him being under 30 years old and a full-time starter at linebacker, he has the abilities in the defense of Romeo Crennel to succeed more than he has in recent seasons.
Another player of the pass rush defense that has yet to be mentioned is D.J. Reader, as the defensive end needs to be strong this season for the Texans to stay a Top 5 pass rush defense. Reader totaled two sacks, two QB hits and had 20 QB hurries in 358 snaps in a pressure defensive situation in ’18. Reader played a total of 682 snaps, according to PFF, where he had a total defensive grade of 76.7 and a pressure defensive grade of 62.0.
Reader will be a key to the Texans defense because of the reasoning none of us know what type of player Clowney’s going to be when he does return as it seems he’ll miss most of training camp. Plus there is the fact Reader — who is entering his fourth season — needs to add more pressure to the pass defense, something he’s capable of doing as he does have 46 games of experience, and he’s improving each year played.
The Texans are more than capable of having a strong pass rush defense in 2019, but it isn’t a given for the aforementioned uncertainty of Clowney’s contract situation and what level of play the team receives from others. If all the stars align. the defensive pass rush will be special, which in turn will make the entire Texans team that much stronger.
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