Houston Texans News: Defense needs to improve on third down

Whitney Mercilus Houston Texans (Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images)
Whitney Mercilus Houston Texans (Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images) /

In recent Houston Texans news, new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver spoke on many topics for the upcoming season, including improving on third down.

When the Texans news media spoke to new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver last week, there was a lot to take away from the video conference, but there was one aspect of the interview which stood out, and that was when Weaver spoke about the Texans defense on third down.

In 2019, the Texans news that jumped off the page was the defense allowed 6.2 third down conversions per game, and in their last three games the number was up to 7.0.

Weaver, fans, and everyone in between, including Texans opponents, know those type of numbers, being 98-of-202 in third down efficiency for 48.52 percent. In comparison, the Texans offense in their third down efficiency was at 84-of-193 (43.52 percent).

When the opposing offense is converting nearly 50 percent of the time on third down, that will really hurt any defense, keeping them on the field too long, leading to too many points allowed as well.

Weaver was asked about the defense and “correcting issues” on third down from last season, as he takes over the defensive coordinator’s job for Romeo Crennel, who wasn’t brought back following the ’19 season:

"“I think on third down, we obviously have players. We have some really good players that can affect the quarterback, we have coverage guys. We have all the pieces to be more successful on third down. I think schematically we’ll probably be a little bit more exotic, which potentially will allow our guys to have more success so that offenses can’t pinpoint exactly where players are going to be. So, we’re just, again, through scheme, just trying to create more opportunities for our guys.”"

Being more creative is the part of that comment the Texans news that fans really need to be excited about, but what all of this comes down to is the Texans being able to adjust to the new schemes put into place, players being healthy, and taking advantage of the opportunities that the new defense wants to create.

It is that simple, but if it were that easy, then every team in the league would be successful on third down. The Texans have the talent on their roster to be a better defense on third down, but they are going to have to be better on first and second as well for their third down success to be improved. It would be much easier for the Texans to have teams backed up to third-and-long rather than third-and-short.

Some of the pass rushers will be interesting to watch on these third down situations, but J.J. Watt needs to be healthy and on the field for any of this to work. Also, seeing how Whitney Mercilus does this season is big because his sack numbers came in groups, as he had a strong start with five sacks in the first four games, followed by a half sack in Week 6.

After 5.5 sacks through the first six games, Mercilus didn’t have any more sacks until Week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the game in which the Texans sealed the AFC South title. Mercilus did have a sack in the Wild Card game, but there is still so much potential with Mercilus to be an even stronger player than he was last season with Weaver as the defensive coordinator.

Also, remember Watt only played eight games in the regular season for the Texans, lowering his numbers, and that affected the Texans defense on third down as well. Two players at linebacker who will need big play this season are Brennan Scarlett and Jacob Martin.

Both had 3.5 sacks in ’19, and they’ll need to be even better in ’20, so if Martin gets more time on the field, we’ll all see what the Texans saw in him when they traded Jadeveon Clowney for him, Barkevious Mingo, and a draft pick.

How good the Texans news will be for their defensive improvement on third down is also how the secondary responds to the changes that will be made, whether it be on the roster or in the aforementioned scheme changes. At the end of the year in the playoffs, they weren’t dependable, and against the Chiefs, the entire defense fell apart in the Divisional Round.

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If Weaver can make the changes in the scheme stick with this group, the defense could be a nice surprise, but if not, third downs for the Texans defense could be even worse than this past season.