Houston Texans: Secondary needs to force turnovers moving forward

Houston Texans, Bradley Roby
Houston Texans cornerback Bradley Roby Gw47151 /

The Houston Texans secondary needs more turnovers as the season moves forward.

The Houston Texans defense has struggled as a unit this season, and the backend has not been able to get their hands on many passes. Bradley Roby finally grabbed the first interception of the season in the Week 6 loss to the Tennessee Titans by a 42-36 score in overtime.

Roby has been a great addition to the Houston Texans secondary unit that otherwise struggles to defend the pass and force turnovers. The Ohio State product provides a veteran leadership and playoff experience that otherwise doesn’t exist in the Houston secondary.

The defensive backs outside of Roby have 16 career interceptions, Roby has 10. Several of the players that the team brought in to play in the secondary have not had a history of forcing turnovers, and that trend is continuing here in the 2020 season.

Back to 2018, when the Texans brought in Aaron Colvin, that move proved to be disastrous for the Texans, as they made him the scapegoat of the close loss to the New Orleans Saints to open the 2019 season. Colvin is not on a roster in 2020, and has yet to record an interception in his six seasons.

The team brought Eric Murray in for his versatility in the backend this offseason, but similar to Colvin, he does not force many turnovers. In his career Murray has one interception.

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Lonnie Johnson Jr., who the Texans took in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, has not intercepted a pass since 2018 when he was playing for the University of Kentucky, and that was his only interception in two seasons in Lexington.

With the kind of players the Houston Texans brought in to put together this secondary, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the team is not forcing turnovers in the backend. Without a true playmaker on the defense, it could hurt the development of the team’s young players, specifically the Stanford standout Justin Reid.

Reid had his best season as rookie playing beside one of the best players in the league in Tyrann Mathieu. That season the team finished 28th in passing yards allowed, but the defense also finished in the Top 5 in rush yards allowed, scoring and turnovers. Mathieu’s presence saw the players around him perform better individually, and the overall success of the defensive unit.

Without Mathieu in 2019, Reid saw his pass deflection total cut in half from 10 in 2018. While Reid was nursing a torn labrum for most of the season, not having a player like Mathieu to help navigate the back end certainly showed in the young safety’s production.

The team is also struggling to find a place for Johnson. In just six games, Johnson has already bounced from cornerback to safety, back to cornerback, and the expectation is that he will see time at safety going forward. The Houston Texans are struggling to find consistency outside of Roby, and it is something that could cause long-term issues along with the immediate problems.

Johnson’s future isn’t something to be concerned with necessarily. He could serve as an impact player in a position closer to the line of scrimmage, using his aggression in tackling to his and the team’s advantage.

In a role similar to that of Derwin James or what rookie Isaiah Simmons drew attention for while at Clemson, but with the team needing to make something positive happen, Johnson maybe forced into figuring out a role more suited for team than individual success.

The Houston Texans have not made the defensive backfield a priority in the draft since their inception in 2002. The Texans have only taken a defensive back in the first round three times as they were Dunta Robinson, Kareem Jackson, and Kevin Johnson. Robinson and Jackson had success, but Johnson was never able to stay on the field mostly due to health issues.

The likely new regime is a bit hamstrung at the moment in terms of draft capital, but it may be in their best interest to buck the trend and make finding playmakers at defensive back in the 2021 NFL Draft a priority. As important as providing a pass rush is disrupting a pass game, having players that can get you the ball back and prevent big plays is just as imperative.

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If the Houston Texans are not going to move veterans for draft capital, then this offseason will take some creativity to get the defense some help. The remainder of this season is truly an opportunity for the players and the franchise to figure out if there is any talent they want to retain, especially in the secondary.