Houston Texans rely on Youthful Role Players to anchor Matt Burke's defense

Oct 15, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (39) and safety Jimmie
Oct 15, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (39) and safety Jimmie / Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans are the surprise success story right now as we near the midway mark of the season. Rookie sensations C.J. Stroud, Tank Dell, and Will Anderson Jr. C.J. Stroud are proving that they are capable of leading the franchise in the right direction.

Can DeMeco Ryans rely on his youthful role players to help clinch post-season berth.

Houston Texans rely on youth to defy the odds of the regular season

The Texans made the correct choice in drafting Stroud as he was able to convince the Texans to draft his favorite target Tank Dell after he and Stroud ignited a blazing connection at the combine. As Stroud said to Dell after the combine, "I like how you run routes, I like how you play football." There connection has not disappointed so far as Dell has been able to absolutely dissect defenses with his blazing speed and incredible route running ability setting the Texans up for many future scoring opportunities.

We then have the sensational third overall selection Will Anderson Jr. who has been absolutely disruptive in the passing game. PFF grades Anderson Jr. right now at 80.3 which ranks him as the 22nd best edge rusher in the league right now. Although he has one sack, he's constantly striking fear into tackles with his speed and strength. With that being said let's take a deep dive into how the linebacker core is doing so far.

Matt Burke's linebackers are developing better in pass coverage than the run

The Texans last season ranked bottom of the barrel in many defensive categories such as rushing yards allowed, yards per attempt, and points per game. They gave up 170.2 yards a game which was the most in the league.

The Texans addressed these issues by adding former pro-bowler Denzel Perryman and drafting Alabama star linebacker Henry To'oto'o in the fifth round of this year's draft. The Texans hoped for breakout seasons from Christian Harris and veteran Blake Cashman.

To'oto'o hasn't disappointed as he leads the team in both total tackles (45) and solo tackles (26). He's shown his versatility so far by making big plays on run-downs and keeping the offense on their toes with his solid pass coverage as he so far has two pass deflections and a 15.1 missed tackle percentage.

Then we have Blake Cashman who started as a rotation piece this season taking full advantage of Denzel Perryman's injury as he's been absolutely dominant in both the run game and pass game. He's made multiple big plays such as his first career interception against the Jaguars in week three which helped them dominate the Jaguars.

This season he has 32 total tackles, four tackles for loss, an interception, and four pass deflections. All these stats are the second highest on the team. He's also only allowed a completion percentage of 57.1 and a 5.9 missed tackle percentage.

Christian Harris has been another solid addition to this team since being drafted out of Alabama in 2022. In his rookie year. he was dominant as had nabbed one interception, one forced fumble, a sack, six tackles for loss, and 74 total tackles. This season it looks like he's on a similar path as he's sitting at one sack, 26 tackles, and a missed tackle percentage of 3.7.

Finally, we have Denzel Perryman who's had limited snaps due to many injuries. When on the field he's been a strong leader of the defense and provided consistent pass coverage and sideline to sideline speed. Perryman exhibits great downhill speed and quick reads at the mike position to eliminate the run.

This linebacker core when fully healthy is very lethal as we saw against the Ravens. The linebackers were crashing and causing problems in the run game The defense linebackers have struggled with injuries but many are slowly returning and with the continually improved pass coverage of To'oto'o, the speed and leadership of Perryman, and the consistency of Cashman and Harris we could see the making of a top ten defense.