Nick Scurfield of the official site breaks down the linebackers of the Texans. I personally think that this is the strongest positional group, with maybe the exception of the wide receivers, on the team. With a defensive line that is going to concentrate on getting up the field and a secondary that is still suspect, we're going to need the linebackers to play lights out this year for the defense to play well.
Paul Kuharsky doesn't think that Steve Slaton or Chris Johnson will suffer from sophomore slumps. I would agree with both in principle, but one is on the verge of becoming a diva (if he's not already there) and the other is not. The NFL is littered with the failed careers of guys that had all the talent in the world but were head cases and couldn't keep it together. I'm not saying that he's there, but if Johnson continues down the path of narcissism that he's started down, he could be a cautionary tale one day as well.
As Riott noted last night, Jim Johnson died of cancer yesterday. Johnson was a dynamic defensive coordinator, and if any coaches besides head coaches were eligible for the Hall of Fame Jim would be a lock. Lance Zierlein wrote a nice break down of Johnson's defense and explains what made him so successful.
I've got a bone to pick with Stephanie Stradley. She contends that the defense didn't play better towards the end of the season last year and that the majority of people believe they did simply because of popular notion. Anyone that watched the last six games of the season saw an improvement. I'm not saying they were the second coming of the Steel Curtain, but putting more pressure on the quarterback improved their play.
I understand where Stephanie is coming from. She used Football Outsiders' DVOA to prove her point, specifically citing Week 13 against the Jaguars, Week 14 against the Packers, Week 16 against the Raiders and Week 17 against the Bears, among a few others from the beginning of the season. First of all, no one in their right mind will say the defense played well in the beginning of the year; that's why we were talking about the END of the season. As for the rest:
- Anyone that saw the MNF game against the Jags in Week 13 witnessed a domination. Any scoring that the Jags were able to scratch out was in garbage time.
- The defense gave up some scores to a good and emerging offense in Week 14, but it also didn't help that the offense kept turning over the ball. Without looking up exactly how many we had, any defense will suffer from the offense coming off the field unexpectedly.
- We didn't play well in Week 16, period. Again, no one was saying that they were or are dominant; we were saying that they were improved.
- The defense gave up an early TD in Week 17 to the Bears, and then held on three or four straight possessions. They forced Kyle Orton, who no one has ever confused with Joe Montana or John Elway, to try to execute a fourth quarter comeback. The Bears tried to execute two or three onside kicks in the game. The defense won that game for us.
I understand the reliance on stats among bloggers; it helps focus our writing to prove or disprove popular notions. Sometimes though, you have to step back from the stats and really think about what you saw. The best defenses usually operate on a bend-but-not-break premise. I just want a defense that will put us in position to win games, which is exactly what our did at the end of last year. I know because I saw it.