Hey guys, My name is Matthew Rupert and I am an avid follower of the Cat Scratch Reader and Senior at NC State (Mario William's college so I naturally have fond feelings for the Texans). I am preparing to write an article for the Cat Scratch Reader that examines how the Texans were able to turn their defense completely around and then use that to examine how the Panthers can have a similar turnaround.
What I will do is go through what I think are the reasons why the Texans were were able to turn their defense around. You guys can comment and let me know what things I missed, some things I should add, and whatnot.
First and foremost, Wade Phillips has to be discussed when analyzing how this defense went from one of the worst in the league to a top 3 defense. The thing I hear players and National pundits talk about is how simple Wade made the defense for the players. This allowed them to know their assignments and consequently play much faster. Moving Glover Quin to safety instead of corner helped out the secondary and there is no doubt that Wade had something to do with this decision. Also, the switch to the 3-4 helped out players like Antonio Smith who is more suited at this point in his career to be a 3-4 defensive end rather than a 4-3 end.
The second biggest thing (in my mind) was the free agent acquisitions. Jon Joseph is one of the premier cover corners in the league which greatly helped out a desperate area of need for you guys. Daniel Manning at free safety was a really underrated free agent addition as well. Let me know if there was any other key free agent acquisitions that I missed.
Getting players like Demeco Ryans and Connor Barwin back from injury was huge as well because that added leadership and 11.5 sacks to the defense. The draft was one of the biggest factors as well. With the Texans on the clock sitting at pick 11 in the first round, the consensus was that with Prince Amukamara still on the board, he would be in a Texans uniform in 2011 because of the drastic need there. Instead, the Texans stuck to their draft board and took who they viewed as the best player available which was JJ Watt. This paid huge dividends as Watt was a force on the inside against the run as well as the pass. His presence allowed the 2nd round pick Brooks Reed to have a nice rookie campaign rushing the passer as well as Connor Barwin. This all helped build up the defensive line and pass rush which are the most important things for a defense in my opinion.
In short, The Houston Texans were able to turn their defense around by bring in a simplified defensive philosophy, getting key players back from injury, getting key free agents, and sticking to their draft board which would ultimately build up their defensive line and increase the pass rush even without that stud named Mario Williams. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciate and you guys can read my article in a few days over at the Cat Scratch Reader.