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2013 Texans Training Camp: Defense Drives Houston's Success

Forget all the noise about the offense. Houston's defense will determine how good this franchise can be this season.

A healthy elbow means trouble for opponents.
A healthy elbow means trouble for opponents.
Bob Levey

With the signing of Dwight Howard --

Wait, what do you mean this isn't The Dream Shake? There has been so much Houston Rockets talk here that I figured this was--

This is a football blog, you say? This is Houston, Texas, you say? We ARE Texans. Football IS king. I suppose you are right. Especially since we're almost to training camp. It's been a while. Let me try this again.

Ignore the noise.

The Houston Texans' offense is not the story here.

Forget about talk of DeAndre Hopkins and his impact (though he should be on any preseason Offensive Rookie of the Year watch list), Andre Johnson being old (lulz at lazy writers; he just had a monster year), Matt Schaub and his limitations (you don't need a cannon in a West Coast Offense), or the offensive line (well, this one may be a real story).

As has been previously stated, the story is the defense. It's always the defense. Everything else is a distraction.

Wade Phillips and his defense were what took the Texans from mediocre to being a two-time defending division champion. Look at the Texans' history. Points and yards have been there while Gary Kubiak has been the head coach, but wins and playoff appearances didn't happen until the defense became a top unit.

Let's start with a positive defensive storyline: NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt is only 24 years old and is fully healthy after his dislocated elbow injury. That's right, fans of opposing blogs who write nonsense. He wasn't 100% and is entering just his third season in the league. The guy who did this can, and should, be better. It may not show on the stat sheet, but his play, and the double and triple teams he'll see, should open up opportunities for others.

On the flip side of that, Houston's struggles last season, notably against New England in national letdown games, were on the defense. The inability to adjust scheme. The inability to generate a pass rush. The inability to cover tight ends and running backs. The inability to be consistent against a good offense. With all of this inability, it should have surprised no one that there was fairly drastic turnover. As of now, the 2013 opening day starting roster should feature four new faces and have four more new guys significantly contribute in a rotation. That's what the story should be about.

The focus ought to be on Whitney Mercilus, Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing, Darryl Sharpton, Sam Montgomery, and Trevardo Williams trying to sort out and re-establish a strong linebacking corps. The focus should be on Earl Mitchell getting his chance to be a starter between Watt and the still-improving Antonio Smith. We should be talking more about Johnathan Joseph's return to health and the development of D.J. Swearinger. If all of these pieces can survive and gel together this August, the focus should then be on what Phillips does with them in September.

For a man who has talked of chocolate and strawberries, the defense never changed too much. Granted injuries, especially Cushing's, limited Wade's designs, but we all remember how he wouldn't stop blitzing premium quarterbacks. Need a reminder? That's a scheme that wasn't adjusted for personnel or the situation.

Essentially, the blitzing is what we've come to expect from Houston's defense. Ninety percent of the time that will work. But against elite competition? Wrinkles need to be implemented. Quarterbacks need to expect the unexpected. After two years of admittedly good defense, it's time for critical eyes to be placed on the defense in these situations that separate Houston from a world championship. This team goes as the defense goes.

Don't get distracted, especially as we begin to hear fantasy football-heads skew all the stories to the offense. Defenses still win championships...or, at least from what we know, it makes the difference between 8-8 seasons and beating Cincinnati in the Wild Card round.