Bill O’Brien had his customary post-practice press conference today, and strangely enough he dropped a previously-unknown nugget for once – Kareem Jackson is playing in the slot.
On the slot cornerback position:
A slot corner has to have quickness, has to have strength, has to have awareness, has to - relative to the strength - be able to tackle because they could be a force player against certain formations in nickel runs that they see. They have to be able to tackle so it’s a position that is very tough to play. When you have a guy like Kareem who is doing that for us right now, who can play outside and inside, he’s a guy who is playing inside for us too. Elbert Mack, these are guys that are very competitive guys. I think even Bouye could go in there maybe and do some things for us in there. So we have some guys who can do it and have progressed in doing it every single day here this spring.
I had never previously envisioned Jackson playing inside considering his massive improvements on the outside in the last three seasons (random phony pass interference penalties aside), but O’Brien’s justification of Kareem’s tackling ability is not an angle I had considered before. If Jackson is playing in the slot, that means that the defense would likely be in a nickel "pass rush" mode against three receiver sets with some combination of Whitney Mercilus, J.J. Watt, [insert nose tackle here], Jared Crick, Tim Jamison, Trevardo Williams, or Jadeveon Clowney getting after the quarterback. By mentioning that Kareem Jackson would be used as a "force" player on nickel runs, and not the outside linebackers, that may have tipped off the Texans' philosophy for their outside backers this season – bring hell off the edge on every snap. If Kareem Jackson, D.J. Swearinger, and Chris Clemons/Kendrick Lewis are relied upon to make sure runs do not get outside, that frees up Mercilus and Clowney to do virtually whatever they want without fear of blowing an assignment. Wade Phillips utilized his outside linebackers more as "pocket containers" while Watt and Smith did their damage inside. Romeo Crennel, however, seems to be doing everything in his power to take the chains off the Texans’ dormant edge rush. I love that.
Here are some other little tidbits that O’Brien dropped in today’s presser.
On the current four-way battle at the quarterback position:
The quarterbacks have worked very hard. All of them have put a lot of time into studying and knowing what their assignments are. Each guy has gone in there had some good moments, and each guy has had some moments that weren’t so good, but it looks to me that that position is being coached very well and is progressing right along like we expected it to.
On if Ryan Fitzpatrick is picking the offense up quicker than the younger QBs:
No I don’t think so. It’s new for everybody, so they’re all progressing at the same rate as far as their knowledge of the system.
On what attracted the Texans to Fitzpatrick during free agency:
We really liked his intelligence. We liked the fact that he had played a bunch of football. We liked the fact that he had played football in a similar system relative to Chan Gailey’s system in Buffalo. We liked the fact that we thought he was a guy that we thought would be a good system fit, meaning that he was an intelligent guy, a good leader, a guy that was an accurate passer, and like with every position here we felt like what was best for the Houston Texans was to find a good fit at quarterback for our system and he was the guy who we thought fit that.
On rookie quarterback Tom Savage:
In Savage, we put a lot of time in with him – meeting him, studying him, and talking to him – and he was a guy that came across to us as a hard working guy and an intelligent guy, and that seems to be the case to this point here in the spring.
On Duane Brown being disappointed in his own performance last season and bulking back up:
You would have to ask him about how he played last year. That’s his opinion. I believe that he’s a leader. He’s a guy who has been here just about every day since I’ve been hired here. He’s put in a lot of time. I think he’s a really good football player. Like I said, he’s one of the leaders of this football team, and he’s worked extremely hard every day this spring. It’s a guy like a lot of these guys here who you really look forward to seeing every day when you come to work, and he’s going to play well in 2014. He’ll play good.
As soon as the O’Brien press conference is put on the mothership, we will edit this post with a link so you can watch for yourself.