Vince Wilfork isn't getting any younger, although he does still bring solid mass and leadership for a couple of plays per series. The Texans' defense was stout and effective last season, but it often succumbed to the effects of exhaustion late in games when Houston's anemic offense was unable to sustain drives. Thankfully, much of that was addressed in 2016 with a scorched-earth rebuild that brought a clear focus on speed and offensive play-makers.
A job well done by the Texans' front office!
Okay, Wilfork needs breather at times, and J.J. Watt would like fewer plays where he is double and triple-teamed by opponents. So what did the Texans do?
Houston's final selection of the 2016 NFL Draft was nose tackle D.J. Reader out of Clemson. He may be just the player to become the infamously-coined  "Monte Cristo" nose tackle that many of us have been lusting for the last few years. Why? Read on to see what some experts think of Houston's newest defensive lineman.
|Height||6' 3"||Weight||327 lbs|
|Bench||30 Repetitions (225 lbs)||40 Time||5.33|
Carries his 340 pounds fairly well on his stout frame. Almost always the low man at the point of attack. Able to leverage blockers and displace them. Plays with enough motor to chase the play down the field. If single blocked, will absolutely push the pocket as a rusher.
Rotational defensive lineman who lacked production. Gets initial push, but fails to shed blockers in time to make many tackles. Needs more coaching to improve his hands. Once he's on the move and engaged with a blocker, fails to consistently find the ballcarrier and ball.
Squatty, strong nose tackle who is able to push smaller centers around in phone booth battles, but unable to consistently be a disruptive force up front. Reader has the strength and potential to believe that his Senior Bowl flashes could turn into something more in the NFL, even though that might just be as a career backup.
USA TODAY's Draftwire: (lots of video here)
There will be a lot of questions asked about why D.J. Reader left the Clemson football team just before the 2015 season began, only to return in October and play in six of the remaining nine games. Criticism of Reader is understandable, but as someone who knows the real story, I would caution analysts to give Reader grace in this situation. I won't speak on the details of Reader's temporary departure from the team in fairness to him, but suffice to say that the loss of his father in 2014 had an understandably devastating affect on the young man. The two were very close, so to see Reader battle through personal struggles only to return to his team and play at an extremely high level is commendable.
On tape, Reader is a physical beast, carrying a 340-pound frame (his playing weight this season) around with exceptional agility. The defender's quick, light feet allow him to play at pace, giving Reader access to gaps many linemen his size can't exploit.
First step leverages the gap, then Reader explodes upfield to finish the play. He's an excellent tackler by the way, rarely letting runners escape his grasp. Reader possesses startling range for a nose tackle, able to track down runners and close with surprising burst on the ball.
Reader had one of the best games of his career against Alabama in the national championship, giving All-American center Ryan Kelly all he could handle throughout the contest.
Reader has the power to overwhelm pass-protecting offensive linemen, but adding variety to his rush repertoire is still a work in progress. I don't really see the NFL viewing him as an every down player, especially with how often defenses are in nickel these days, but Reader does have the physical tools to develop into an adequate pass rusher. If given the opportunity, I think he notches 2-3 sacks a season based on sheer effort and strength, while pushing the pocket on a consistent basis. He's not A'Shawn Robinson, simply content to "play patty-cake" against blockers, as Reader shows the desire to get after it on passing downs.
D.J. Reader sounds like a potential understudy for Vince Wilfork, and someone that Houston can develop over the next couple of years to be the nose tackle of the future for your Houston Texans.
Share your thoughts on this latest addition to the brave men who will face unbearable heat and humidity in just a few short weeks when camp activities begin.
 "Monte Cristo" historic reference from our very own MDC:
You know earlier when I said I was opposed to players named after sandwiches? I am willing to ignore that rule for a real NT, even if his name is Monte Cristo.