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Bill Barnwell: Texans' Defensive Talent Around J.J. Watt Is "Ordinary"

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In deciding on and ranking the Texans' top three defensive players against the rest of the NFL, ESPN's Bill Barnwell may have earned the ire of Houston fans. Those fans react on Battle Red Blog.

J-Jo is a mite better than ordinary, I reckon.
J-Jo is a mite better than ordinary, I reckon.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After previously ranking the Texans' top three offensive players as 17th best in the NFL (with the caveat that Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller, and DeAndre Hopkins "...could very well be fifth or 25th in the triplet rankings this time next year"), Bill Barnwell has turned his attention to the other side of the ball. He released his rankings of each NFL team's defensive triplets as compared to the other 31 teams in the league, and here's what he had to say about your Houston Texans:

7. Houston Texans

DE J.J. Watt, CB Johnathan Joseph, LB Whitney Mercilus

The Texans are the toughest team to place on this list. You can make arguments that they're too high and too low. When you get this high in the triplet rankings, you're generally looking at teams that can throw out three (or more) players who are likely to be Pro Bowlers in 2016. The Texans, who just had one defensive Pro Bowler last year, aren't likely to pull that off. Of course, that Pro Bowler is Watt, who isn't your typical Pro Bowler. He's the most transcendent player in the league and arguably playing better than any defender in NFL history when you consider how he laps his brethren.

Even if you treat Watt as a step above any other defensive player in football, the talent around him is ordinary. Jadeveon Clowney hasn't developed. Brian Cushing isn't the player he once was before various injuries. Vince Wilfork is 34. Kareem Jackson is inconsistent. Mercilus had 12 sacks last season, but it's fair to wonder how many of those came by virtue of teams devoting their pass protection toward Watt.

But remember that Watt looked like a shell of his usual self during a three-game stretch in 2015, one in which injuries sapped his strength and held him to zero sacks and two quarterback knockdowns. The Texans allowed just 43 points across those three games. Granted, they gave up 27 to the Patriots before holding the Colts (with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback) and Titans (with Zach Mettenberger) to a combined 16 points, but they didn't collapse with Watt looking ordinary. I'm not satisfied with them at seven, but it would feel wrong to place them any higher or any lower.

What say you, BRB? A fair assessment of the Texans' place amongst their brethren? Is Barnwell not giving Houston enough credit? Or has he overestimated how good the Texans' troika of Watt/J-Jo/Mercilus is? Do you even agree that those three players are the best on the Texans' defense? Discuss as you see fit below.