This edition of the BRB Staff Question of the Week asks what one position on the Houston Texans defense (we’ll have a separate post for the offense) you would most like to improve upon in 2017, be it via draft, trade, free-agency, etc. As Weston stated so eloquently, it’s like asking for extra toppings on a specialty pizza. Good discussion on this one, so let’s get right to it.
Quintin Demps was more than serviceable this past season, but I'd still like to see an upgrade at strong safety. That doesn't necessarily mean it needs to come via a premium draft pick; it could come via a veteran free agent or even moving Kareem Jackson there. It's a testament to the talent the Texans have on defense that this is a legitimate question without many reasonable answers.
Despite the talent on this defense, I feel like a plus ball-hawking safety would put it over the top. I don’t know who that guy is, as I’m not into the draft quite yet. Anything on the free-agent market that would actually be a significant upgrade would be far more costly than the team is likely to be able to afford. I like the idea of moving Kareem Jackson to safety (a few of us have been talking about that for a while now), but would he be the ball-hawk we want? As it stands now, if the Texans don’t address QB in the first couple of rounds, I’d love to see that go to a safety if there’s one on the board who could fill this role.
MLB. I was tempted to say John Simon/JLB, mainly because I hate his Buckeye face, but let's be honest: Brian Cushing is not good at the footed ball these days. He can't cover anyone. He's not the one-on-one tackler that he was even a few years ago. His lateral speed is gone. He hasn't had a forced fumble since Week 17 of the 2015 season.
In free agency, I guess Dont'a Hightower and Sean Spence would be my targets, though that is admittedly without a ton of thought put into it. In the draft? Jarrad Davis or Anthony Walker, with the same caveat regarding thought.
If they go OLB/hybrid, T.J. Watt would top my list.
If they go safety and pass on Jabrill Peppers, I'll light Reliant on fire. Not saying they have to draft him, even if he's there when they pick. Just saying, if they don't take him in the first, and they take some bullKITTEN safety in the fourth, there will be flames.
Much as I was rooting for last off-season, I'd love to draft (specifically) a DE who can be solid against the run yet still play all three downs. I'm not saying I wouldn't mind a safety. However, if I can get another guy who can play two downs and be solid against the run, then be strong enough to get to get to the QB and rotate in on some third downs, I think our defense could become truly elite.
I'm a big fan of Eddie Jackson as a first round pick at safety. He's smart, has a ton of range, great ball skills, and is a great return man to boot. If they don't move Kareem back to that spot, Jackson’s a great draft target.
If you want a super athletic LB that can cover, run, and rush the passer like a motherKITTEN, that's Haason Reddick from Temple. He's a beast.
I personally don't think safety is that big an issue, so let’s go with replacing Brian Cushing with an nice athletic move LB that can take the coverage responsibilities away from Benardrick McKinney, allowing him to be the run stopping/blitzing monster we all know and love. If by any chance Solomon Thomas was still on the board come pick 25 (he won't be), I'd give a few fingers to have the Texans draft him. I don't care if he's undersized for the two=gap 3-4 DE in our system; he's just so damn good that I want him on this defense.
I'm theorizing what the second round might look like if the Texans go QB in the first, and I keep circling back around to Antonio Garcia out of Troy. I think he's a really nice tackle prospect who's super athletic. Like, Terron Armstead athletic. I'd love to get him or maybe even Reddick as guys that even if they don't start or have large snap numbers can grow into their roles over a couple of seasons.
Titan Matt Weston, Slanderer of Blade Runner and a Huge Texas Rangers Fan:
This question is like adding toppings to a specialty pizza. I don't think inside linebacker is that important because of how good McKinney is. I don't think a specific position is that important because this defense is so fluid. I don't think safety is that important because the corners are so good. I don't think nose tackle is important because of D.J. Reader.
I think this question is more of what puts this team over the edge and gives it that next leap. I'm going with outside linebacker because of it. I want to see Jadeveon Clowney stay at DE, so I would like to see an outside linebacker not named John Simon that can be good and keep Clowney at that position while being able to set the edge and notch 15 pressures and 5 sacks.
I'm going to say let's please do something about strong safety. I like Quintin Demps, but I do think the Texans could do better than him in the draft or free agency. I can't give you any names of safeties since I don't follow college football well enough to know how players will translate to the NFL.
That said, MDC, you know they're not taking Peppers because reasons, so get your gas can ready.
The Texans' defense has done well at stopping the run, and they have an elite pass rush to create consistently disruptive pressure. When looking for areas of weakness, it is frustrating to note that they give up a big play in the secondary at just terrible times that often flips momentum to the opponent. They have been vulnerable to well-executed screens, as well as tight end mismatches that extend drives for the other team. Finding a player who can reduce the success of the big plays (free safety), or a mid-level-patrolling thumper who can also cover tight-ends (strong safety/linebacker-hybrid) would be ideal.
With so much uncertainty about QB and OT going into this off-season, it's hard to know what draft capital Houston will have available to address any defensive upgrades. However, if there is an opportunity in the first round--even by moving up -- to get Malik Hooker, Jamal Adams, or Jabrill Peppers, I'd be absolutely excited about the first day of the draft for the Texans.
I'd love to see them draft T.J. Watt. The Wisconsin games I saw it was like watching J.J. 2.0...
Other than that, strong safety. A Bob Sanders/Troy Polamalu sort of guy shoring up the last line of defense would be all this D needs to put it way over the top.
Lots of love for the safety position. What do you think, BRB? Use the comments section below to give your thoughts on adding a piece to this Texans defense that will already have some guy named J.J. Watt added to it next year.