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Red Zone Play: Play To Your Strengths

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Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith has built a great defense. But if Houston wants to live in the Red Zone, it needs to be greater.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

What happens if you put the best defensive player in the world on the same team as a once-in-a-generation talent, and then add in one of the hardest working rising-star linebackers in recent memory? You get the core of the Houston Texans’ front seven.

What happens when you add another player who has the potential to be the fourth face of the Texans’ own defensive Mount Rushmore?

History. History happens.

While the overall view seems to be focused on Houston signing a quarterback in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, there’s no obvious, immediate upside to doing so.

The prevailing minority opinion seems to have fallen on grabbing an offensive tackle, a guy like as Cam Robinson, Ryan Ramczyk, Garett Bolles, or Forrest Lamp. Sure, this would seem to be the smart, yet unexciting, pick.

Yet the one thing that’s ear-marked Houston general manager Rick Smith’s tenure is building a world-class defense.

So why not shove the chips to the middle of the table and keep rolling with that?

The younger Watt has possibly as much upside as his big brother, and working alongside J.J. in Houston is the best possible scenario to get the most out of T.J.’s career.

J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and T.J. Watt.

The old defensive coordinator in me is salivating at the idea of having those weapons at my disposal.

Anyone who’s ever coordinated an offense would certainly lose sleep over having to game plan against them.

For the sake of Xs and Os, let’s compare the Watt brothers:

T.J. Watt stats via Sports Reference.com

J.J. Watt stats via Sports Reference.com

While the older Watt’s stats appear to be a bit better, if you dig a little deeper, you can see the brothers weren’t used quite the same way. J.J. spent more time pinning his ears back as an edge rusher, while T.J. played a more traditional linebacker role, dropping into coverage at times, attacking the run, and getting after the passer.

Placing them both under the wings of Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel would basically guarantee the Watts become the most successful brothers in NFL history, anchoring one of the historically best defenses to ever set foot on the gridiron. Plus, the Texans would be doing it in an era where the NFL is tilting the field to benefit the offensive side of the ball so teams can score more, allegedly creating more excitement.

The 1985 Chicago Bears might be the gold standard for defenses, but they didn’t play in an era where multiple quarterbacks threw for over 4,000 yards every season. Da Bears did maul the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

The team that’s shown to be the most adept at beating the modern New England Patriots when it counts is the New York Giants, who did so by knocking Tom Brady senseless as early and often as possible.

Replacing John Simon with T.J. Watt, and then shoring up the defensive backfield in later rounds of the draft, would allow Houston the opportunity to duplicate what the Giants have done. Barring any unforeseen injuries or “tuck rules”, that could bring the Lombardi Trophy home to rest on NRG Parkway.

Let’s face it: Playing to your strengths is just smart management. Rick Smith has never been consistently great at picking a quarterback or any other offensive position. What he can do is nab front seven defenders and use them to build a great defense. Why stop now?

What do you think, Houston faithful? Ready to start a petition to continue the Watt collection? Have a better idea? Want to discuss how tired you are of pre-draft coverage? Let us know in the comments below!