School is for nerds. Grades are bad. How can you really measure someone’s ability to learn? I ask this while I rub paste all over myself.
In the case of your favorite football team, the Houston Texans, it’s always fun after the season to go back and evaluate how the team performed. After we talked about the offense yesterday, let’s talk about the defense.
The Texans’ defense plummeted from where we are accustomed to seeing them. Going back to 2012, the Texans have finished 4th, 18th, 6th, 8th, and 9th in defensive DVOA. This year they fell all the way to 23rd. They had a pass defense DVOA of 19.2% (25th) and a run defense DVOA of -9.9% (12th).
This wasn’t all that surprising. The Texans didn’t have the secondary that they had last year to overcome injuries to J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus. This version of this defense needed the front seven to cover for a defensive backfield that would have an older Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson (who is a great defender but a bad cornerback...thanks again, Dead Coach, for that one), and a scrap heap safety.
What was surprising was how bad Kevin Johnson was this year. The Texans were counting on him to take over for A.J. Bouye, the Texans’ best player last season and yes, they should have franchise tagged him. Instead, Johnson was a disaster. He had a great rookie season and was alright last year before injuries ruined both seasons. But this year, he was awful before he injured his knee in Week Two against Cincinnati, and he was awful when he got back. Football Outsiders’ Premium Charting Data had K-Jo ranked 152nd in yards allowed per pass, 150th in success rate, 145th in yards traveled per pass attempt, and 152nd in yards after the catch. Gross.
Additionally, Mike Vrabel struggled in his new defensive coordinator role. He started the year being too cute in trying to generate a pass rush when he had three players that can win blocks on their own. The team continued to play Cover Four while struggling to pass off receivers correctly, and the Texans lost to Seattle and New England because of it. Vrabel didn’t scheme to his opponent well and did things like play man against the horizontal crossing route offense that the Jaguars utilize by getting their quick receivers running full speed in space. I was never all the way here for Vrabel being good at this immediately. Calling plays and game planning is much different than teaching linebackers about hand placement after a first step in a pass rush.
What also wasn’t surprising was the run defense. Despite losing Watt and Mercilus, the Texans still had talented run defenders in Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney, and D.J. Reader. Those guys could carry a front seven filled with fourth quarter preseason players.
It wasn’t all bad in 2017. I liked Jadeveon Clowney becoming the best run stopping defensive end in football, Benardrick McKinney being a mountain, Zach Cunningham learning how to tackle in one summer, and watching Kareem Jackson tackle. Aside from those things, though...take a plunger to my ear and suck the rest of it out of my brain.
Overall, I would give the Texans’ defense a ‘D’. They underperformed when they were healthy. They didn’t put their players in a position to succeed. Too many players dropped off.
For the first time since 2010, the Texans fielded a bad defense.
What about you? What grade would you give the Texans’ 2017 defense?
What Grade Would You Give The 2017 Houston Texans Defense?
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