The Houston Texans had the week off be with family, asses the last nine games, and get healthy for the rest of the season. A much needed week off comes at a perfect time for the Texans as they look to face their best opponent in weeks. The Washington Redskins are equally as injured, but are coming off an impressive victory against the Buccaneers where their defense only gave up three points. The Redskins’ defense is one of the most underrated in the league, and features several gritty run stoppers up front who have limited opponents to an average of 19.4 points per game. Ryan Kerrigan and D.J. Swearinger are having Pro-Bowl caliber seasons, while Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen are turning into the next best defensive line duo in the league.
The Texans are set to return several key players this week. We will not know with any certainty who will be healthy for the game on Sunday, but the Bill O’Brien Chamber of Texans Secrets did let us know that several missing faces from the team are on the path to recovery. Here was the Injury Report heading into the Week 9 game against Denver.
Zach Cunningham, Johnathan Joseph, Aaron Colvin, Keke Coutee, Andre Hal, and Peter Kalambayi were all out against the Broncos. That’s at least five starters who could potentially return this week.
That does not even include the much waited return of running back D’Onta Foreman who has been out for the start of the season as he recovers from a torn Achilles from last year.
Who do the Texans need back most the game against the Washington Redskins? I’d argue that getting Johnathan Joseph back next week will mean the most to the team. The leadership, consistency, and secondary help he provides was glaringly absent from last week’s game and will be vital to have against Alex Smith and the Redskins’ passing attack.
With so many secondary players missing from the game, Shareece Wright and Kareem Jackson started at corner back against the Broncos. Wright is a veteran corner who has bounced around the league in his nine seasons, but was brought here in the wake of the Kevin Johnson injury. Kareem Jackson was converted to safety before the season, but has has to resort back to corner because of all the injuries. The Texans’ secondary has been so heavily injured that newly signed corner back Mike Tyson saw 71% of the snaps on defense.
Texans hopeful Johnathan Joseph, Aaron Colvin will return after bye https://t.co/6LuUxvkX5y— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) November 7, 2018
The return of Joseph will have several immediate affects on the defense. First, it’s an obvious upgrade from Mike Tyson and Natrell Jamerson who have had to contribute exponentially more than anyone could have predicted. Joseph is not only one of the oldest but one of the best corners in the league, and his the ability to apply man coverage against big wide receivers. Joseph considerably does not have the top end speed that he used to, but he certainly has held his own throughout the past few years with the Texans.
The second reason why Joseph will be the most important player to return is the size advantage of the Redskins receivers. Wide receivers Josh Doctson, Maurece Harris, and Michael Floyd are all above 6’2”. Though Mike Tyson is an incredibly tall corner, he does not have the experience and success against longer receivers that Joseph has. Since they joined the team, Joseph has taken the taller receiver while Kareem Jackson has guarded the opposing speedster. Floyd is the faster of the two, so a combination of Jackson and returning corner back Aaron Colvin will cover the tall and fast receiver. With Paul Richardson out, the Redskins true WR1 option will be extremely vague heading into the week. Jordan Reed is the best pass catcher on the team, but I would prefer and expect Zach Cunningham, Aaron Colvin, or Benardrick McKinney to cover him.
The return of Joseph to the lineup will also impact how the defensive personnel lines up. As previously stated, Jackson was forced to return to corner back duties instead of playing safety and Tyrann Mathieu was playing more of a slot/nickel position that he was trying to steer away from in Arizona. With Joseph back, Colvin can play wherever he wants, Kareem can play the nickel/safety position where he has been dominating, and rookie safety Justin Reid will play a true robber safety position. The natural nickel set that the Texans play in is immediately enhanced and puts everyone in their natural position when Joseph comes back to health. It’s like finding the corner piece of a puzzle—now you can create the border of the full picture.
Texans bye week report: Defense https://t.co/1sbdBNSfhz— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) November 7, 2018
You can argue that Zach Cunningham is the key to shutting down the Redskins average offense. He is fast enough to stick with Jordan Reed in passing routes, and is a good enough tackler to coral Adrian Peterson. Cunningham is recovering from a knee sprain that kept him out of the Denver game, but is hopeful to be back this next week. Brian Peters would play in his place, and Peters has shown to be reliable when called upon.
Another argument can be made for Keke Coutee the rookie wide receiver who has only played four times this season. Coutee set a team record of eleven receptions in his debut. Josh Norman will be guarding DeAndre Hopkins for the entirety of the game. Demaryius Thomas will be covered by Quinton Dunbar. Those are for certain, but the Redskins don’t have a reliable third corner that can cover Coutee if he is healthy. D.J. Swearinger is the next best secondary player, but his skill set is more towards blasting running backs out of the backfield and covering tight ends than picking up speedy wide receivers over the middle. Coutee could be a match up nightmare for the Redskins, but his presence or absence in the game is not as internal as having Joseph out of the field.
Joseph has been the lynchpin to this Texans defense for eight years and continues to be a deciding factor in many of this season’s games. The Texans won against Denver without him, but not before quarterback Kase Keenum threw for almost 300 yards and a touchdown.