Once the pass rush was rushed to the infirmary last year, the Texans’ defense was done. Unlike in 2016; back then, when A.J. Bouye was a revelation, when Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson could still hang in front of defenders, the 2016 Texans were able to survive despite losing J.J. Watt. But without Watt and Whitney Mercilus in 2017, Houston’s secondary was left battered and fried. The Texans’ defense plummeted as a result.
Since then, an entire offseason has passed to give Brian Gaine the opportunity to improve one of the worst secondaries in football. To do that, the Texans brought back Joseph, moved Jackson to safety, signed Tyrann Mathieu, Aaron Colvin, and Johnson Bademosi in free agency, drafted Justin Reid, and lost Andre Hal for this season at a minimum to illness.
With the new improvements here to correct the old, PFF now has the Texans’ secondary as the 25th best in the NFL. This is what they had to say:
Projected starting lineup:
Starting cornerback: Johnathan Joseph, 75.7 grade
Safety: Tyrann Mathieu, 77.6
Safety: Kareem Jackson, 52.2
Starting cornerback: Aaron Colvin, 80.0
Nickel cornerback: Kevin Johnson, 32.0
The Texans had arguably the worst secondary in the NFL by the end of last season and their moves this offseason recognized that. They signed safety Mathieu (77.6) after he was cut by Arizona and also added a slot corner in Colvin (80.0) from Jacksonville. They could still be in trouble if their former first-round pick in Johnson plays like he did a season ago. Johnson was the lowest-graded corner in the NFL and allowed a passer rating of 137.3.
I believe Houston’s defense (and this season) will be about the health of the Texans’ pass rush. If Watt, Clowney, and Mercilus stay healthy, the Texans should have a top five defense. They could get away with having a secondary that uses five or six defensive backs and makes up for talent deficiencies with scheme.
So, yeah, the Texans’ secondary isn’t very good, but it’s not as important as the four men rushing the passer in nickel and dime packages.