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Red Zone Play: Can Anthony Weaver Succeed When Mike Vrabel Didn’t?

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NFL: AFC Wild Card-Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As many expected, Romeo Crennel stepped away from the defensive coordinator role recently. In his place comes rising coaching star Anthony Weaver, a former Texan defensive lineman, and the man many credit with the development of players such as D.J. Reader and the ongoing domination of J.J. Watt’s “injuries can’t stop me” career.

Crennel has been with the Texans since January 20th of 2014, long after his coaching career began in 1970 at the Western Kentucky University and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

Under Crennel, Houston’s defense has averaged a respectable 13th ranked spot in average yards allowed per game, including a #1 rank in 2016. However, last year saw the defense fall to 28th in this category.

While many attribute the failings to roster deficiencies, particularly the loss of Jadeveon Clowney, and missing a solid starting cornerback opposite Bradley Roby, watching Crennel call prevent defenses that allowed Drew Brees to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in week 1 was an ever present issue for most of the season.

Between Crennel, and previous defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, Texans fans have had the luxury of watching great defenses for a very long time, with the few aberrations here and there.

Prior to this season, the last time the Texans defense was widely considered a liability was 2017 when Crennel stepped back and took an assistant head coach role. Or maybe he’s the associate head coach... (or assistant TO the head coach?) and Mike Vrabel took the reins. In his one season, Vrabel guided the defense to 20th in yards allowed per game and was promptly rewarded with a head coaching role in the NOT THE OILERS organization.

Now, as it seems to happen, history is repeating itself with Anthony Weaver, but Weaver doesn’t have the talent on the roster that Vrabel had. But he will have a returning Watt, rising star Justin Reid, stalwart Tashaun Gipson, fomer first round cornerback Gareon Conley; linebackers Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham. So, it’s not like the Texans defense is penniless—there’s still some solid players on the roster.

In retrospect, there’s no doubt Crennel is one of the greatest defensive coordinators in NFL history. And, equally valid, is the notion that Anthony Weaver is one of the brightest “young” defensive minds coming up through the coaching ranks. If general manager William O’Brien can rebuild the defensive roster in a manner that works with Crennel/Weaver’s coaching philosophy, and head coach Bill O’Brien can stay out of the way, Weaver just might be able to return this defense to prominence quickly.

What do you think? Will Weaver hold the line on his end, allowing the Texans to stay in the Red Zone? Or does he have too many roster impediments to get it done? Give us your thoughts in the comment box.