The Houston Texans at one point had what was considered to be the scariest defensive line in the entire NFL. J.J Watt was terrorizing opposing offenses week in and week out. Jadeveon Clowney would generate pressure and strike fear in lesser men. D.J. Reader and Vince Wilfork were two raging bulls that ate entire worlds in the center of the defense. Four years later, Watt is all that remains. Where does Houston’s defensive line stand now?
Pro Football Focus has been ranking the NFL position groups throughout the offseason. They have the Texans’ defensive line square in the middle of the pack. This is what PFF said about the group:
16. Houston Texans
Once again, the weight falls on the shoulders of J.J. Watt for the Houston Texans’ defensive front.
Watt getting back to his best play would be a huge boost for this team, and in 2019 he threatened to do exactly that before a pectoral injury sidelined him for half of the regular season. Watt’s PFF grade over the past two seasons is almost back to where it was before injuries first started to derail a Hall of Fame career.
Whitney Mercilus rediscovering his best play would also go a long way to helping this unit. He has earned PFF grades in the 60s over the past two seasons, 20 full grading points lower than his best seasons of 2015-2016. He had 47 total pressures last season, but it took him 591 pass-rushing snaps to get them, and 33 of those pressures were just hurries. Mercilus has top-tier potential, but he hasn’t played to that ability for a while now.
Outside of the players already mentioned, the Texans don’t have much in the way of impact players, with the likes of Charles Omenihu, Brennan Scarlett and Angelo Blackson likely to earn playing time but without much quality play on their resumes. Rookie third-round pick Jonathan Greenard was very productive at Florida last season but struggled against the best competition he faced. He will at least see opportunity to prove he can step up at the next level.
How do you feel about the ranking? Is it too low? Too high? Just right?