In a pass happy league, the first thing teams need, after a solid passing attack, is the ability to slow down the opponents’ pass attack. Not so long ago your Houston Texans had one of the most feared defenses in the NFL. Between J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and others, Houston’s defense carried Bill O’Brien’s offense for many years. Those days are gone, sadly.
In 2020, the Texans defense ranked 30th in total yards given up, 27th in points coughed up, 25th in passing yards against, and dead last in rushing yards by the opponent. If it wasn’t so easy to run on the Texans last season, the passing yards against would have seen Houston in dead last place there as well.
While new general manager Nick Caserio’s “Great Roster Churn 2021” event is far from over, he has brought in quite a few new faces for new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith to work with in rebuilding a strength-turned-weakness in H-Town. The most notable of those new signings is former Miami Dolphins EDGE defender Shaw Lawson. While Lawson on his best day is no prime J.J. Watt, he’s still a pretty substantial upgrade to the guys in line trying to fill the void left when Watt moved to the desert.
Pro Football Focus rated Lawson 70.9 overall in 2020. In seven starts, he delivered 39 total QB pressures, 19 QB hurries, 18 quarterback hits, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and a touchdown. Again, not Turned Down For Watt stats. Lawson has yet to live up to his pre-draft hype as “the best lineman in the nation”.
Maybe this year will see him step into those shoes? If not Lawson, who?
Can Charles Omenihu Lead The Texans’ Defense?
Aside from Watt, Charles Omenihu was Houston’s best EDGE defender last year, statistically speaking. in five starts, he delivered 32 QB pressures, 16 QB hits, 15 hurries, and 4 sacks. PFF graded Omenihu at 52.1 overall.
The question many are asking now is: Can Shaq Lawson take over as the leader of the Texans’ defense? Lawson seems to think the answer is yes.
When I found out it was Houston, it was great to hear because I know what their scheme is, and that’s what coach Smith was bringing back: what I did in Buffalo, so it’s definitely a win-win. I’ll put my hand down in the dirt and play. They’re getting the best Shaq Lawson. They’re getting the best, the best version of me. I’m going to work hard every day and take pride in everything I do. I’m a young player whose best ball is yet to come, a guy who’s going to bring the energy every day.
In switching from former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s multi-3-4 to Smith’s modified Tampa 2 defense, the Texans will need different players who excel at different schemes, different alignments, and with different responsibilities. While Lawson may excel in a system he worked in when he played for the Buffalo Bills, players like Charles Omenihu, Zach Cunningham, and Whitney Mercilus might have a steeper learning curve. Only time will tell. With many firmly believing the Houston braintrust is running the “How to tank for draft picks” play for 2021, it might not matter.
No matter had badly the people running the Texans might want the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the team still needs to repair the damage done between the franchise and the fanbase. Bringing in a guy who could possibly make some highlight reel plays might just generate enough hope for the future to mend some of those broken fences. Firing Jack Easterby would also help. But this isn’t time for digression into the futile.
What do you think? Will Lawson have his best statistical year in 2021? Or is he another one-and-done Nick Caserio acquisition simply meant to get from today to 2022?