Pro Football Focus assembled their Team of the Week for the first batch of NFL games in 2021. While your Houston Texans are usually snubbed on these sorts of lists, linebacker Christian Kirksey got the nod for his performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars this past weekend.
After taking the field Sunday, Kirksey had 6 combined stops, 5 solo tackles, 1 assist, 2 tackles for loss, 2 passes defensed, and 1 interception. This earned the 8-year veteran an 82.9 overall grade at PFF. His run defense graded out at 69.5, pass rush at 55.0, and coverage at 80.1.
Against Kirksey, Jaguars phenom rookie QB Trevor Lawrence managed only a weak 33.3 passer rating.
Christian Kirksey: Texans defense 'played fast, physical, relentless' in season-opener https://t.co/yX07tEZhXG pic.twitter.com/jrRaIJzT5b— SportsRadio 610 (@SportsRadio610) September 14, 2021
To say the former Green Bay Packers linebacker is taking to new Houston defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s Texans-2 system is stating the obvious. His presence in the locker room is helping the former worst defense in the NFL turn the corner.
LB Christian Kirksey's interception of Trevor Lawrence marks his first as a Texan and the fifth of his career.— Houston Texans PR (@TexansPR) September 12, 2021
Houston has recorded three interceptions in today's game, the team's most since recording four vs. Tampa Bay on 12/21/19. #JAXvsHOU pic.twitter.com/Ff6VHlKA8n
Christian Kirksey on team leadership:
It’s important, and I’m taking that commitment to being a leader on this defense. I’m pushing myself above and beyond to be everything I can be for my teammates, and I think everybody is doing it individually. You know, they are looking at what their role is on that defense and on that team and they are just trying to go above and beyond.
A good leader pushes the spotlight to others. A quick way to tell if an NFL team’s culture is toxic is the number of players making selfish statements and taking selfish actions. So far, head coach David Culley and general manager Nick Caserio seem to have set the stage for the selfless culture at NRG Park, as echoed by Kirksey’s post-game comments.
I just want to keep preaching about our defense and how they played. They played fast, physical, and they played relentless.
LB Christian Kirksey (@Kirko58) says WR @brandincooks presented the game ball to David Culley: “It’s the best feeling in the world to see him smile..We actually presented him with the game ball” David is so humble he said no one got the game ball.Said the Texans got the game ball pic.twitter.com/ihXaknxE6k— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) September 12, 2021
Based on the extremely small sample size of 60 minutes of meaningful football, it looks like Houston’s linebackers will be alright this year. With Kirksey, Zach Cunningham, and the others taking charge, Lovie Smith might just turn this into an average defense from a subpar one. Hopefully they don’t turn it so far the Texans’ fortunes in the 2022 NFL draft suffer because of it.
In the meantime, let’s continue to bask in the glory of the latest Texans victory.