Defensive line: D+
Rookies Thomas Booker and Kurt Hinish have been able to rotate with the vets so far, but neither have earned the right to be the starter. The undrafted rookie Hinish actually has more snaps than fifth rounder Booker.
The fun stops there though. The lack of depth and interior pass rush has hampered this group throughout the season and particularly in the fourth quarter. Run defense has been putrid - they’ve allowed 164 yards per game on the ground - fourth most in the league (they were second before the Jacksonville game). This group does give maximum effort, but until they can stop the run this team won’t win a game.
Defensive End/Pass Rushers: C
Texans are squarely in the middle of the pack with 11 sacks so far.
If I told you the Texans had a guy who was top-10 in the league for sacks, would you believe it? And would you even be able to guess who it is? Well, believe it because veteran Jerry Hughes has four sacks through four games and the Texans are tied for sixth in the league with 11 sacks.
Jonathan Greenard has dealt with an ankle injury this season. He sat out the game against Jacksonville after limited practice this week. He is not on pace to beat his eight sacks last season but does already have five tackles for loss, compared to nine last season.
Greenard, Hughes, and Rasheem Green are just about the best the Texans have and can hope for. Not drafting a pass rusher left a serious gap in this defense. It’s one they’ll address early in the draft this year.
Ignore the stats - this group has been the weakness of the team thus far. They general inability to maintain gap integrity has been more impactful than the porous defensive line. The team has no OLB and it shows. Kamu Grugier-Hill has been pathetic in attacking the run. He was the focal point of the Chargers’ offensive strategy. Herbert was throwing to receivers and tight ends running behind KGH and he couldn’t adjust.
The return of sophomore Garret Wallow has brought depth to an exhausted Christian Kirksey and KGH. Not having Christian Harris thus far has stung this unit and may not join for two more weeks.
Once the backups get healthy the waterline should rise for this group. Until then it’ll be the bane of the Texans defensive success, especially in a scheme that relies heavily on its linebackers.
As a card-carrying non-Derek Stingley III fan, it’s safe to say he hasn’t been a top-three pick through five games. He’s been targeted by most quarterbacks. He was under constant pressure against the Jaguars this past week and they found success going his way.
Derek Stingley vs Jaguars:— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) October 10, 2022
• 51 coverage snaps
• 9 targets
• 6 receptions allowed
• 97 yards allowed pic.twitter.com/i44yALjoMq
That’s 1/3 of Trevor Lawrence’s passing yards on the day. He’d allowed the fourth most yards of any CB through four weeks and I imagine that has increased since Sunday.
Desmond King and Steven Nelson have been the other stalwarts at CB. To be honest the game film doesn’t make it too easy to evaluate CBs mid-game. It does allow you though when you see receivers get wide open to postulate.
Lovie Smith emphasized that cornerback Steven Nelson is playing good ball, too. The numbers and the film support that in a major way. He's been an excellent free agent signing.— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) October 10, 2022
For Nelson, he’s thus far had a good outing as a Texan. He plays well in Lovie Smith’s system and contributes all over the field. He has played his way into a critical role across from Stingley, but there’s another entire leap in talent necessary for this group to improve upon it’s current woes.
Rookie Jalen Pitre has been my favorite player on the defense this season. He stands out among the rest for his hard hitting and gutsy plays. You can tell the kid loves football. And hitting people. Pitre and compatriot Jonathan Owens lead the team in tackles. That’s a really bad sign if your safeties are making all the tackles...
It’s surprising that Eric Murray is the fourth safety on the roster. M.J. Stewart has played ahead of Murray and has contributed on special teams too.
While this group is most likely subjected to horrible options and have more on their plate than they should, they’re the reason the team has been in any games this season. It’s the best group on the field in 2022 and that’s promising to say the least.