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Houston Texans Secondary: Getting the Band Back Together

More sour notes from the first official day of NFL free agency

Seattle Seahawks v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The pass defense of the 2021 Houston Texans coughed up 4117 air yards, 27 touchdowns, a 94.1 opposing passer rating, 218 first downs, 55 passes over 20+ yards and 12 over 40+ yards.

For those with no frame of reference, the technical term for this is “bad”. Very, very bad.

In fact, it wasn’t just the defensive backfield, but all of the Texans defense that worked really hard to climb up to 30th best in the NFL last season.

For a team striving to make improvements, under normal circumstances this might lead to the defensive coordinator getting fired.

Instead, the Texans promoted theirs to head coach.

In lieu of terminating the coach responsible for such misery, a full roster overhaul would be in order.

Nope. Not in Houston. Status quo, Tankathon 2.0 is the way to go.

The Texans defensive secondary depth chart at the end of 2021 looked like this:

LCB - Desmond King

SS - Justin Reid

FS - Terrance Brooks

RCB - Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Only one top flight player in that group, but he recently signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Goodbye, Justin Reid, thanks for the great memories - hope you achieve all you can with the superior franchise in KC.

Cornerback Tavierre Thomas came on strong at the end of the season, but with the surrounding competition in the secondary, it wouldn’t be hard for a starting caliber CB to stand out.

In looking at that depth chart and resulting stats, it would seem a shake up was in order. Time to bring in other players who might not give up a 94.1 passer rating in 2022.

So, what did Houston Texans GM Nick Caserio do?

Yes, this is the 2022 equivalent of keeping Vernon Hargreaves III on the roster.

There’s still time to sign some actual upgrades, land one or two in the pending Deshaun Watson trade, trade for one or more (as long as Caserio doesn’t keep wasting draft picks in trades for backup linebackers...) and/or draft a starting caliber defensive back.

Houston Texans Could Sign One of These Defensive Backs

CB - Stephen Gilmore, former New England Patriot, would certainly seem to make sense in Houston.

CB - Casey Hayward Jr. a solid starter used to operating in a Lovie Smith style defense, would also make sense.

CB - Bryce Callahan, one of the best nickel corners in the league over the last five years could definitely help this secondary.

Houston Texans Could Draft One of These Defensive Backs

S - Kyle Hamilton is widely considered the top safety in the upcoming draft. Despite his “slow” 40-yard dash at the combine, Hamilton will likely be a solid NFL starter for years.

High-impact safety with unique blend of traits and characteristics that make him a bit of a unicorn at the position. Hamilton has the eyes and speed to play over the top, the strength and toughness to play near the line, and coverage length to guard elite pass-catching tight ends who often mismatch opposing defenses. It’s rare to find such a ferocious striker and intimidator who has the football intelligence and athletic prowess to go make plays in the passing game, but Hamilton provides it all. He thrives playing downhill or sinking into a robber alignment on the back-end but will have occasional missteps in coverage when in retreat from his pedal. Hamilton has the traits and football character to transition from standout college moments to a standout pro career as a future Pro Bowler with All-Pro potential.

CB - Andrew Booth Jr. Clemson corner used to the big stage with a pretty high ceiling.

A press/zone combo corner with good size and length, Booth plays with an urgent, competitive nature. He has the strength, balance and foot agility to press and slow the release. He has limited starting experience, though. He will need more development to prevent route specialists from manipulating his feet and hips. Booth has the ball-tracking and play strength to find and maintain top-dog positioning through catch tries. He’s more effective in off coverage underneath than tight man. He needs to play more football, but his ball-hawking instincts, burst to close and toughness in run support will be very appealing for zone teams looking for an upgrade at cornerback.

S - Jaquan Brisker

Athletic safety prospect whose versatility and toughness will endear him to coaches during the evaluation process. Brisker continued to pick up elements of the defensive scheme and his play has steadily transformed from hesitant in 2019 to downright instinctive in 2021. He has the versatility to become a moving chess piece in a variety of coverages and has the size and talent to match up with both “Y” and “F” tight ends. He played with a banged-up shoulder in 2021 so his 2020 tape is a clearer indicator of his run support acumen. Brisker is an ascending talent with the NFL traits to become a long-time starter as a Day 2 draft pick.

No matter who they go with, it’s clear if the Texans think they can stand pat on last year’s secondary, 2022 will see a lot of happy opposing quarterbacks, a lot of unhappy Texans fans on gameday and a lot of continued embarrassment for the Texans defense.