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Value of Things: The Houston Texans Roster Jigsaw— Secondary

What does the Texans secondary look like in advance of training camp?

Syndication: The Record Chris Pedota, / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL is constantly in a state of flux. Teams can invite up to 90 players to training camp and there is always a ton of drama about which of these guys will make the final 53 man roster. As we know, in recent years there is always some leeway with the practice squads as well. Who do you try to stash? Who do you keep on the final roster? Who gets shown the door? These are all questions that get answered in August and September.

In this series we will look at each position group as things stand in June before training camp begins. There are always post June 1 cuts and the Houston Texans are one of the few teams out there with a little wiggle room underneath the cap. It isn’t much, so they might be able to add one or two veterans to the mix. We will utilize PFF scores for now to look at the quality of the player. Bolded players are rookies and their PFF grades come from the college level.

  • PFF 80-100: The player is either a Pro Bowl performer or an All-American
  • PFF 70-80: The player is a solid starter in the league or in college
  • PFF 60-70: The player is somewhere between a solid rotational player and decent starter
  • PFF: 59 and under: The player is either a backup level or special teams performer


Steven Nelson— 66.7 PFF, 957 snaps

Nelson is essentially an average corner. This is the last year of his contract, so he should be motivated to show his next team some good tape. The grade above is that of an average starter. He is a really nice depth piece, but probably not a building block of the next great Texans defense.

Desmond King— 73.2 PFF, 916 snaps

King is an example of putting someone in position where they can do the most damage. He is a really good slot corner. He also can make plays in the running game on the inside. If you stick him outside he gets exposed.

Derek Stingley— 49.1 PFF, 599 snaps

Stingley is probably the most important player on this team not named C.J. Stroud. There are three possibilities here. He could become a monster if he is allowed to showcase his one on one man coverage skills. He could turn into a very solid corner like Kareem Jackson did. If everyone recalls, his rookie season was a disaster too, but he still had a very solid career. If he improves and becomes a Jackson this is a win. If he takes off and becomes a Pro Bowler then this defense becomes really good.

Tavierre Thomas— 70.0 PFF, 409 snaps

Nothing makes people better like a little competition. Thomas played well in Stingley’s absence last season. He isn’t going to make anyone forget any of the starting level corners in Houston’s past, but he is a really nice depth piece.

Shaquille Griffin— 61.8 PFF, 336 snaps

He signed a big contract in Jacksonville and didn’t fit. These things happen in the NFL all the time. He was a starting quality corner when he was in Seattle and he could become that again. Yet, the contract he signed is not significant enough to where the team can’t cut him if he proves not to be the answer.

Darius Phillips— 66.4 PFF, 7 snaps

There are always camp bodies every year. The Texans also have four other corners that didn’t play a single down in 2022. I’m not profiling them either. They also did not add a single rookie in the draft or the undrafted free agent market. That shows you what they think of their cornerback room going into camp.


Jalen Pitre— 54.7 PFF, 1088 snaps

Pitre led all Texans defenders in snaps. That by itself is quite a feat for a rookie. He also added five interceptions to the equation. Pitre’s tackling can definitely improve. If he takes that next step he could become a borderline Pro Bowl performer. You always expect guys to take a jump in year two. If Ryans unlocks something here he could take more than the significant jump.

Jimmie Ward— 80.6 PFF, 640 snaps

I like Ward as a player, but these numbers came as a glorified slot corner. He probably isn’t nearly this good as a pure safety, but even if he is simply a solid starter that is a significant improvement over what they had last season. If you were to take a composite PFF score for both Ward and Pitre I imagine it will end up finishing right where they currently are, but they will be closer together.

M.J. Stewart— 70.1 PFF, 178 snaps

Stewart was signed as a depth piece last offseason and he contributed as advertised. If you limit his exposure and focus his opportunities where he will be successful he will likely give you these same numbers again.

Eric Murray— 65.1 PFF, 118 snaps

I suppose one has to ignore the circumstances of how someone got here and simply focus on what is actually rendered. Murray is a solid backup in the NFL. The fact that he was paid starter money for much of his time in Houston has soured people on him. He can play some corner too, so he is not worthless. He is still the physical embodiment of what the value of things represents. He has value. It’s just not at starter money.

Darius Joiner— 88.7 PFF, 873 snaps (CFB)

Joiner is an undrafted free agent and somehow managed to finish second amongst all draft eligible safeties in PFF. Granted, PFF is not a comprehensive look at a player, but it is clear at least some people in that building look at it (Bobbly Slowik worked for PFF prior to coaching). He could be a steal or he could be a dud. As an UDFA there is absolutely no pressure.

Brandon Hill— 66.8 PFF, 707 snaps (CFB)

Seventh round picks rarely make it anywhere, so there is no pressure on Hill to do anything. His grades are decent enough I suppose, but some draft analysts had him with a fifth round grade. It just goes to show that there are so many differing opinions on all of these guys.

Future Needs

So much of this season depends on what happens with Derek Stingley and Jalen Pitre. They could become a Pro Bowl duo in the secondary that will be mainstays in Houston for nearly a decade. They could be substandard performers overall that need to be moved on from. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Either way, we will know a whole heck of a lot more after this season is done.