Right now, the Houston Texans’ safety room is certainly not the strongest position group on the team. While Justin Reid is already one of the greatest safeties in franchise history, the rest of the guys on the current roster are a bit of a “who?” list of back-ups and potential practice squad players. While rumors still roil of Justin’s big brother Eric potentially joining the team, that has yet to happen or been substantiated by any solid facts.
Trying to ultimately quantify the career contributions of defensive backs is always a bit of a sticky wicket. Did they have less tackles because the front seven rarely let anyone get to to the second level? Did the defensive coordinator play them in the box often or keep them 20+ yards off the ball? Did they excel because the front seven terrorized the opposing offense? Conversely, were they torched because the pass rush went nowhere fast?
There are a lot of variables that go into this (and quite frankly every other position group) analysis, so we’re going to have to use pure stats and my (flawed) memory to compile these all-time Texans greats.
Ready? Here we go:
#5 C.C. Brown
A sixth round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by your Houston Texans, many people wrote Brown off as a late round depth filler. Brown quickly proved people wrong by securing a starting spot and holding that role for the next four seasons before hitting free agency in 2009 and departing for the New York Giants. During his time in battle red, Brown started 47 games, contributed 256 combined tackles, 197 solo tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, and 4 fumble recoveries. While Brown may not have been the flashiest player out there, he was a dependable backstop for Houston’s defense.
Unfortunately, Brown found recently himself in the news cycle recently for allegedly trying to defraud an NFL players health care plan. While this doesn’t tarnish his on-field accomplishments, it certainly takes him out of the running for Top 5 Humanitarians in Texans History.
#4 Andre Hal
Unlike Brown, Hal was and still is an inspiring player. Selected in the 7th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by your Houston Texans, the Vanderbilt product took the field in the Texans first game of the 2014 season against the Washington (insert new name here). While Hal didn’t start any games his rookie year, he did participate in 14 of them. Originally taken as a cornerback, the Texans moved Hal to safety in 2015, which is where he really came of age.
From 2015 to 2017, Hal started in 38 games, competed in 47 total, plus 4 playoff games. Over the course of his career, Hal contributed 189 combined tackles, 130 solo stops, 31 passes defensed, 6 tackles for loss, 2 quarterback hits, 12 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and a touchdown. Each of those seasons, Hal improved dramatically.
On June 6, 2018, less than a year after he signed a well deserved contract extension, Hal was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and placed on the reserve/non-football injury list. It would seem Hal’s career was over right after it really started taking off. But as a testament to his amazing fortitude, Hal triumphed over cancer and returned to the field in Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. While only participating in 8 games that year, Hal contributed 13 tackles, 5 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions - all this after beating cancer.
Citing personal reasons unrelated to any medical struggles, Hal suddenly retired last year. I have no doubt he’s succeeding in the next phase of his career away from the football field.
#3 Danieal Manning
Originally taken by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, if Manning would have spent his whole career in Houston, he’d be the undisputed king of this hill. As it was, his Houston career wouldn’t start until he signed with the Texans as a free agent on July 28, 2011. He made his mark in Week 4 when he picked off Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselback and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. Over four years (well, 3.5 actually) in Houston, Manning had 206 combined tackles, 156 solo tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and 26 passes defensed.
The Texans somewhat surprisingly released Manning in the 2014 offseason and the wily veteran joined the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals would part ways with Manning six months later, and he returned to H-Town to finish his career.
#2 Bernard Pollard
Just like Manning, if Pollard had spent his career in Houston, he’d be #1 on this list. Pollard was also taken in the 2006 Draft, but by the Kansas City Chiefs. Dubbed “The Patriot Killer” by many, Pollard was one of the hardest hitting safeties of the 21st century, including the hit that ended Tom Brady’s 2008 season and gave him his nickname. Pollard would go on to hold the top tackler role for the Chiefs in ‘08, finishing with 98 total.
After the Chiefs surprisingly cut him, Pollard signed with the Texans shortly after the 2009 season began and had the best season of his NFL career, with 102 total tackles, 4 interceptions, and 2 touchdowns. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for the rising star as Pollard recorded 111 total tackles in 2010. Unfortunately, that’s where his time in battle red ended. When all was said and done, Pollard gave the Texans 214 total tackles, 164 solo stops, 7 tackles for loss, 6 QB hits, 4 interceptions, 4 touchdowns, and 12 passes defensed.
Oh, and he also earned a Super Bowl ring, but not until Houston let him go to the Baltimore Ravens.
#1 Justin Reid
While this may cause some heated debate, the former Stanford starting safety has more than earned his place on top of this list. In just two seasons, Reid has started 27 games, caught 5 interceptions (including the franchise record 101 yard pick-six in Washington in 2018), contributed 166 tackles, 127 solo stops, 3 tackles for loss, 3 fumble recoveries, and 1 forced fumble.
The younger brother of the aforementioned Eric Reid, a Pro Bowl safety in his own right, Reid is not only the best safety in Texans history; he’s the best defensive back the team has ever drafted. Just watch his stop of Leonard Fournette in the 2019 Week 2 game against the Jaguars that sealed the win to realize what a special talent Reid really is.
Ranked widely as a first or second round selection, Reid was touted as one of- if not the - best safety in the 2018 NFL Draft. Somehow, thankfully, every team passed on Reid until he found himself still available when Houston went on the clock with the 68th overall pick. Reid was inexplicably the fifth safety taken in the draft, and you can bet the teams that passed on him are kicking themselves right now for not being able to, well, pass on him.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James, Terrell Edmunds and Jessie Bates III were all selected ahead of Reid; Fitzpatrick and James have both made the Pro Bowl thus far. While it was a deep safety class, Reid has shown he was built for the spotlight and should continue to anchor the Texans’ last line of defense for years to come.
Before we conclude this, we need to take a minute and give honorable mention to several others such as Kareem Jackson who switched to safety in his final Texans season; Quintin Demps, who flashed brilliance more than once; Eric Brown; and J.J. Watt (because if J.J. played safety, watch out!).
That’s the latest Top Five Best list. If you missed the rest, here they are:
Five Best Texans Running Backs
Five Best Texans Wide Receivers
Five Best Texans Defensive Linemen
How would you rank them? Agree with the list? Think someone got snubbed? Give us your take in the comments section.