HOUSTON — After ending the season ranked 28th within the NFL in passing protection, the Houston Texans have some work to do on their secondary.
There may be one place head coach Invoice O’Brien would love normal supervisor Brian Gaine to begin.
“There is no doubt we’d like to have Tyrann [Mathieu] again,” O’Brien mentioned final week on the NFL scouting mix.
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And whereas the Texans head coach mentioned a number of occasions that the free-agency side of the sport is “a enterprise” and that “it takes two to tango,” there is no doubt Mathieu was one in all few brilliant spots in Houston’s cross protection final season.
The previous Arizona Cardinals security rapidly turned a pacesetter within the locker room after becoming a member of the group final March and was a difference-maker on the sector as properly. Mathieu was introduced in to play security, however he was moved across the discipline due to accidents within the secondary. He guess on himself final offseason when he signed a one-year, $7 million contract, and it paid off. Mathieu is ready to obtain a giant payday from somebody this offseason.
“He is a man that basically meant so much to our locker room,” O’Brien mentioned. “I’ve mentioned it time and time once more, this man got here in and was there from the offseason program after which on the finish of coaching camp was voted a group captain. I believe that claims so much concerning the influence he had, not simply as a participant — he is soccer participant, he is a wise soccer participant, he is a flexible participant — but additionally, what he meant leadership-wise within the locker room.”
The Texans have one other veteran coming into free company in longtime Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson, who was the Texans’ first-round decide in 2010. The veteran moved from nook to security final offseason and had a variety of success on the place early within the season, however he ended up primarily enjoying cornerback, once more, due to accidents.
“Kareem had a extremely good 12 months for us, additionally,” O’Brien mentioned. “Once more, he is a flexible participant. He is a man that has management qualities. He is been with us for the reason that day I walked in right here. He is an authentic Texan, was drafted as a Texan and has had profession right here.”
Jackson is coming off of his greatest NFL season, with a career-high 87 tackles and 17 passes defended. He additionally had two interceptions, two pressured fumbles, a fumble restoration and a sack. Although the group valued what Jackson did final season, it appears unlikely it could deliver again each Mathieu and Jackson, particularly if Jackson returns to enjoying security. With Justin Reid coming off a profitable rookie season, solely one in all Jackson or Mathieu is critical.
The Texans’ first noteworthy roster transfer of the offseason was of their secondary. On Tuesday they launched Kevin Johnson, who would have been owed greater than $9 million for his fifth-year choice if he was on the roster in the beginning of the brand new NFL 12 months. The 2015 first-round decide missed nearly all of the 2018 season after struggling a concussion within the opener in opposition to the Patriots and has performed in solely 35 video games in his first 4 seasons. Whereas it is attainable Johnson may return on a less expensive contract, the Texans weren’t prepared to pay him prime greenback on the place; he was set to make extra per season than veteran cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph and Aaron Colvin.
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Joseph will return for the second 12 months of the two-year, $10 million contract he signed a 12 months in the past after a powerful season at age 34. Houston will hope for extra from Colvin, who signed a four-year deal price $34 million in 2018. Colvin missed time final season after injuring his ankle, however even after he returned, he didn’t play on the degree the Texans have been hoping for once they signed him and was a wholesome scratch down the stretch.
“[Colvin] most likely anticipated himself to play and carry out higher, too,” Gaine mentioned. “I’d say this: Aaron handled some damage final 12 months. Sadly, he tried to come back again from that damage and possibly did not play in addition to he hoped, so we’re hoping Yr 2 of free company, you get a greater dividend and extra contributions from the nickel place.”
The entrance seven is clearly the spotlight and point of interest of the Houston protection proper now — it is exhausting for that to not be the case when J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are lining up collectively — but it surely’s not exhausting to see simply how good the unit could possibly be. The protection gave up a mean of simply 19.eight factors per sport final season, tied for fourth within the NFL, regardless of all of the modifications within the secondary. In 2016, Houston thrived defensively with a cornerback trio of Jackson, Joseph and A.J. Bouye. Since Bouye’s departure, there was a giant gap within the secondary.
“On the defensive facet of the ball, the power of our group, clearly, sits within the entrance seven. As a lot as you’ll be able to stress the quarterback, stress the quarterback, stress the soccer, that is critically necessary,” Gaine mentioned. “At nook, we’re coping with some free-agent conditions and we’ve to navigate that over the following coming weeks. So, we’ll proceed to attempt to construct the protection and make it a power of the group.”