Texans had a plan, stuck to it

Posted April 29, 2011 @ 11:42 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

I heard the disappointment all the way from Houston when the Texans made the — bad draft word here — "safe pick" with Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt.

I felt their fans' frustration when the next pick was a pass rusher (Brooks Reed) and not a cornerback.

But as we always see in the draft, you need to look at the full picture to look at how a team handled its picks.

That's why the Texans, who found great value in the bottom of Round Two with Miami (Fla.) CB Brandon Harris, did well for themselves on Thursday and Friday. They trusted their board and knew that they needed several picks to rebuild that defense.

Wade Phillips convinced GM Rick Smith to go for the hardest spots to fill first — left defensive end and pass rusher. Watt will shield Connor Barwin on the left side and crush opponents' strong-side run games, and Reed will bubble Mario Williams. How can you not like that arrangement?

On Reed, LB coach Reggie Herring said: "I think Day One when he comes in, we're expecting him to play. Whether he's a starter or not, that's up to him."

The fact that they landed Harris, a possible first-round pick, is just gravy. Harris and Kareem Jackson are both tough, physical corners who will be able to hand fight with receivers in the chuck zone and stick close to them with the pressure that this suddenly fierce front seven can provide.

"When you watch this kid play, he plays like a five- or six-year NFL vet," secondary coach Vance Joseph said. "His route recognition, his football IQ, was very, very high."

I really like the transformation of this team. Are they done yet? No, sir. But so far, they are finding building blocks.

Everyone talks about Phillips running a 3-4 defense, and he does. But on third downs they shift to a 4-3 under front, which opens up the possibilities. You can put Barwin and Williams at end and perhaps move Watt inside with Antonio Smith.

"I look to him to play at defensive end on first and second downs and maybe go inside on third downs, but that remains to be seen," Phillips said.

Perhaps we jumped the gun a bit on the Texans last year, but things are starting to fall in place for this team.