If everyone stays healthy, this defense could be tremendous. DE J.J. Watt and OLBs Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus (all former first-round draft picks) could give Houston one of the fiercest pass rushes in the league. Free-agent additions Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu and Aaron Colvin refurbish a defensive backfield that had been slipping. Zach Cunningham had a nice rookie season and should anchor the Texans’ LB corps for years to come. The personnel is strong, and the schedule is appealing. There are no powerhouse offenses in the AFC South, and the Texans will also play games against the Browns, Bills, Jets, Giants and Dolphins.
Some key members of this unit have alarming injury histories. Watt has had back issues, and his 2017 season ended in early October, when he sustained a tibial plateau fracture. Clowney was healthy last season but missed 17 games over his first three NFL seasons with a litany of ailments. The diminutive Mathieu also played 16 games last season but dealt with numerous injuries earlier in his career. Mercilus missed 11 games last year with a torn pectoral muscle. Granted, the personnel looks good, but the Houston defense was poor last year, ranking 20th overall and 28th in fantasy scoring.
The Houston defense is a swing-for-the-fences fantasy play with a great deal of upside and a great deal of risk. With good luck on the medical front, this could be one of the best units in the league. On the other hand, it seems a stretch to think that this group will stay healthy all year.