The 2012 secondary for the Houston Texans wasn’t bad … but it certainly couldn’t be called good either. Glover Quin, who left the Texans in free agency this summer, was rated as just the 40th-best safety in the NFL, despite having almost 1,200 snaps in the Texans defense last season. The Texans suffered many injuries (at one point playing without cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph, Brice McClain and Alan Ball), but that’s no excuse for being near the bottom of the league. Against the Green Bay Packers they allowed Aaron Rodgers to throw six touchdowns. Only four quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown more than that in a game.
Thankfully, the Texans have done what they could this offseason to improve, letting some flotsam leave (have fun in Detroit, Quin) signing some good personnel (Ed Reed!) and drafting some outstanding rookies (A.J. Bouye and D.J. Swearinger).
Moving from left to right across the depth chart, let’s discuss the strong side cornerback. Kareem Jackson is the man for the Texans. He’s only 25, but he’s already an outstanding player. In 2012, he had 53 tackles, four interceptions, one interception returned for a touchdown and 16 passes defended.
The backup job will probably go to Brandon Harris, who struggled a little in 2012 at the nickel back spot after McCain went down with an injury. Bouye, an undrafted rookie out UCF, is working hard to prove to the Texans he deserves to be on the 53-man roster, and could take this spot from Harris.
At strong safety, Danieal Manning has the starting role. In 47 chances, he allowed a ridiculous 72.3% completion. But he’s still got something to offer the Texans, as he’s very fast and can use his size and speed in run situations. Reed (or whoever plays for him the first few weeks) will have to help Manning out in coverage, but Manning is still an asset. It looks like Eddie Pleasant has the backup job here at least until Reed is healthy, though Pleasant sprained his knee last week.
Free safety belongs to Reed, but until he’s fully recovered from an April hip surgery, either Shiloh Keo or Swearinger will fill in here. Reed is already a Hall-of-Fame player at 34 years of age, and could still have a few seasons left on him depending on how his hips hold up. He had 58 tackles, three fumble recoveries and four interceptions last season for the Baltimore Ravens.
Most Texans fans want Keo off of the Texans’ roster, but he’ll serve some role on the Texans this season, whether that’s filling in for Reed or playing on special teams. But some good news has just come down on this front, as it’s being reported that Swearinger could start at free safety in the preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. Swearinger is already building a reputation in the league, as he ended Dustin Keller’s season with a hit last Saturday.
Starting at the free-side cornerback is Joseph, who made his second consecutive Pro Bowl despite playing the majority of 2012 with a sports hernia. He had a few offseason “procedures”, and is now moving rather well. He is the main reason that Jackson has progressed so much at the opposite side of the field, and is probably one of the 10 best cornerbacks in the NFL.
McCain will back up Joseph, and also serve as the starting nickel back. In 2012, McCain suffered a foot injury that put him on the injured reserve, but he’s still got the perfect amount of speed and agility for the position. The Texans re-signed McCain in the offseason to a three-year, $5.25 million deal.
Roc Carmichael could sit at third on the depth chart behind McCain and Joseph, and will probably consider himself lucky to make the roster after a rookie season spent on the injured reserve and very limited playing time in his sophomore year. He is extremely fast though, and could see extensive use on special teams.
If Reed starts before Week 3 and the other starters for the Texans can stay healthy, this unit could be much-improved compared to last season. At the least, they probably won’t give up six passing touchdowns in a game again.