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NFL Houston Texans

Ed Reed Ruled Out For Week 1; What’s Next for Houston Texans?

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

While it may be a surprise to some who were predicting a speedy recovery, I’ve been steadfast in my belief that we wouldn’t see Ed Reed playing in a Houston Texans regular season game until near the end of September.

While it still hasn’t been made official by the team, multiple sources are now reporting it, including the most trusted name in NFL reporting:

With Reed out, where do the Texans turn now?

The answer from coaches has been that Shiloh Keo would fill in at free safety if he couldn’t go by Week 1, and that seems to be the way things are headed. While at first this is the kind of news that gives Texans fans cold sweats, it might be okay just for one game.

Now, before you think I’m hitting the sauce a little early in the morning to be saying something like that, let me explain.

Keo may start the game this evening, and if he does, I expect the Chargers to challenge him. They would be foolish not to. But, much like how quickly Quintin Demps was pulled when the Houston secondary was getting bombed against Green Bay last season, if he’s getting killed, he won’t be on the field all night.

That’s why I still expect rookie safety D.J. Swearinger to see some time this evening. It may not be the lion’s share of the snaps, but he’ll be out there. Any rookie mistakes he might make would prove to not be as costly as having the possibility of Keo trying to tackle a ball carrier in the open field.

This does mean that the Houston pass rush will have more opportunities, however. In his first game as the uncontested starter, Whitney Mercilus needs to prove that he was worth the Texans’ first round pick that was burned on him in 2012. He showed flashes as a rookie, but in small portions of playing time, he still had plenty to improve upon.

With Antonio Smith sitting this one out after his suspension, the push in the middle is going to have to be provided by his replacement, Jared Crick. Earl Mitchell has shown great improvement during the preseason and being next to some guy named J.J. Watt should help him grow further into that role.

If fans don’t believe a great defensive coordinator like Wade Phillips can “hide” a guy like Keo on the field, well then they haven’t spent much time studying this scheme. Ultimately, the players have to make the plays, but he can find a way to keep the damage to a minimum. If not, then there is no harm in throwing the rookie Swearinger into the fire.

With the Houston pass rush going up against a weaker and less experienced offensive line, I think things will be okay for this week. But in the weeks ahead, Reed needs to get out there or there could be serious problems when Houston matches up against some tougher quarterback play.

Mike Kerns is a Houston Texans writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and on Google. You can also listen to his Texans Luv Ya Steel Blue podcast on iTunes.