Top performer: DE
Position coach: Bill Kollar (22nd NFL season, 2nd with Texans)
Year in review: Williams, a Pro Bowler in 2008 and 2009, was slowed by a nagging sports hernia injury for most of the season. He finally landed on injured reserve on Dec. 15. He still led the Texans in sacks and upped his career total to 48.0, which ranks seventh in the NFL since his rookie year of 2006.
Barwin was expected to be a high-impact pass rusher in his second NFL season, but he was lost for the year in the first quarter of the season opener against Indianapolis. Bulman missed the entire season with a shoulder injury, and Nading was placed on injured reserve in Week 14.
Defensive end Mark Anderson joined the Texans in Week 4 after being released by the Chicago Bears. In just 11 games, he tied Smith for second on the team with 4.0 sacks, including sacks in two of the last three games of the season.
Starting defensive tackles
Mitchell, a third-round pick out of Arizona, played in 15 games. A high-motor player, he had 28 tackles and made his first-career sack in Week 15 at Tennessee. Tenth-year veteran Lewis signed with the Texans during the bye week (10/25) and had 17 tackles and a sack in 10 games. DeMarrio Pressley was inactive for the final three games of the season after signing from the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad.
Season highlight: Week 2 vs. Washington. Williams dominated with three sacks, two tackles for loss and two passes defensed in the Texans’ dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Two of Williams’ sacks came in the game’s waning minutes. He dropped Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb for a 14-yard loss with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter to help force overtime. He then sacked McNabb on first play of overtime and pressured him into throwing an incomplete pass four plays later.
Season lowlight: Week 1 at Indianapolis. Barwin suffered a gruesome, season-ending ankle injury on the Colts’ 16th play from scrimmage. As he and Smith pursued Colts running back Joseph Addai in the backfield, Smith accidentally collided with Barwin’s lower right leg right just as Barwin planted his foot to cut upfield. Barwin was down for several minutes, writhing in pain as his ankle dangled from his leg, before being carted away to the locker room.
Barwin had led all rookie defensive ends with 4.5 sacks in 2009. The Texans had high hopes for him in 2010, designing a slew of hybrid packages to take advantage of his athletic ability as a rush end. It was a major blow from which the defense never really recovered.
Notable number: 37.5 – Percentage of the Texans’ sacks that Williams has accounted for since 2007. Williams has 43.5 sacks in those four seasons. Only John Abraham of the Falcons (38.1 percent) has accounted for a higher share of his team’s sacks than Williams during that time frame.
Key splits: Williams played in 13 games before going on injured reserve. He had six sacks in five victories, and only 2.5 sacks in eight losses. For his career, Williams has 30 sacks in 36 victories and 18 sacks in 41 losses.
Williams had 2.5 sacks in seven home games in 2010. He had 6.0 sacks in seven games on the road. That was actually a marked difference from his career splits; Williams has 28.5 sacks in 39 career home games compared to 19.5 sacks in 38 career road games. He also has forced seven fumbles at home compared to three on the road.
Quotable: “I definitely want to say, you know, I appreciate the help from the fans behind our bench. It really meant a lot, talking all that noise. It’s great to have 92,000 shut up. "
- Williams, after the Texans’ Week 2 victory at Washington, where he said Redskins fans were taunting him by telling him to “eat a mushroom” in reference to the Super Mario Bros. video game
Looking ahead: Changes are obviously in store as the Texans move from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Williams and Smith will remain at end, while Mitchell and Cody are candidates to start at nose tackle. Barwin and Nading have been moved to outside linebacker.
Anderson, a pleasant surprise in 2010, will be a free agent this offseason. The five-year veteran was tendered by the Texans, but he would be unrestricted if the requirement for free agency returns to four years.