Strong safety Bernard Pollard became a vocal leader and added a physical, ball-hawking presence to the Texans' secondary last season.
The following article contains excerpts from the 2010 Houston Texans Yearbook, the Texans' official season preview magazine, that goes on sale July 30 at Texans Training Camp, presented by Comcast, and the *Go Texan Store at Reliant Stadium.*
Who's here: Bernard Pollard (projected starter), Eugene Wilson (projected starter), Dominique Barber, Troy Nolan, Nicholas Polk, Torri Williams
Who's new: Polk (rookie free agent), Williams (rookie free agent)
Who's gone:John Busing (free agent), Nick Ferguson (free agent), Brian Russell (free agent)
Strong safety Bernard Pollard helped lead a dramatic turnaround for the Houston defense in 2009. He was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs just before the season despite leading them in tackles in 2008. After the Texans signed him three weeks later, he quickly became a vocal leader and added a physical, ball-hawking presence to the secondary.
Pollard did a little bit of everything, recording 102 tackles, four interceptions, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, three fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns. The Texans' defense went from worst in the league through three games without him to second in run defense (84.3 yards/game) and fourth in overall defense (312.9 yards/game) over the final 13 with him.
"Picking up a player like Bernard basically off the streets, what he brought to our team, it doesn't happen very often," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said after the season. "So give Rick (Smith) and the scouting department a lot of credit, and the job that David (Gibbs) did with him. He's a hungry kid. He got let go in one place, he's hungry to do it right this time, and we're fortunate that he's doing it right here."
Starting free safety Eugene Wilson is coming off of a shortened season in which he played in only eight games. He missed one game with a knee injury, one game with flu-like symptoms and six games because of a season-ending foot injury. He still managed to record two interceptions and one forced fumble, showing the ball skills that led to the Texans signing him in 2008.
Dominique Barber, a 2008 rookie, started six games last season. He recorded his first-career touchdown on a fumble recovery in Week 1 and his first-career interception in Week 15. Troy Nolan, a 2009 seventh-round draft pick out of Arizona State, spent his rookie season on injured reserve and is in the mix for playing time at free safety. Nicholas Polk, an undrafted rookie from Indiana, and Torri Williams, an undrafted rookie from Purdue, will be competing for roster spots during training camp.
Spotlight on: Bernard Pollard Coach's commentary
*"You can't hide him. He's a big, physical presence, even in practice in shorts. You know he's out there every day. He's a competitive guy, so there's always something going on, a fight or a screaming match or something, with Bernard. That's his personality. I'll be surprised if he's not a Pro Bowl safety this year, the way he works and the maturity he has developed on and off the field. He's become the leader of our group in the back end, and I think the sky's the limit for the guy."
*- Defensive backs coach David Gibbs