A position-by-position look at the Texans' 2011 season
The free agent signings of cornerback Johnathan Joseph and free safety Danieal Manning helped the Texans improve from 32nd to third in passing defense under Wade Phillips in 2011.
Joseph, a sixth-year veteran who signed from the Cincinnati Bengals, made the Pro Bowl and was named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. He locked down the opposing team's top receiver every week, tied for the Texans' team lead with four interceptions and had a team-high 15 passes defensed.
Manning, a sixth-year pro signed from the Chicago Bears, missed three games with a broken fibula but helped solidify the secondary with his leadership and playmaking skills. He had two interceptions, ranked fourth on the team with 59 tackles and had five passes defensed.
At strong safety was Glover Quin, a converted cornerback who ranked second on the team behind Brian Cushing with 77 tackles. A third-year pro, Quin also had nine passes defensed.
Kareem Jackson started at cornerback opposite Joseph. The 2010 first-round pick made vast improvements in his second season and had six passes defensed and one interception. Cornerback Jason Allen rotated with Jackson and tied for the team lead with four interceptions. He had 11 passes defensed.
Brice McCain excelled as the Texans' nickel cornerback, a position that allowed him to maximize his speed and agility in man coverage. McCain ranked second on the team with 13 passes defensed and had two interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown.
Troy Nolan was the top backup at safety. He played in dime with Quin moving into the slot and started three games for Manning, totaling 32 tackles and four passes defensed. Safety Quintin Demps, signed midway through the season, played in nine games and had 22 tackles, four passes defensed and two interceptions.
Cornerbacks Sherrick McManis and Brandon Harris, a rookie out of Miami, and safety Shiloh Keo, a rookie out of Idaho, saw action primarily on special teams.
Defensive Backs in Review
Starters: CB: Johnathan Joseph (15 games 2 postseason), Kareem Jackson (13 games 2 postseason), Jason Allen (4 games); FS: Danieal Manning (13 games 2 postseason), Troy Nolan (3 games); SS: Glover Quin (16 games 2 postseason)
Newcomers: Joseph (free agent signing), Manning (free agent signing), Brandon Harris (second-round draft pick), Roc Carmichael (fourth-round draft pick), Shiloh Keo (fifth-round draft pick)
Injuries: Carmichael (season-ending shoulder, training camp); Manning (broken fibula, Week 7)
Notable number: 1 – Wide receivers who topped 100 yards against Joseph in 2011 (Anquan Boldin, Ravens – 132 yards on 8 catches in Week 6). Only one other receiver had even 80 yards against Joseph (Steve Smith, Panthers – 82 yards on five catches in Week 15).
Season highlight: Week 7 at Tennessee – Early in the fourth quarter at LP Field, cornerback Brice McCain picked off Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to make the score 41-7. Manning also had an interception in the game, while Joseph had two passes defensed, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. The Texans limited Hasselbeck and Jake Locker to 95 net passing yards and a cumulative passer rating of 41.9.
Quotable: "I think these are the two biggest signings we've had since I've been here. I'm very excited about it." - WR Andre Johnson on July 31, first day of training camp, on Joseph and Manning
"For me, it's all about having our team win. At the end of the day, we close it out and everybody makes good plays, that's what counts for us." - Joseph on Oct. 4, after having two defensive touchdowns nullified by penalties in a 17-10 victory over Pittsburgh at Reliant Stadium
"You could say that. Milk, a lot of protein, and pretty much just rehabbing it." - Manning on Nov. 23, after returning to practice just four weeks after breaking his fibula at Tennessee in Week 7
"(Defensive backs coach) Vance (Joseph) has done a great job with him. He's playing with a lot of confidence. He has had a lot of ups and downs. He had the expectations of a first-round pick and what we went through last year. His toughness has shown, mentally and physically." - Kubiak on Jackson on Dec. 5, a day after Jackson was named the Texans' defensive player of the game against Atlanta in Week 13
"He's been our bell cow. He's the guy that we put on the best receiver every week and most of the time, the best receiver for the other team doesn't do well, so that says a lot for him." - Phillips on Joseph on Dec. 8, leading up to the Texans' Week 14 matchup at Cincinnati
"He's been everything we thought he would be and more. The thing I've been so impressed with, we knew he was a great player, but the leadership he's brought to this team, the stability with all those young guys back there… He and D-Manning not only deserve a lot of credit of how they've played, but the leadership they've brought." - Kubiak on Dec. 9, on if Joseph was even better than expected