The free agent additions of cornerback Johnathan Joseph and free safety Danieal Manning helped catapult the Texans from 32nd to third in passing defense last season. The standout seventh-year veterans will lead the Texans' secondary yet again in 2012.
Joseph made the Pro Bowl in 2011 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. Only two wide receivers topped 80 yards against Joseph in 2011, Anquan Boldin of the Ravens and Steve Smith of the Panthers.
"He's been our bell cow," Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said last December. "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."
Manning missed three games with a broken fibula in 2011 but brought much-needed leadership, range and ball skills to the back end of the defense. He had two interceptions, ranked fourth on the team with 59 tackles and had five passes defensed in 2011.
Strong safety Glover Quin ranked second on the team with 77 tackles and had nine passes defensed in 2011 after playing cornerback in his first two seasons. Cornerback Kareem Jackson, a 2010 first-round pick out of Alabama, had six passes defensed with one interception.
Brice McCain ranked second on the team with 13 passes defensed in 2011 and had two interceptions and a touchdown. A sixth-round pick in 2009, McCain is one of the Texans' fastest players and is regarded by his coaches as one of the best nickel corners in the league.
Cornerback Alan Ball, a sixth-year pro, signed from the Dallas Cowboys in June. He could vie for some of the reps vacated by Jason Allen, who rotated with Jackson over the last two seasons and signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. Other cornerbacks in the mix are third-year pros Sherrick McManis and Torri Williams and second-year pros Brandon Harris and Roc Carmichael.
Troy Nolan, the Texans' top backup safety in 2011, enters his fourth NFL season. Other safeties on the roster heading into camp are Quintin Demps, who re-signed this offseason after picking off two passes in nine games in 2011; Shiloh Keo, a 2011 fifth-round pick from Idaho; and Eddie Pleasant, a promising undrafted rookie from Oregon.