The Texans' defense came on strong at the end of the year, making it hard to say goodbye to the 2008 season. The defensive players evaluated their performances and talked about their expectations for next season.
FS Dominique Barber
(on if he ever guessed his rookie season would be like this) "Yeah, you know, we had some ups; we had some downs. But one thing I learned about this team is there's fight. We fought every game. We gave our effort 100 percent every game and we finished off 8-8. That's great in this league, and I just know we have an offseason now and we just have to get ready."
(on how he is going to spend his offseason) "I'm going to go check out our bowl game in Tempe (AZ). The (Minnesota) Gophers have Kansas. So, go Gophers. But other than that, I'll probably go home, maybe be with my brother (Cowboys RB Marion Barber) and go work out with him somewhere. So, I don't really even know what I'm going to do."
(on if he has heard from his brother since Dallas' loss to the Eagles) "You know, I have not heard from him. Hopefully, he's doing alright."
(on the most important thing he learned this year) "You know, I think the biggest thing is just the fact of being mentally and physically able to handle the year. It's a long year, especially being a rookie. You have to go through the combine, the draft, OTAs, minicamp. Everything happened so fast. So, it was a long year. It drains you, but over the course of the year you understand it."
CB Fred Bennett
(on what does the defense have to focus on to take the strides like the offense did this season) "I'll leave that to upstairs. I'm pleased with the guys we have. I think we've got a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. I think it's just a point of being consistent. We've got to be more consistent as a defense. So, I'm really pleased with what we've got right now. But whatever they decide to do in the draft or free agency, I'm pretty sure they will better our team."
(on if this was a weird year for him) "Very weird. Like I said, I've been through some things, but it never got me down. I'm a man. I'm a strong man. I'm young. I'm only in my second year, but I've got a lot of confidence in my abilities. That's just how I've been brought up."
(on if CB Dunta Robinson helped him the most through this year) "Most definitely. He's (CB Dunta Robinson) just a good guy, but not only him, you know (LB) DeMeco (Ryans) and (DE) Mario (Williams). I had guys come to me and they kept me up and I really appreciate them for that. But, I kind of took it upon myself. I knew it wouldn't get me down. Like I said, I believe in myself too much and I knew I could play this game. So, it really didn't affect me at all."
(on what will he personally focus on this offseason) "Everything. I'm going to get stronger, faster, quicker - whatever I have to do to better my game, to better myself as an NFL football player I'm going to do."
(on if he is encouraged by the strides the defense made at the end of year) "Most definitely. I thought we came on strong the last couple of games. We went on a four game winning streak. We went down to Oakland and we kind of let people down, but I thought we finished out the year strong yesterday. So, I'm really pleased."
(on what is the key to improvement next year) "Just everybody coming back and willing to be that number one defense in the league. We've got a lot of talent over there, man and if we can just be consistent and put everything together and week in and week out and go out there and play hard and work our game plan to perfection I think we'll be alright."
(on the questions about the defensive coaching staff and strategies) "I think players played harder and coaches coached harder. But, like I say, that's the business side of it. I leave that up to the front office. Whoever's in here, I'm going to play for them and they are going to get 100 percent out of me."
(on how much is he focused on his third season and if that is what he's targeting already) "Yeah, most definitely. Year two is behind me. It was behind me yesterday. Today, I'm cleaning up a lot of stuff just trying to finish up here today. But, year two is behind me. I'm focusing on year three already. Yesterday, I was thinking like what can I do to get myself better. So, I'm focusing on year three already and I think it's going to be a good one."
DT Travis Johnson
(on how he evaluates his season personally) "It was alright. I was banged up a little bit, but it was alright."
(on what the coaches have said to him today) "You saw me when I saw you. I just walked in here. So they haven't told me anything. I'm going to see right now."
(on the defense and the strides they want to make next season) "Really, I think just because we've seen how good we could be as far as some of the games we've put together, I think we see that we've got to continue to work hard because we also see some of the other games that we put together—not so good. We don't want to be that defense. We want to be a defense who four weeks in a row didn't let anybody score a touchdown or things like that of that nature."
(on if they need to improve against the run or pass or in both areas) "Both areas, really. Also, we need to get better against the pass as far as our pass rush, because everybody wants to get better. So even if we have 46 sacks this year, we still would say we need to get better against that. We need to get better against the run as far as our run-stopping because some days, we got out of our responsibilities and let things loose. But I think as we're getting older as far as the league – we're such a young defense – as we're getting older, I think those things are going to come really naturally and the pass rush is going to be there like it was at times and the run stopping is going to be there like it was at times and the defensive backs are going to be like it was, the safeties – everybody will come together as a whole soon."
CB Dunta Robinson
(on how close he thinks the team is to being a playoff team) "I think we're pretty much there. We have a few holes we have to fill on the defensive side of the ball. We have to get some more pressure. It's just a few things, a few keys we need here and there, and I think we'll be set. This offseason is critical because we have a lot of players that could possibly be other places, myself being one of them. So if they keep us all together, I think it will be a 12-, 13-win season next year. I honestly believe that for the first time."
(on if he is encouraged by the improvement the defense made in the last few games) "Yeah, I'm encouraged. I think we played better – still not as good as we can, still not as good as we should, but I think we played a lot better than we started. The chemistry between the players on the defensive side of the ball, just in this locker room, period, toward the end of the year, it was outstanding. So we just have to make sure — it's all about keeping us together. Like I said, we'll see what happens. This offseason is going to be big, but I think if the key pieces are left in place, I think the future is bright for us."
(on if he wants to be back with the Texans) "Oh, no doubt about it. I want to be a Texan. I was drafted here and I want to finish my career here. It's going to be a hard-fought battle to get what I think I deserve. We'll see what happens."
(on if he thinks he proved everything he needed to prove to be paid like one of the top corners in the league) "Oh, no doubt. I came into this thing, I missed a year, I practiced for three days and I jumped right into the season. Did I play at the level that I was playing at in 2007? Of course not. I missed a lot of time. I missed a lot of practice time and I wasn't 100 percent, but did I show enough improvement to say, 'OK, give this guy an offseason and he should be back to his normal self in 2009?' Yeah, I showed that. So yeah, I think from the way I played—you know, I watch a lot of corners. Even with the injury I had, I still didn't see too many guys playing that much better than me."
(on how he would feel if he got the franchise tag put on him) "How would I feel? I wouldn't be happy about it. You want something long-term. You want to know that you're going to be locked down for a while. So, I definitely wouldn't be happy about being franchised, but that's the way this thing goes and that's the business part of it."
(on where he was playing at) "I was about 85-90 percent. I just felt rusty pretty much the whole time. It was like OTAs or the start of training camp. I just felt rusty, and I know I have to go through OTAs and I have to go through training camp to kind of get my legs back and get my timing back."
(on his offseason plans) "Offseason plans? I'm just going to relax for a couple of weeks, not too long. I really didn't have an offseason last year, so I'm going to take full advantage of this time off. I spent my offseason last year on the training table, so I'm definitely going to take a break for a minute and then get right back to it. I have to work to become the player I want to become and the player I think I was becoming before my injury, so I won't sit long. I'm going to go to New Jersey and work out probably the month of February and just get right back in the swing of things."
DE Mario Williams
(on how he feels about how the season finished) "You know, I wish it was differently, wish we still had another game, but we're back to .500."
(on if 8-8 is a success rather than a disappointment considering how they started) "I just feel like we just have to start fast and take care of business early. You know, it takes us too long to get started. We just have to start off fast."
(on what it will take to get the defense to make a big improvement like the offense did this season) "We've just got to be accountable. It's there, we've just got to be consistent and we'll be alright."
(on the importance of improving the pass rush) "It's very critical. All four guys have to get better and work harder to get to the quarterback and help the team out."
(on how he views his performance this season) "I have a lot of room for improvement. I've just got to work hard in the offseason and try to get better."
(on if he is happy with the way he played this year) "I'm happy with it but at the same time, like I said, there's a lot more I can do. So I try to get better, work at it."
(on his being recognized for what he does by getting voted to the Pro Bowl) "I would say it's an honor to be selected and, hopefully not just myself, but hopefully more teammates go. And, you know, hopefully we just have a lot more people in it in the future."
(on if his injury would sideline him if there were a game this coming week). "I can't do hypothetical; I can't do that (laughs). I'll be alright, I'm good."
(on if he'll be ok in time for the Pro Bowl) "I'll be fine."