Earlier this week, I did a short scouting report on every offensive player on the team's current roster and promised you that the defense was on its way.
Just know, I will always keep my promises. With no further ado, here's my Breakdown for the defense and special teams (listed in order of the team's Unofficial Depth Chart) heading into Saturday night's matchup with Arizona.
No. 99 JJ Watt
Think of the most effusive adjective you can...he's better than that
No. 96 Tim Jamison
Loved the way he's competed in camp...for a stretch during pass rush 1-on-1s and stunt pass protection drills, he was nearly unblockable...given the team's health issues at NT, wouldn't be surprised to see him there for a handful of snaps too.
No. 74 Julius Warmsley
Doesn't look the part at all...too short, too small, but he's done nothing but make plays...he came to Houston for rookie mini-camp on a try-out, impressed the staff and left with a contract...playing with house money so to speak...his technique and motor help propel him...can also long snap in a pinch
No. 95 Jerrell Powe
Powe stands for Power...when he's got his wind, he's as powerful a nose tackle as there is...seen a little wiggle from him getting upfield on the pass rush, but let's not allow our focus to stray...he's been brought here to protect 56 and the other ILB...haven't seen his kind, i.e big boned, in Houston for a while, if ever...as such, Saturday night v. Arizona will be a new experience for a lot of us.
No. 94 Ricardo Mathews
Learning the nose position, but natural position is the 4-tech (3-4 DE)...when Louis Nix III is healthy, that's where he'll go...playing nose, though, allows him to add to his toolbox...quicker than he looks...powerful with his hands...a former wrestler so he understands leverage and plays with it at the point of attack.
No. 71 Austin Brown
Like Warmsley, not the perfect body type to play over the nose...like Warmsley, he's made plays against the threes in practice...numbers game is going to be tough to make the roster...any snaps he gets in four pre-season games vital for, worst case, practice squad
No. 66 David Hunter
Been in and out of Texans camp for a few years...returned just prior to training camp...he's made some "whoa" plays in camp, but I thought he was better in previous camps...that said, Saturday is perfect showcase for him to get attention heading into Atlanta week.
No. 92 Louis Nix III
Pre-season PUP...nothing worse than injured Irish Chocolate
No. 93 Jared Crick
Maddening, first word that comes to mind...flashes with burst, quickness and power on one play...gets knocked three yards off the ball on the next...consistently hear DL coach Bill Kollar saying the name "Crick", which is both good and bad...will/should get first crack at the spot opposite of Watt.
No. 98 Keith Browner
No one looks the part more than Browner...quiet camp but batted a couple of passes down the past couple of practices...consummate teammate...a guy many are cheering for to make this roster
No. 97 Jeoffrey Pagan
When healthy, motivated and turned up, he can wreck shop...seeing him healthy for training camp was a great sign...like most rookies, he's flashed numerous times...has also been rolled a few times...at 310 pounds, he provides a beefier alternative at DE opposite Watt...consistency is key...should get plenty of reps in the second half on Saturday night to make an impression.
No. 58 Brooks Reed
Been his best camp...fearless, relentless and strong at the point of attack against the run...exclusively OLB in training camp...exclusively ILB in mini-camp and OTAs...best pass rush periods I've seen in his four years here...shouldn't play much on Saturday night.
No. 65 Jason Ankrah
Undrafted rookie out of Nebraska...making transition to 3-4 OLB from 4-3 DE...done it better than anyone expected...has always had athletic ability...seems the stand up spot and its responsibilities fit him better than playing down...better, much better in coverage than expected...if he makes this roster, he needs a 50s number.
No. 91 Lawrence Sidbury
Veteran with perhaps his final opportunity, came in with Quentin Groves early in training camp...has picked up scheme quickly...looks like he's got some juice left...Saturday will tell a clearer story, though
No. 64 Chris McAllister
Undrafted rookie from Baylor, like former BU teammate Terrance Lloyd...uphill climb to get on the roster...special teams and late fourth quarter will be his chance to shine
No. 56 Brian Cushing
He'll be ready, later...that's all you need to know
No. 57 Justin Tuggle
Former quarterback in junior college...only played linebacker for three seasons...only played inside linebacker for half a season...still learning some of the nuances of playing inside...can see the smarts, quickness to the ball and desire to be physical, though...first play in 9-on-7 in training camp, he read the play and knifed into the backfield, making the hit almost simultaneously with the handoff...can't emphasize enough how important this Saturday night game is for him.
No. 53 Max Bullough
Perhaps the most well known undrafted rookie on this roster...should've been drafted in May...better in coverage than I expected him to ever be...calling card is the ability to stuff the run...knows the defense well...will call the defensive signals with his group...can take a significant step toward making the 53 on Saturday night.
No. 63 Terrance Lloyd
Played mainly outside linebacker in college...with some injuries inside, he moved there to have an improved shot at auditioning for the coaching staff.
No. 52 Jeff Tarpinian
Pure football player...when you see him in street clothes, you'd never know he's an NFL player...that said, he's as intelligent a football player as there is...innate ability to avoid trash inside and find the ball...along with Tuggle and Mike Mohamed, he'll compete for the starting spot opposite a healthy Cushing.
No. 54 Mike Mohamed
Similar makeup as Tarpinian but hasn't had the game experience that Tarpinian's had...top notch football instincts...could see him starting next to Cushing...could see him fighting for roster spot......these four games will determine which it'll be for 2014.
No. 50 Akeem Dent
Injured the day prior to the first day in pads and haven't seen him since...need to see him compete
No. 61 Chris Young
Undrafted out of Arizona State, which surprised me a bit...doesn't look the part...shorter and not blessed with a Greek Adonis body...yet, football intelligence helps him immensely...excellent pair of plays earlier this week in pass coverage during a goal line drill...have a feeling that he'll show up when the lights go on.
No. 90 Jadeveon Clowney
Whether he starts or plays at all in the pre-season, it doesn't matter...it's about what he does starting September 7 against RGIII and Redskin company.
No. 59 Whitney Mercilus
Not the same story for Mercilus...incredibly important three weeks...needs to be violent against the run this and every weekend...natural pass rush skills will shine but his ability to play the run will determine the % time he's on the field throughout this season.
No. 47 Quentin Groves
Like Sidbury, this could be Groves' last chance to make a roster...making the most of that shot though...veteran experience...can he threaten the edge consistently?...we'll find out Saturday night.
No. 51 Paul Hazel
Lithe...wiry...sure doesn't look the part of the traditional 3-4 OLB...severe logjam in front of him to make the roster...that said, there are no locks at OLB so three solid weeks in pre-season games will open eyes.
No. 25 Kareem Jackson
Swiss Army knife in the secondary...best training camp I've seen him have since he arrived...won't play much on Saturday, shouldn't play much on Saturday.
No. 34 A.J. Bouye
Aggressive play maker...going to roll the dice and take chances on shorter/intermediate routes...should see a significant amount of time in the first half on Saturday night as he competes for a sub-package spot in the secondary with Brandon Harris, among others
No. 27 Josh Victorian
Seen him get burned...seen him make a trio of huge plays in the passing game...competes his tail off...will get plenty of reps with both the twos and threes, not to mention on special teams.
No. 40 Marcus Williams
Love that he's here...thought highly of him during his career at North Dakota State...took a little while to get attention as he spent most of mini-camp and OTAs acclimating to NFL life...however, he's broken up a number of passes during training camp, most in team situations...tough to crack the roster unless he gets a pick or stars on special teams...a whale of an overall player, just isn't the fastest guy on the field.
No. 24 Johnathan Joseph
Not sure how much J Jo plays this weekend...not sure that it matters...if healthy, he's a lock and a valuable asset on this side of the ball.
No. 26 Brandon Harris
Done a ton of players to watch lists this week for Texans Radio, yet his name hasn't come up...it should have...he'll be in a fight to make this roster...second week of training camp was much more successful than the first...needs a confidence boost and consistency...perhaps the consistency will drive his confidence...J Jo won't do much so he'll get a ton of reps to prove his worth
No. 43 Elbert Mack
Interesting veteran in the mix...tremendous special teams player...loves, craves competition...high football IQ and experience in a few different NFL schemes...rough day in the middle of camp...but bounced back from it well...strongest day in camp was on Thursday as he starred in 1-on-1s and team situations...his special teams play could carve out a spot on the roster
No. 38 Andre Hal
As with Williams, he struggled a bit in mini-camps and OTAs...made a pick while covering Andre Johnson early in camp...confidence seemingly shot through the roof after that...shines mostly in team drills...sticking on the hip of a WR, anticipating his cut and matching that cut in man coverage is the next step in his development...not your typical seventh round selection
No. 36 DJ Swearinger
Seemingly everything in his game has matured...deep coverage in particular...open field tackling will be on display Saturday night, a key aspect of his game that must improve...shouldn't get much time on Saturday though...ready to make the same leap that DeAndre Hopkins is ready to make on offense.
No. 31 Shiloh Keo
As a special teams contributor and a capable backup to Swearinger, Keo is a good fit...he took much of the brunt of the defense's shortcomings last year but he didn't fit the role he was forced into...veteran depth player that can be used in specific situations
No. 35 Eddie Pleasant
Fighting for the second spot behind Swearinger...always been a solid tackler...needs to shine on special teams obviously, but if he creates a turnover on defense, it'll more than help his case
No. 21 Kendrick Lewis
High comfort level with him in charge in the secondary...hasn't made a ton of plays, interceptions and PBUs...little question, though, as to who generates the communication in the back end...keep an eye on him in the team's sub-packages...could be an intriguing chess piece to watch
No. 20 Chris Clemons
More intrigued to see him on Saturday than a lot of other players...what I've seen of him I like, but for safeties, pre-season games are huge...open field tackling will be under the microscope...always around the ball...seen him involved creating/capitalizing on turnovers throughout camp
No. 29 Jawanza Starling
Seen him make more plays in team sessions the past week...with new coaches, new opportunities arise...what can he do with it on Saturday night?...looks the part but he's got to get the coaching staff's attention
No. 39 Lonnie Ballentine
Leg injury early in camp has sidelined him, unfortunately
No. 9 Shane Lechler
As valuable a special teams weapon as there is, as there has been and as there will ever be.
No. 4 Randy Bullock
No. 2 Chris Boswell
LET THE KICKING COMPETITION COMMENCE!
No. 46 Jon Weeks
The fact that you don't know his name is the best news for him...doesn't mean he's not appreciated...in fact it's quite the opposite.