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Examining the defensive backs


Faggins is predicting more turnovers for the Texans D in 2007.

With the Texans linebackers and defensive line looking primed for outstanding seasons in 2007, the success of the defense may hinge on the performance of the secondary. The defensive backfield struggled at times last season, but is poised to improve with a cohesive unit returning and some new talent coming in. {QUOTE}

The starting unit returns completely intact from last year, led by cornerback Dunta Robinson, who has turned in two solid seasons following up his outstanding rookie campaign of 2004. Cornerback Demarcus Faggins and safeties Glenn Earl and C.C. Brown round out the top of the depth chart, all bringing with them at least 10 starts from last season. Were it not for injuries, the four may well have started every game together in 2006.

There will be no shortage of competition in training camp with the likes of Dexter McCleon, Jason Simmons and free-agent acquisition Jamar Fletcher, who snagged three interceptions with the Detroit Lions last season, all ready to challenge for playing time.

The Texans also added rookie fourth-round draft pick Fred Bennett, fresh off of two All-SEC seasons at the University of South Carolina.

Faggins, only a sixth-year pro but the elder statesman of the starting lineup in this young secondary, likes what he sees from the rookie thus far.

"He's a nice player," Faggins said. "He's got the ability, it's just about learning how to play in the league."

Bennett should have an easier time adjusting to the league than most rookies, having already established a sort of teacher-student relationship with Robinson in their one year playing together at South Carolina. And Bennett will also benefit from the growing camaraderie among the defensive backs, who have quickly become a tight-knit group during the offseason.

"We're starting to come together quicker than normal," Faggins said. "Really, in the past, and I've been here since the beginning, it's kind of like we had to come in and kind of learn the ropes on our own.

"But it seems easier now, because it seems like everybody gets in pretty early. So you get a chance to meet them, kind of hang out with them, get a chance to know everybody. We kind of know each other and how we all play and everything, so we kind of give each other pointers on how to make ourselves better."

This increased closeness comes as no surprise, given that 2007 will be at least the third consecutive season with the Texans for all four projected starters in the secondary. That continuity should lead to improvements over last season, when the Texans finished 22nd in the NFL in passing yards allowed and tied for 28th in the league in interceptions with 11.

Look for the Texans defensive backs to also get a boost from the emerging talent in the defense's front seven. Faggins is confident that his unit will make more plays with linebacker DeMeco Ryans, a healthy Mario Williams and new tackle Amobi Okoye wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

"We're going to get a lot more turnovers than we did last year because in addition to everything else, we picked up a couple of guys on the d-line," Faggins said. "We can kind of get more pressure on the quarterback to have to make a decision, and hopefully we can get the quarterbacks to make mistakes."

Faggins was especially impressed with Okoye and tackle Jeff Zgonina during OTA's in May. And he was even more excited about the opportunities their play might create for he and his teammates in the secondary.

"I just can't wait to see them out there playing against somebody that's not on our team, so (the secondary) can make those kind of big plays," he said.

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