The Texans roster improvement process is ALWAYS ongoing. Periods of player procurement don't take place in silos. The free agency silo doesn't exist, neither does the draft silo nor the in-season silo. GM Brian Gaine and head coach Bill O'Brien are constantly looking at what exists "on the street" all the time. Whether it's the middle of September or the first week in May, they are constantly examining what players can come in and impact this organization.
Enter Jahleel Addae.
The former Chargers safety was released just prior to the start of the new league year. He started 59 games over the past six seasons for San Diego/Los Angeles. The former Central Michigan star started 16 games each of the past two seasons, racking up 171 tackles in the process. He was ultra-productive for the Chargers, but was still on the proverbial free agent street. After not adding a safety in the draft process, Brian Gaine saw an opportunity to add more experience to the secondary after losing Andre Hal to retirement a month ago.
When I first saw the news about Addae signing in Houston, I thought about the one word that Gaine often uses to describe players brought to this organization.
Immediately, I thought about the Chargers playoff win over Baltimore and the way that the Chargers defensive staff chose to attack Baltimore's varied running attack. In that game, the Chargers had to hang on at the end as Jackson roared back in the fourth quarter, but for most of that game the Chargers defense confused and dominated the Ravens and Jackson's ground-based offense. Why?
Well, it wasn't just Addae, but he was a big reason why. The Chargers had some injuries at the linebacker position which created a little bit of a dilemma for their defensive staff. But, with two safeties like Adrian Phillips and Addae, they came up with a plan that not only took advantage of their versatility, but made for a better match against this offense.
Addae played inside linebacker.
The Chargers chose to play four defensive linemen and SEVEN defensive backs, figuring that it was best to keep speed on the field in lieu of banged-up thumpers at linebacker. So, Addae and Phillips moved inside. How valuable was Addae in that scheme? Take a look at the first drive of the game. The Ravens ran six plays, picking up only one first down. Addae had a different responsibility and alignment on each play.
Play 1 – 1st-and-10 – Addae aligned at inside linebacker as the Ravens ran midline, trying to catch defensive end Joey Bosa sleeping/reading incorrectly. Addae was responsible for the inside run as the backside inside linebacker.
Play 2 – 2nd-and-11 – Addae aligned at inside linebacker and had ILB pass responsibility in zone in the middle field.
Play 3 – 3rd-and-6 – The Ravens initially started in a bunch set to the right of the formation. Then, Jackson motioned for Willie Snead to shift to the left side. Addae stayed over the tight end on that offensive right side.
When No. 86 Mark Andrews motioned to the left side of the offensive formation, Addae went across the formation with him. As a result, he was playing inside linebacker, bumping Desmond King inside, and moved with Andrews to play the nickel spot on the other side. He then dropped in zone coverage as the nickel defensive back.
Play 4 – 1st-and-10 – The Ravens had a bunch on the left side and Addae widened from his linebacker position out to the trips. When Andrews went in motion again, he bumped back to his inside linebacker position. When Jackson ran play-action, Addae matched Willie Snead on his shallow route then passed him off to Phillips. Then, Addae moved up to match running back Gus Edwards. Jackson wanted to throw to Snead and then Edwards but Addae essentially took them both away. As a result, the Ravens signal-caller was forced to throw the ball away.
Play 5 – 2nd-and-10 – Addae walked out over the Ravens tight end as a will linebacker and the Ravens ran an insert isolation - the tight end jumped back inside like a lead fullback on the inside linebacker. Addae read that key perfectly, slid back inside and made the tackle.
Play 6 – 3rd-and-five – Addae was back at inside linebacker for the Ravens three step drop. He dropped in the middle of the field, playing hook to curl. Jackson didn't find anything open so he started to run and Addae chased after him, helping to force an errant throw.
What I loved about this drive was that Addae played any number of linebacker positions, in addition to playing the nickel spot, given the situation/formation/shift/motion. The responsibilities are so completely varied and different from playing a traditional safety spot and he handled them adroitly. Over the past few years, the Texans defense was at its best when players were lining up all over the formation from down to down. Same player. Different spot. Completely different responsibility. Addae showed in that game, among others, that he'll be able to fit in really well.
Check out some of the best shots of new Texans safety Jahleel Addae. (Photos via AP Images.)