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Houston Texans

Position Breakdowns: Safeties & Cornerbacks


Two years after the Texans reset the secondary with the selections of Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre, in addition to the signing of Steven Nelson, the Texans will need to address the secondary for 2024 and beyond. They have just four active players from the Divisional playoff game against Baltimore under contract for 2024.

Now, Stingley Jr, Pitre and Jimmie Ward are under contract and that's a nice place to start, but that trio missed 21 games between them in 2023 due to injury. So, there's definitely some work to do. The good news is that this draft class is otherworldly at cornerback. The bad news is that free agency isn't nearly as bountiful with great options.

Either way, let's dive into our Position Breakdown for the Texans' secondary for 2024.

Under contract, returning for 2023

CB Derek Stingley Jr - 2022 1st round selection

In this very article last year, I wrote…

"When he's right and healthy, there's no more talented cover corner than the youngster from LSU. Now, he's only played 19 games in three seasons, so there's still some raw spots to work through, but his god given ability and competitiveness stand out every single day. I can't wait to see him in year two."

I feel really, REALLY good about those words following the season that the Pro Bowl alternate had in 2024. It didn't start off well, though, with a hamstring injury that created issues for the defense starting in week three. But, Sting returned for the Cincinnati game and didn't look back. He had interceptions in the next three games, one of which is perhaps the most athletic defensive play of this season and many others. Former Broncos QB Russell Wilson will never forget seeing his big WR Courtland Sutton down the seam, seemingly wide open, and then Stingley Jr closing in and going up over Sutton to steal it away. My goodness. The sky's the limit for the soon-to-be third year star.

2023 stats (11 games) - 39 tackles, FIVE INT, 13 passes defensed, 1.0 TFL

S Jalen Pitre - 2022 2nd round selection

Over the past four or five weeks of the 2023 season, Pitre played some of his best football of that year. He's such an asset to this team, and this defense, going forward and was a captain in just his second season. He has such heart and spirit and is the right player in the back end for this defense. He has to continue to play with his hair on fire, but under control so he's making more plays for this defense in 2024

2023 stats (15 games) - 84 tackles, 6.0 TFL, five passes defensed, one FF, one FR, two QB hits

S Jimmie Ward - 2023 Free Agent signing

Man, when Ward was healthy and on the field, he was a major asset to the defense. In fact, when he was on the field, this defense had some of its best performances. He sealed the game against the Broncos with an interception in the end zone. He's a leader. He's tough. He's fearless in run support. I just hope that he can be fully healthy heading into the 2024 season, his 11th in the league.

2023 stats (Ten games) - 50 tackles, one INT, three Passes defensed, one FF.

S M.J. Stewart - 2023 contract extension

With Ward on the mend through the beginning of the season, Stewart stepped in to play a ton of meaningful snaps before he, unfortunately, was lost for the season with an injury in the win over Tampa Bay. The veteran's leadership and versatility are key for this Texans defense and special teams in 2024.

2023 stats (Eight games) - 22 tackles, one FF, one FR

CB Ka'dar Hollman - 2023 Free Agent signing

Hollman stepped into the starting void when Derek Stingley Jr was unavailable mid-season. He carved out a niche on the field as a third cover corner throughout the remainder of the season. He'll be back in Houston for 2024 as the only Texan defensive back to play all 17 games in 2023.

2023 stats (17 games) - Ten tackles, one FR

Nickel/CB D'Angelo Ross - 2024 contract extension

The Texans re-signed Ross early in 2024 to return to the defense and special teams units. He's provided great play on special teams throughout his stint in Houston and would love an opportunity to show what he can do on defense in 2024 and beyond.

2023 stats (13 games) - Eight tackles

S Brandon Hill - 2023 7th round selection

Hill was selected in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft and was ready to make an impact on this team. But, he suffered an injury that kept him off the field for a significantly long period and that really hijacked his rookie season, other than two games of special teams work. He's a hammerhead hitter and plays with a Floridian's confidence. I just want to see him healthy to see what he can do at this level.

2023 stats (Two games) - no stats

CB Troy Pride - 2024 Future contract signing

The Texans brought in Pride late in the 2023 season with designs on signing him to a futures contract. He's built like a cover corner and runs like one too (4.4 at the Combine in 2020). With a full offseason of work and time with the coaching staff, it'll be interesting what Pride is able to show this staff.

2023 stats - no games for Houston

S Josh Thompson - 2024 Future contract signing

Thompson originally signed with the Jaguars before moving on to Tennessee for the past two seasons. He was signed to a futures contract in early 2024 after playing in six games in Tennessee.

2023 stats (Six games) - four tackles

2022 Texans' unrestricted free agents - status unknown to this point

CB Steven Nelson

Nelson's 2023 season was stellar. He tied a career high with four interceptions and then went to a different status level with Texans fans with the pick six in the playoff win over Cleveland. No one will ever forget seeing Nelson fly down the sideline with a convoy of blockers, heading into the South end zone with the first of two pick sixes in that 45-14 win. Nelson's two seasons in Houston far exceeded the expectations anyone outside the building had for him. He put together two of the better overall CB seasons since I've been in the building (2014).

2023 stats (17 games) - 63 tackles, four INT (tied for career high),12 passes defensed

Nickel Desmond King II

What a season it was for King II in Houston in 2023. He was waived after training camp and actually played against the Texans in week four as a member of the Steelers. Then, he returned to Houston when the Texans had injury issues in the secondary. He made one of the defensive stops of the season against Jacksonville in week 12 on the one defensive play he played. He then started the next week and didn't look back. He was outstanding in the nickel role for the rest of the season, making tackles and plays all over the field. He had a couple of huge plays taken away from him too, like the early blown whistle against Denver. Either way, he embraced the nickel role in Houston last year and was a key figure in the Texans run to the playoffs.

2023 stats (Seven games) - 41 tackles, 1.0 sacks, two passes defensed

S DeAndre Houston-Carson

The Texans signed Houston-Carson just prior to the Baltimore game, waived him and then re-claimed him later in the season. Upon his return, he was fantastic, providing stability at the safety position and making key plays throughout the season. He had a key interception against the Bengals in week nine and started the remainder of the season.

2023 stats (13 games with HOU & BAL) - 41 tackles, one FR, 1.0 TFL and five passes defensed

Nickel Tavierre Thomas

King II's longtime Detroit friend, Thomas was only able to play in nine games in 2023 due to an injury that sidelined him halfway through the season. He continued to make plays for this defense and for the special teams units throughout his three years in Houston.

2023 stats (Nine games) - 51 tackles, two FF, 2.0 TFL and two passes defensed

S Eric Murray

One of the longest tenured Texans was sorely missed after he was injured early in the 2023 season. Prior to that injury, he stepped in at safety, in place of injured Jimmie Ward and Jalen Pitre, and was a rock solid contributor.

2023 stats (six games) - 13 tackles, one FF

CB/Nickel Kris Boyd

The former Longhorns defensive back was key on special teams late in the 2023 season after being claimed on waivers.

2023 stats (two games in HOU) - no stats

S Adrian Amos

The Texans claimed Amos on waivers late in the season and he provided a ton of experience at the safety position. That position was ravaged by injuries throughout the season with Pitre, Ward, Stewart and Murray all missing significant time due to injury.

2023 stats (16 games in NYJ & HOU) - 28 tackles, one FR, one pass defensed

S Kareem Jackson

Last year at this time, I had Kareem in my "potential free agents to pursue in 2023" section and he finally ended up in Houston for the remainder of the season when the Texans had a plethora of injury issues at safety. Kareem will always be one of my favorite Texans players/employees/people in this building and I hope that there's more football in his future. He played 12 or more games in 13 straight seasons before 2023 and played it as ferociously and fearlessly as anyone that's ever put on a Texans jersey

2023 stats (ten games in DEN & HOU) - 53 tackles, two INT, three passes defensed

2023 Texans' Restricted free agents - status unknown to this point

(RFA) Grayland Arnold

Arnold played in eight games for the Texans in 2023 before an injury ended his season. He made one heck of a play at Atlanta, forcing a fumble on what appeared to be a key Atlanta scoring drive in the second half. So, his loss was felt in the secondary and on special teams.

2023 stats (eight games) - 13 tackles, 1.0 TFL, one FF

Available unrestricted free agents THAT MAKE SENSE

This Texans secondary needs to find a few playmakers and there are a few in free agency to examine whether the fit is right for the player and the Texans. Let's take a look at a few possibilities, in my estimation, of course.

CB Xavien Howard (formerly Dolphins)

Howard is a Houstonian and he's apparently made it known that he'd love to come to Houston. He's four years removed from his ten INT season for the Dolphins. He's going to be 31 at the start of the season, which must be considered as well.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 6

Nickel Kenny Moore (Colts)

Oh, now Moore has been one of my favorite players in this entire league, but he played in Indianapolis so I couldn't gush over him like I wanted. He's the consummate nickel, a terrific leader and him signing elsewhere would hurt the Colts in the process.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 7.5

S Julian Blackmon (Colts)

The injuries have really been the issue for Blackmon in Indianapolis. He missed a chunk of the 2021 season and the last two games of the 2023 season, including the week 18 matchup with the Texans. When on the field, he's a difference maker. He'll have just turned 26 when the season starts.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 7

S Xavier McKinney (Giants)

A physical presence if there ever was one, McKinney will command big dollars from a team desperate for a safety. For that reason, I'm not sure it makes a ton of sense to consider. I wouldn't mind it, but probably too big a price tag.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 3.5

S Quandre Diggs (Seahawks)

The surprising cap casualty is from Angleton, TX, played at the University of Texas and has some quality football left in him. He is 31, though, and has played A LOT of football lately, missing just one game the last four years.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 6

S Jamal Adams (Seahawks)

The President is quite the opposite of his teammate Diggs. The former All-Pro has played in just ten games the past two seasons and made more headlines off the field than on. The Seahawks needed cap relief and found it releasing the two Texans at safety.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 5

S Geno Stone (Ravens)

Stone had his coming out party in 2023, but he's going to be limited in Baltimore, in some sense, due to the presence of Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams. He had seven interceptions and nine passes defensed in 2023. He'll be 25 years old in April, so he's young, but has experience. The former 7th rounder could be an intriguing fit for this secondary.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 7

CB Michael Davis (Chargers)

Davis had a much better campaign in 2022 than he did in 2023, but he's got length and experience, which should make him a candidate for this defense.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 6.5

CB Emmanuel Moseley (Lions)

Moseley wasn't healthy for the Lions in 2023 after playing for the 49ers the previous three seasons. Oh, who was his defensive coordinator during that time? A man named DeMeco Ryans. Now, he tore his ACL and could miss the start of the 2024 season too. That will complicate matters somewhat.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 5 (just because of unknown health situation)

CB Kristian Fulton (Titans)

Derek Stingley Jr's opposite number at LSU in 2019 is a free agent but he's had trouble staying healthy and available. He played just 42 of a possible 67 games and missed a handful of matchups with the Texans. He's talented but it just didn't come together in Nashville.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 6.5

CB Ronald Darby (Ravens)

Darby has bounced around from team to team in the last four years or so but he's played relatively well at each stop. He's 30, though, so that could play a role in the decision.

The Makes Sense Scale from 1 (no sense) to 10 (Perfect sense!) - 5

The JH "CRUSH" List - Rookies by Texans draft selection THAT MAKE SENSE

This CB draft class is outstanding and it's deeeeep, like five e's deep and this might be the year to snatch one early given how the depth chart looks at the moment. The Texans' safety spot is interesting given how many injuries were sustained in the back end last year. Veterans jumped into those voided spots but the Texans might need to find one in this draft to develop over the next four to five years.

1st round - 23rd overall currently

CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo (6-0 ⅛, 195 lb)

CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson (6-1 ⅜, 173 lb)

CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama (5-11 ½, 199 lb)

CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama (5-11 ¾, 189 lb)

S/CB Cooper DeJean, Iowa (6-0 ½, 203 lb)

2nd round - 59th overall currently

S Jaden Hicks, Washington State (6-1 ⅞, 211 lb)

S Tyler Nubin, Minnesota (6-1 ¼, 199 lb)

CB T.J. Tampa, Iowa State (6-0 ⅞, 189 lb)

CB Max Melton, Rutgers (5-11, 187 lb)

3rd round - 86th overall currently

Nickel Mikey Sainristil, Michigan (5-9 ⅜, 183 lb)

Nickel/CB Jarrian Jones, Florida State (5-9 ⅜, 190 lb)

CB Cam Hart, Notre Dame (6-3, 202 lb)

S Evan Williams, Oregon (5-11 ¼, 200 lb)

S Cole Bishop, Utah (6-2, 206 lb)

S Kamren Kinchens, Miami, FL (5-11 ¼, 203 lb)

4th round - 124th and 128th overall currently

CB/Nickel Chau Smith-Wade, Washington State (5-9 ¾, 184 lb)

CB/Nickel Jarvis Brownlee Jr, Louisville (5-10 ⅜, 194 lb)

CB Josh Newton, TCU (5-10 ⅝, 190 lb)

S Kitan Oladapo, Oregon State (6-2, 216 lb)

S Beau Brade, Maryland (6-0, 203 lb)

5th round - No picks currently

CB/S Ryan Watts, Texas (6-2 ⅞, 208 lb)

CB Renardo Green, Florida State (5-11 ⅞, 186 lb)

CB Johnny Dixon, Penn State (5-10 ¾, 188 lb)

S Josh Proctor, Ohio State (6-1 ½, 199 lb)

6th round - No picks currently

CB Elijah Jones, Boston College (6-1 ½, 185 lb)

CB Willie Drew, Virginia State (5-11 ⅝, 191 lb)

CB/Returner Daequan Hardy, Penn State (5-9 ⅜, 179 lb)

S Dom Hampton, Washington (6-2 ⅜, 215 lb)

7th round - 236th 245th & 250th overall

CB M.J. Devonshire, Pitt (5-10 ¾, 186)

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