The Texans’ 2011 offseason will go down as one of the most important in team history and it occurred during one of the most turbulent offseasons in recent NFL memory. The NFL was engaged in a months-long lockout and there was no guarantee that the stalemate would end before the 2011 season began. Questions lingered whether the Texans and the rest of the NFL would actually get on the field that season. Would we see NFL football in 2011? Thankfully the answer was yes and just in the nick of time.
On July 25, 2011, the NFL’s owners and the NFLPA came to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement which occurred after months of legal battles, potential contingency plans and a great deal of league chaos. But, the chaos for the NFL’s 32 teams was just beginning. The league did have its annual draft in April, but due to the lack of a new CBA, there was no free agent or player movement allowed. As such, in a span of just a few days, free agency as we now know it commenced and the Texans struck gold in that short time span.
But, the player the Texans fans coveted never signed in Houston. Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was thought to be the crown jewel of the 2011 free agency class and the proverbial apple of fans’ eyes. Why? Well, the Texans 2010 defense, the secondary in particular, struggled. The Texans were last in passing yards per game. They gave up a league-high 33 passing touchdowns, tied with the Dallas Cowboys. They were fourth worst in points allowed. So, many in the city clamored for secondary help and the overwhelming consensus was Asomugha or bust.
As they say, though, two is often better than one. Asomugha never signed with the Texans, putting his John Hancock on a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. With the money that the Eagles paid Asomugha, the Texans were able to sign TWO defensive backs - former Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph and former Bears safety Danieal Manning. When those signings occurred, it signified a sea of change for the Texans defense until the present day. Teamed with new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and the Texans 2011 first-rounder, some guy named Watt, Joseph and Manning led a transformed defense, one that came together nearly overnight, literally. Adding Joseph allowed the Texans to move future Pro Bowler Glover Quin to his natural position of safety, alongside Manning.
During the 2011 season, the Texans went from last in the league in passing yards allowed per game to fourth in the league, as they gave up nearly 1,300 fewer yards in 2011 with Joseph and Manning leading the way. They gave up 15 FEWER touchdowns through the air and produced four more interceptions in that season. Joseph finished the season with four interceptions, while Manning contributed a pair of picks. 2010 first-round selection Kareem Jackson found a kindred spirit in Joseph and the two became cornerstones at the cornerback position for the next eight seasons. Since signing in 2011, Joseph has 16 interceptions and four NOTs (non-offensive touchdowns), including last year’s game-winning pick-six vs. Buffalo. Manning played out his deal in Houston, retiring after the 2014 season as one of the most respected veterans in the Texans locker room.