With defensive coordinator Lovie Smith's arrival in Houston, Texans players have been excited to transition to the new 4-3 base scheme.
After taking the coaching this offseason, the linebackers love him.
"I'm already in love with his scheme, already in love with the way he coaches and his philosophy," Kamu Grugier-Hill said. "Me personally, I think I fit perfectly into it. He likes speed guys. I can run and play the pass and do all that kind of stuff. I'm very excited for the future."
"His defense is very linebacker friendly," Christian Kirksey said. "It gives you a chance to run around, have fun, make plays. He puts a lot on his linebackers and he wants a lot of athletic linebackers. I feel like me personally, being in his system, it's a lot of fun because it allows you to play ball. I think that every linebacker can speak for himself as far as going out there and making plays and being in this defense."
Smith, who has coached for 19 years in the NFL, including 11 as head coach, is known for assembling defenses that are physical and force turnovers. He has also helped numerous linebackers have some of their best seasons under him, including All-Pro linebackers in Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Derrick Brooks.
So what are the qualities of a linebacker that fits into his 4-3 scheme? Smith outlines the hefty skillset needed to perform at a top level in his defense.
"Nowadays, linebackers have to do more than just tackle," Smith said. "They need to be able to play in space, they need to be able to pay man coverage. It seems like the tight end position is getting better and better. That matchup can be a tough one. We blitz. Our linebackers need to be able to play excellent zone coverage, man coverage and of course make a lot of tackles. It takes a certain type of athlete to do that. We talk as a whole, just what we're looking for, we want to have a fast defense. We don't want to be playing with big guys that can't run at any positions. We want our linebackers to have athletic ability where we feel comfortable with them guarding a running back on the outside."
That being said, Smith takes the compliment from his linebackers, but also has high expectations of the rest of his defense.
"Well, I hope safeties say that, 'man, this is a safety-friendly defense' and those defensive linemen, 'man, Lovie we like that four-man rush,'" Smith said, smiling. "Hopefully they're going to say it, too. But no, it is a linebacker friendly system and what we're looking for is skilled athletes."
Smith was named 2005 AP NFL Coach of the Year with the Chicago Bears when they finished as the best defense in the NFL, allowing an average 12.6 points per game.