Two weeks ago, Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said his preseason schemes were purposefully "vanilla," basic in design so he could evaluate players in 1-on-1 matchups with their offensive counterparts.
When the Texans kick off the regular season on Sunday against rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins at Reliant Stadium, Phillips will add some new ingredients to the mix.
"We're going to put some chocolate and strawberries and everything on that vanilla – and you know I like that stuff," Phillips said on Thursday, smiling and patting his stomach. "We'll give them some different looks now. They've seen some of the things we did last year, but we've got some new wrinkles for them."
The Texans set a team record with 44 sacks last season, which ranked sixth in the NFL. They led the AFC this preseason with 17 sacks – vanilla scheme and all.
"I like chocolate and strawberries and all that stuff, too," said outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who led the Texans' "Bulls on Parade" defense with 11.5 sacks in 2011. "I'm excited about that, too. The game plan is a little bit longer than it was in the last four games, so that's exciting as a player because you know we're going to bring some of those blitzes and some of those things that Wade is really good at drawing up."
Phillips has had an entire offseason to tinker with pass rushers like Barwin, Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing, J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith and first-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus. Sunday's game will provide the first glimpse at what he has cooking for 2012.