Expectations are sky-high after the Texans wrapped up their 2016 campaign with the No. 1 defense for the first time in franchise history.
The 2017 defense immediately improves with the highly anticipated return of a healthy J.J. Watt, playing alongside Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus.
"I think we all know what J.J. brings to the table," assistant head coach Romeo Crennel said Wednesday. "For opponents to try to figure out where they're going to send their protection – do they send it to J.J.? Do they send it to Clowney? Exactly how they're going to do all that as far as from a protection standpoint, I think that's going to make it extremely difficult on the offense. So, if we can keep both of those guys healthy, and Whitney as well, I think it will be difficult for them."
Houston led the league in several categories, allowing a league-low 301.3 total net yards per contest, fewest first downs (17.0) and second fewest net passing yards per game (201.6). From Weeks 8 to 17, the Texans allowed an average 71.9 yards rushing per game with just three rushing touchdowns by opponents in that time span.
Defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel is also focused on creating more turnovers and improving red-zone defense this offseason. Houston finished tied for eighth in the NFL in the red zone (52.27%) and 13th in goal-to-go situations (66.67%). Last year, the Texans recorded 11 interceptions and six fumble recoveries, after forcing 25 turnovers in 2015.
"I think that we need to continue to play great defense, be good at third down, to force three-and-outs and get the ball back for our offense," Vrabel said. "I think we can do a better job at creating turnovers. We've tried to make that an emphasis. We call it ball disruption. So, we are trying to do great at ball disruption into OTAs. We could do a better job down at the red zone. Our scoring defense has to be better. We weren't where we needed to be. I think we were outside the top ten, so if we can improve on our scoring defense, do what we did at the end of the season in the run game, continue to affect the quarterback, turn the ball over and hopefully, we can help our team win."
Check out some of the best shots from the third week of Texans OTAs.