2012 Path to the Draft: Defensive End


*This article is part of our 2012 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply

A position-by-position look at the 2012 NFL Draft (April 26-28), featuring exclusive analysis on potential Texans draft picks from and of the

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State of the Position ()
The Texans have two standout defensive ends in and , but they could add more depth at the position in the 2012 draft.

Smith, a team captain, made his first Pro Bowl in 2011 with a career-high 6.5 sacks. Watt, a first-round draft pick from Wisconsin, was a rookie sensation with 5.5 sacks, 56 tackles, a team-high 7.0 tackles for loss and four passes defensed. He also had 3.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown in the playoffs.

The only other defensive end on the roster at this point is . A three-year veteran out of Michigan, Jamison had 19 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble last season. The Texans have not re-signed veteran defensive end , who has been with the team since 2006.

National Football Post Analysis (, for HoustonTexans.com)

DAY 1 DEFENSIVE END OPTIONS AT 1.26

1. Michael Brockers, LSU (6-6, 306): Extremely athletic for his size, Brockers arrived at LSU as a 255-pound linebacker prospect who bulked up and eventually made the move to the defensive line, where he played 27 games over the last two years, notching two sacks. He might be a little raw and could have used some more work at the college level, but Brockers is an NFL talent with “plus” upside who can come in and play vs. the run at a high level right away. Should get looks at both the three and five-technique spots and in our minds has the ability to become one of the better defensive linemen in the NFL down the line.

2. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State (6-4, 295): Named second-team All-SEC in 2011, Cox recorded 56 tackles and five sacks for the Bulldogs last year and has been shooting up draft boards in recent weeks. We think his best spot might be as a 3-4 five technique (which fits Houston perfectly) who is able to penetrate and make plays off the ball. Cox is raw and needs to learn to play with his pad level lower. However, as a potential five-technique, he’s a guy who has the skill set to earn a starting role.

DAY 2 DEFENSIVE END OPTIONS AT 2.26 AND 3.13

1. Jared Crick, Nebraska (6-6, 285): After recording 19 sacks and 143 tackles over 28 games from 2009-2010, Crick’s production fell off last season after injuries limited him to just five games. He’s a tall, leaner defensive tackle/end with a long set of arms, but lacks ideal girth in the lower half. Crick is instinctive, gets off the snap count on time and does a nice job finding the football vs. the run. However, at 6-6, he struggles with his pad level.

2. Tyrone Crawford, Boise State (6-4, 276): Crawford racked up 13.5 sacks in 25 games at Boise State and forced a career-high three fumbles last season. He possesses good size for the position with a naturally longer set of arms. In addition, the 22-year-old coils up into his stance well, comes off the ball low and does a nice job extending his hands into contact as a run defender. We like his skill set and think he’s going to develop quickly at the next level. Crawford isn’t there yet, but as a prospect he has some real upside and displays the kind of blue-collar pass rushing mentality that we like.

DAY 3 DEFENSIVE ENDS OPTONS AT 4.4, 4.26, 5.26, 6.26 AND 7.26

1. Dominique Hamilton, Missouri (6-5, 305): A four-year contributor who played in 46 total games and is coming off a career-high three sacks in 2011, Hamilton is a tall, long-armed defensive tackle/end prospect with a thick but athletic-looking frame. He plays the run much stronger than his body type would indicate and he’s got a burst off the snap while playing with good leverage. Hamilton has the frame to add 15 to 20 pounds and looks like a 3-4 five-technique at the next level who could start.

2. Malik Jackson, Tennessee (6-5, 270): Jackson was a four-year contributor at Tennessee who appeared in 46 games and recorded a career-high 56 tackles in 2011. He displays impressive athletic ability and when he gets his hands up off the line. Jackson can consistently keep himself clean while working like a bear in pursuit. Showcases great range off his frame for the position and demonstrates a good motor to go along with it. He’s a great-looking athlete, but has some real work to do from a technique standpoint due to the fact he was playing out of position at Tennessee.

Phillips clarifies plans for Williams in “5-2” front


The Texans’ decision to move to outside linebacker has sparked plenty of hoopla and debate. Williams has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the NFL as a 4-3 defensive end, and he’ll be an unconventionally large linebacker at 6-6, 290 pounds.

On Monday, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said that Williams essentially will still be an end in his defense – he’ll just be on his feet more.

“They say ‘3-4’, ‘4-3’, all that,” Phillips said at the Texans’ annual Charity Golf Classic. “We really play a 5-2. We play five defensive linemen that can rush the passer and two inside ‘backers who can tackle people. And we think Mario certainly fits in there.”

In that 5-2 front, Williams will often be standing up on the right edge of the defensive line as the Will (weakside outside) linebacker.

Along the line to Williams’ left will likely be at right end, or at nose tackle, at left end and or at Sam (strongside outside) linebacker. Standing behind them will be inside linebackers and .

“We have a lot of versatility,” Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. “Cushing gives us a lot of versatility. Connor Barwin gives us a lot of versatility. If … ends up being ours throughout this (free agency) process, he gives us versatility.

“So we’ve got a lot of good athletes on the defensive side of the ball, and the combinations we just added to it (in the draft) with J.J. and Brooks and those guys give Wade a great a lot of great talent to work with. We’ll have to see how it all fits, but there’s a couple of guys that can play multiple positions.”

Phillips often says that he fits his defense to the players, not the other way around.

“The more you can do with players scheme-wise helps you,” he said. “We’re going to put Mario down some, but we’re not going to tell them when. And same thing with Cushing: We’re going to play him inside most of the time, but sometimes he’s going to be rushing outside.”

Asked how much concern he has about Williams dropping into coverage, Phillips replied, “None.”

“We’re not going to drop him,” Phillips said. “We’re going to rush him. That’s why I say we’re more of a 5-2, in that those five guys are coming a lot of the time, especially the position Mario plays. DeMarcus Ware played that position, Bryce Paup – on and on, guys that have led the league. They didn’t lead the league in sacks by dropping a whole lot.”

Williams has 43.5 sacks since 2007, but he hasn’t finished a season in the top-10 in sacks since 2008. Phillips said that he has coached outside linebackers who have led the league in sacks from both the Sam and Will positions.

“We put (Williams) in the premier position,” Phillips said. “You’re rushing the passer more at Will, and so that’s where we put him. We were looking in the draft for the best pass rusher. Well, we had him on our team, and so we just moved him to that position rather than going the other way around.”