2011 Season in Review: Defensive Line

A position-by-position look at the Texans’ 2011 season

Season in Review: | | |  |

The Texans’ defensive line was part of a defense that ranked second in the NFL (285.7 yards/game) in 2011, including fourth against the run (96.0). Much of the pressure generated by Wade Phillips’ 3-4 front started with outstanding play from defensive ends and .

Smith, a team captain, set a career-high with 6.5 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl. The “Ninja Assassin” had at least half a sack in each of the first five games of the season. He had 25 tackles (19 solo), 5.0 tackles for loss and one forced fumble overall. Smith ranked fourth among all 3-4 defensive ends in sacks and tied for fifth in tackles for loss.

Watt, a rookie from Wisconsin, had a Pro Bowl-caliber season after being picked 11th overall in the draft. “The Milk Man” had 56 tackles (49 solo), 5.5 sacks, a team-high 7.0 tackles for loss and four passes defensed. He ranked fifth among 3-4 ends in tackles, third in tackles for loss and tied for eighth in sacks. Watt had 3.5 sacks in the playoffs, tying three other players for the NFL postseason lead, and returned an interception for a touchdown in the Wild Card round against Cincinnati.

Nose tackle had 23 tackles (16 solo), one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss in his third season with the Texans and seventh in the NFL [He also hosted the popular Texans TV show ]. Third-year pro rotated with Cody and had 27 tackles (14 solo) and one sack.

Third-year defensive end had 19 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble in a reserve role. , a fifth-year defensive end, had 12 tackles (six solo) in 10 appearances.

Defensive Line in Review
Starters: DE: Antonio Smith (16 games 2 postseason), J.J. Watt (16 games 2 postseason), NT: Shaun Cody (16 games 1 postseason)

Newcomers: Watt (first-round draft pick)

Injuries: Smith (shoulder, late in season)

Notable number: 2: 100-yard rushers allowed by the Texans in 2011 (Daniel Thomas, 18 carries for 107 yards, Week 2; Ray Rice, 23 carries for 101 yards, Week 6), including playoff games. The Texans limited their opponent’s leading rusher to less than 65 yards in 14 of 18 games and kept 10 of 18 opponents to 100 team rushing yards or less.

Season highlight: Wild Card playoff game vs. Cincinnati – Watt picked off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and returned it for a 29-yard touchdown late in the second quarter of the first playoff game in franchise history. It gave the Texans a 17-10 lead, ignited a sold-out Reliant Stadium crowd and sparked a lopsided 31-10 victory. Watt also sacked Dalton for a seven-yard loss on the final play of the first half.

Quotable: “Antonio’s a vital part of this defense. He’s a really good pass rusher and we try to put him in positions where he can get one-on-one, and the time’s he’s been one-on-one, he’s really done well… He’s an all out player. He plays as hard as you can play every play.” – Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips on Sept. 29, on Smith

“I have trained in the temples of Shaolin, where I have mastered my art of ninjitsu. I can walk – I can even speak without you even knowing I am speaking.” – Smith on Oct. 4, on his “Ninja Assassin” persona during an

“I studied all week on that formation and as soon as it happened I dropped back into my zone and just put that guy on Revis Island. Or Cody Island.” – Cody on Nov. 6, after he intercepted Browns quarterback Colt McCoy on a two-point conversion attempt in the Texans’ 30-12 victory in Week 9 at Reliant Stadium

“Let me tell you, you turn on the film and this kid played one hell of a football game. Unbelievable game… It was off the charts, now. He’s been a big-time player all year long, and he plays with great energy.”- Kubiak on Dec. 23, on Watt after he was called for several penalties in a 19-16 loss to the Colts at Indianapolis

 “Like a Lycan wolf ninja – like a ninja who been bit by a werewolf and then he’s still a ninja but then transforms to the wolf come game time. And the wolf is the dog. And y’all know I got the dog, too.” – Smith on Jan. 2, on what kind of “ninja” was in store for the playoffs

“I came around and I really was trying to put my hands up, get in the way of the passing lane, and it happened to kind of stick. I realized I had the ball, so I was running to the end zone just trying not to fall down… I scored and got mauled by my teammates and the stadium went absolutely nuts. That was unbelievable.” – Watt on Jan. 7, after his pick-six against the Bengals in the Wild Card victory


Wide receiver among Texans’ first-round possibilities

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

INDIANAPOLIS – Coming off the first playoff season in franchise history, the Texans have few, if any, glaring needs.

That doesn’t mean they’re resting on their laurels.

“You go back to the drawing board again, no different than you did every year before,” Texans general manager Rick Smith said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “It’s a very honest assessment of where we are, where we feel like we’re strong, where we think we need to improve.”

Free agency begins on March 13. The 2012 draft is a month later, and the Texans are widely expected to target a wide receiver with the 26th overall pick. Outside linebacker would become a priority if the Texans don’t re-sign unrestricted free agent .

“I think the wide receiver position is a position where we might strengthen our team,” Smith said. “You can never have enough corners; I know I always say that. Pass rushing is a premium. I mean, it’s pretty standard. We look for guys that make plays, that impact the game. We can never find or have too many players that impact the game, whether you’re talking about a pass-rusher or guy who can take the ball and make a play with the ball in his hands.”

With missing nine games last season and quarterbacks and landing on injured reserve, the Texans’ leading receivers were tight end (54 catches, 677 yards) and running back (53, 617).

Wide receiver had 39 catches for 474 yards in 15 games. had 31 catches for 512 yards (16.5 average) in 16 games with a career-high 10 starts.

“It was a very difficult time for us not only losing our quarterback, but losing Andre,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I thought Kevin Walter and Jacoby played very well for our football team. But I do think it’s important that we continue to develop young players. That is one position where we can do a little better job from that standpoint.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Kevin. I think he’s a solid two in this league and has been for me since I’ve been in Houston. And I think Jacoby made some strides last year as well. You’re always trying to get better, and hopefully we’ll continue to do that at that position.”

This year’s draft class includes several wide receivers who could be options for the Texans late in the first round, including LSU’s Rueben Randle, Baylor’s Kendall Wright, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd and Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu.

“It looks like there’s quantity,” Kubiak said. “There’s a lot of guys, a lot of good players. You’ve got to go find those guys late in the draft. Obviously, the guys early in the draft, everybody kind of knows who those guys are, but you’re able to find some good guys late in the draft at that position. So we’ll have to do our homework. We’d like to add some playmakers to our offensive football team, and obviously that would help.”

Johnson, Walter and Jones are all 6-3, but Kubiak said he doesn’t look for wide receivers with specific physical dimensions.

“I think there is a certain size where you may struggle outside a little bit, (but) I’ve seen some great players that are 5-10,” he said. “You talk about (Carolina Panthers receiver) Steve Smith. I was at the Pro Bowl and watched him on the other side of the ball and what he did to us during the season. He’s a great player, not a big guy and can play anywhere. I think you’re looking for great players. You go do what they do best. I don’t think size eliminates guys.”

Whether the Texans go wide receiver or another position – such as outside linebacker, cornerback or somewhere along the defensive line – in the first round, Smith said they will look for the best player available.

“We always do,” he said. “We stay true to our board, and that’s not a philosophy that we’re going to alter because I think it gives you the best chance to have success.

“If you assess value and you follow the value of your board and don’t stretch for need, because I think that’s where people make mistakes, we’ve not done that before, and I would suspect that we stay true to that philosophy and not do that in the future.”


Mock Draft Survey: All WR, DT for Texans in Round 1

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

With the NFL Scouting Combine kicking off in Indianapolis this week, we surveyed 21 mock drafts around the web to see who the favorite is to be selected by the Texans with the 26th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Every mock picked either a wide receiver or defensive tackle for the Texans in round one. Of the 21 surveyed, 15 mock drafts went receiver for the Texans, while the other six went DT. Four players tied for the highest number of picks with four apiece: wide receivers Michael Floyd (Notre Dame), Kendall Wright (Baylor) and Rueben Randle (LSU) and defensive tackle Dontari Poe (Memphis).

Here are the results from our first Texans Mock Draft Survey of 2012. Click on each website/writer’s name below for their full mock draft.