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.

2010 season in review: Defensive line

Top performer: DE (8.5 sacks)

Newcomers: DT (draft, third-round pick), DE (free agent), DT (free agent), DE (free agent)

Major injuries: DE (ankle, Week 1), Williams (groin, Week 13), (shoulder, preseason), DE (knee, Week 14)

Position coach: Bill Kollar (22nd NFL season, 2nd with Texans)

Year in review: Williams, a Pro Bowler in 2008 and 2009, was slowed by a nagging sports hernia injury for most of the season. He finally landed on injured reserve on Dec. 15. He still led the Texans in sacks and upped his career total to 48.0, which ranks seventh in the NFL since his rookie year of 2006.

Defensive end continued to be one of the Texans’ most consistently productive linemen. A seventh-year veteran, Smith excelled against the run, had 4.0 sacks and applied constant pressure to opposing quarterbacks.

Barwin was expected to be a high-impact pass rusher in his second NFL season, but he was lost for the year in the first quarter of the season opener against Indianapolis. Bulman missed the entire season with a shoulder injury, and Nading was placed on injured reserve in Week 14.

Defensive end Mark Anderson joined the Texans in Week 4 after being released by the . In just 11 games, he tied Smith for second on the team with 4.0 sacks, including sacks in two of the last three games of the season.

Defensive end played in 10 games, notching his first-career start in Week 15 at Tennessee and his first sack a week later at Denver. Ninth-year veteran Jarvis Green signed with the Texans late in the season but did not appear in any games. Adewale Ogunleye played in four games before being released on Nov. 2.

Starting defensive tackles and helped the Texans rank 13th in the league in rushing defense. Okoye led all Texans linemen with a career-high 45 tackles to go with 3.0 sacks. Cody had a career-high 38 tackles and started 16 games for the first time in his career.

Mitchell, a third-round pick out of Arizona, played in 15 games. A high-motor player, he had 28 tackles and made his first-career sack in Week 15 at Tennessee. Tenth-year veteran Lewis signed with the Texans during the bye week (10/25) and had 17 tackles and a sack in 10 games. DeMarrio Pressley was inactive for the final three games of the season after signing from the ’ practice squad.

Season highlight: Week 2 vs. Washington. Williams dominated with three sacks, two tackles for loss and two passes defensed in the Texans’ dramatic come-from-behind victory.

Two of Williams’ sacks came in the game’s waning minutes. He dropped Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb for a 14-yard loss with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter to help force overtime. He then sacked McNabb on first play of overtime and pressured him into throwing an incomplete pass four plays later.

Season lowlight: Week 1 at Indianapolis. Barwin suffered a gruesome, season-ending ankle injury on the Colts’ 16th play from scrimmage. As he and Smith pursued Colts running back Joseph Addai in the backfield, Smith accidentally collided with Barwin’s lower right leg right just as Barwin planted his foot to cut upfield. Barwin was down for several minutes, writhing in pain as his ankle dangled from his leg, before being carted away to the locker room.

Barwin had led all rookie defensive ends with 4.5 sacks in 2009. The Texans had high hopes for him in 2010, designing a slew of hybrid packages to take advantage of his athletic ability as a rush end. It was a major blow from which the defense never really recovered.

Notable number: 37.5 – Percentage of the Texans’ sacks that Williams has accounted for since 2007. Williams has 43.5 sacks in those four seasons. Only John Abraham of the Falcons (38.1 percent) has accounted for a higher share of his team’s sacks than Williams during that time frame.

Key splits: Williams played in 13 games before going on injured reserve. He had six sacks in five victories, and only 2.5 sacks in eight losses. For his career, Williams has 30 sacks in 36 victories and 18 sacks in 41 losses.

Williams had 2.5 sacks in seven home games in 2010. He had 6.0 sacks in seven games on the road. That was actually a marked difference from his career splits; Williams has 28.5 sacks in 39 career home games compared to 19.5 sacks in 38 career road games. He also has forced seven fumbles at home compared to three on the road.

Quotable: “I definitely want to say, you know, I appreciate the help from the fans behind our bench. It really meant a lot, talking all that noise. It’s great to have 92,000 shut up. “
– Williams, after the Texans’ Week 2 victory at Washington, where he said Redskins fans were taunting him by telling him to “eat a mushroom” in reference to the Super Mario Bros. video game

Looking ahead: Changes are obviously in store as the Texans move from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Williams and Smith will remain at end, while Mitchell and Cody are candidates to start at nose tackle. Barwin and Nading have been moved to outside linebacker.

Anderson, a pleasant surprise in 2010, will be a free agent this offseason. The five-year veteran was tendered by the Texans, but he would be unrestricted if the requirement for free agency returns to four years.