32 Questions for 32 Teams: Houston Texans

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Houston Texans safety Ed Reed

Aug 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans safety Ed Reed (20) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (80) before the game between the Texans and the Miami Dolphins at Reliant Stadium. The Texans defeated the Dolphins 24-17. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As we count down to the NFL season, XN Sports will be bringing you 32 questions in 32 days. Each day, we’ll feature one of the most important questions for a different NFL team heading into the opening weekend of the league.

Today’s feature team and question?

Houston Texans – Will Ed Reed help improve the pass defense?

In 2012, Houston had a top ten offense, ranking seventh in total yards (372.1) and eighth in points (416) per game. Behind quarterback Matt Schaub, wide receiver Andre Johnson, and running back Arian Foster, the offense was explosive and the trio led the Texans to the playoffs. Houston’s run defense was stout, giving up only 97.5 yards per game on the ground, but where the team struggled was in the secondary.

The Texans’ defensive backs weren’t horrible, but a bit of a mixed bag. The good? The unit grabbed 15 interceptions and defended a league best 124 passes. The bad, however, was the defensive backs giving up just over 225 passing yards per game, ranking them squarely in the middle of the NFL at 16th. Just as unimpressive were the number of big games by opposing quarterbacks.

Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers both, understandably, played well against Houston’s secondary – each tallied more than 330 yards in the air. The unit, though, also had a bad day against Chad Henne when he threw for 354 yards and four scores for the hapless Jaguars. Things didn’t get much better in the following three weeks, either. Over the next three games, Houston allowed a whopping 441 yards to Matt Stafford, 309 yards to Jake Locker, and 296 to Tom Brady.

Stafford and Brady are, of course, two of the better quarterbacks in the league. It’s also noteworthy to include that Houston picked off Locker three times in their game against Tennessee and that the Texans still went 3-1 over that stretch. However, 350 passing yards per game over a four-game span is far from ideal for a team trying to compete for a Super Bowl. Suffice to say, there’s room for a little improvement in the Texans’ secondary.

To help the unit, the Texans called in a big gun, adding All-Pro safety and future Hall of Famer, Ed Reed. Reed is a bit older, mind you, and as we mentioned earlier in this series, it’s difficult to know just how much he has left in the tank. Opposing quarterbacks are throwing his way more and he’s averaging far fewer interceptions as he did earlier in his career.

Further, there are health concerns about the aging veteran. Reed has been on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list with a hip injury and even though he was recently activated from there, his ability to play early on this season is still a little bit of a question mark. In addition, even if Reed can play right away, it’s not known if he’s 100 percent just yet.

Still, despite the uncertainty, the move to bring him in was a good one for Houston.

At Reed’s age, covering speedy wide receivers one-on-one would be difficult. However, at safety, he’s more of a centerfielder than anything, mostly looking to break up or intercept passes, or serve as a last line of defense. The position is still a demanding one, but free safety is one that can be played by an older defensive back – particularly one as good as Reed.

Additionally, while he hasn’t been as productive over the past two seasons, it’s not as if he has been unimposing. Reed still picked off a total of seven passes in 2011 and 2012 and his 46.5 tackles the past two years are actually slightly above his career average. The safety also recovered a career-high three fumbles last season and provided plenty of value to the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

Reed is on the decline and he isn’t a long-term solution. However, there’s no reason to think that he can’t help Houston’s secondary for another season or two if he stays healthy.

Anson Whaley is a freelance writer with more than 16 years of experience. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a current member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Mr. Whaley has also been a credentialed member of the media for various events.
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