The defense is searching for ways to improve and could get a boost this week with the return of No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who has been out since Week 1 after arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. There's a 50-50 chance the outside linebacker plays Monday, Coach Bill O'Brien said Friday, but didn't have more information on Clowney's status.
Houston (3-3) is allowing 397.2 yards a game, which ranks 27th in the NFL, but has done a good job of limiting points - fourth in the league with just 20 points per outing.
The most glaring problem for the defense has been giving up big passes in the last two losses to the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys, with the secondary allowing seven receptions of 33 yards or more, including three for more than 40 yards.
Cornerback Kareem Jackson takes those kind of plays personally, saying they're disappointing and that the team is focused on eliminating them.
''If everybody does their job, we all hone in on the little things, the small details and pay attention to those things, I think we'll be able to keep the big plays off,'' Jackson said.
Defensive end J.J. Watt, who leads the NFL with 20 hits on quarterbacks this season and has four sacks, believes the linemen can help cut down on those plays as well.
''Obviously up front, we need to get after the passer,'' Watt said. ''That's what I can control in my group. We need to get after the passer, we need to be sound in our coverages in what we do and put pressure on guys, and obviously we knock out some of those plays and it'll be a big help.''
Though Watt has been solid in the pass rush, the rest of the Texans haven't done much. The Texans are tied for 19th in the NFL with just 10 sacks this season, and Watt believes he should do more to change that.
''We always want to put as much pressure on the quarterback as possible,'' he said. ''Of course, I always want more pressure on the quarterback and that's my job. So, yeah, put that on me.''
Clowney's return could certainly help the Texans. The 21-year-old made a career out of getting after quarterbacks in his three seasons at South Carolina, where he tallied 24 sacks, 47 tackles for losses and 20 quarterback pressures. He also set a school record in 2012 with 13 sacks.
The entire defense is anxious to get Clowney back after a five-game absence.
''It (would) help a lot,'' Jackson said. ''Just going in the game knowing we won't have to cover as long. The guys we've had up front, they've been doing a great job thus far and to add (Clowney) is definitely going to make things that much better.''
''He's a big quarterback that can run and extend plays and throw the ball, make all the throws all over the field,'' cornerback Johnathan Joseph said of Roethlisberger. ''I think playing a guy like Luck gets you prepared for Ben.''
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