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2013 Texans' Defensive Line Outlook

The defensive line rotation is pretty much set with the exception of the back up nose tackle position. There could be room for an extra player to sneak on the 53 man roster, but those chances are slim.

Defensive Ends

J.J. Watt

Is there anything you can say negative about the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year? Watt comes back healthy this season after an elbow injury during training camp. It is hard to believe that Watt played injured all season in 2012 and put up the production he did. Watt, only entering his third season in the NFL, will be working to make a bigger impression in 2013.

Outlook: A one man wrecking crew in 2012, he needs help around him. Watt should be primed for big things again this season.

Antonio Smith

Antonio Smith

Antonio Smith

Had his best single sack season of his career in 2012, and is one of the better interior players for the Texans. He can create havoc on the inside and make a solid compliment to his fellow defensive end J.J. Watt. Entering his last season on his contract with the Texans, Smith has made it known he wants to retire with the Texans. Smith is at an important crossroads of his career and this season could prove huge for his future in the NFL. His skill and the fits he gives to offensive lineman is evident, but father time is creeping up on him. He has to prove again that he has not lost a step.

Outlook: Last year of his deal and could be his final in Houston. Smith can still play at a high level and will be counted on once again for the Texans defense.

Jared Crick

Jared Crick

Jared Crick #93

Used sparingly as a rookie, Crick has come back this season with ten extra pounds, a head full of hair and a beard. He looks much better built for the NFL season and can play all three defensive line positions for the Texans. He can handle the run and his technique has been worked on during OTAs, especially using his hands. There are bigger expectations for Crick this season from the coaching staff and now it is up to him if he can perform.

Outlook: Crick understands what is needed from him and getting him into the defensive line rotation will be important.

Tim Jamison

A forgotten player after the Texans lost him to an Achilles injury, Jamison was a top notch pass rusher from the interior of the defensive line. Losing Jamison hurt the defense and their ability to pressure the quarterback and that is what he did so well in 2012. He has been working on getting back and is moving well when working by himself on the side field.

Outlook: Will be an added boost to the defensive line.

Delano "Lo" Johnson, #64, Defensive End

Delano "Lo" Johnson, #64, Defensive End

Delano Johnson

A position change for the second year player moving from outside linebacker to defensive end. Johnson is 290 lbs. and a pure athlete who can run sideline to sideline. Only training camp will give a better look at Johnson, but he has all the ability to do it. He has the build to play it but there will be a transition for him with his hand in the ground.

Outlook: There is an outside chance that Johnson could make this roster. The position change could help his chances to stick.

Keith Browner

Another hold over from the 2012 season from the practice squad, Browner is a long framed player who will be competing for a position. With such talent in front of him on the roster, Browner will be pushing for another practice squad position.

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Outlook: Practice squad or another NFL team will be his best chance in 2013.

David Hunter

The tough luck hit Hunter last season after he was called up from the practice squad to the active roster and then the week leading up to his first NFL game a foot injury during practice landed him on the injured reserve. Hunter can play nose tackle and defensive end and has a good compact frame to create issues in the run game. The Texans felt he was good enough to move to the active roster. It will be interesting to see how they feel about him this season.

Outlook: Hunter will have to make his mark at nose tackle to have a shot at the team.

Earl Okine

A rotational player at Florida, Okine is still learning the defensive end position. The rookie was sidelined late in OTAs with a lower leg injury that kept him out of practice, but the learning curve is steep for the youngster. At 6-7, Okine is not hard to miss but the Texans are looking at his potential to see if there is anything there for the team down the road.

Outlook: Okine is working for a spot to develop on the practice squad.

Nose Tackles

Earl Mitchell

The penciled in starter for the season at nose tackle, Mitchell proved in 2012 that he can handle his duties as a nose tackle. His technique improved significantly last season and he held up better against the run than he did the first season in Wade Phillip's defense. Mitchell can also give a little more in pass situations from the nose tackle position than what was there before.

Outlook: One of the underrated players on the Texans defense, expect solid play from the first year starter.

Terrell McClain, NT, #97

Terrell McClain, NT, #97

Terrell McClain

Pulled off the scrap pile after the Carolina Panthers moved on from him after two seasons, McClain has found new life in Houston. McClain looks very comparable in body frame to Mitchell and showed some life during offseason workouts. He is what the Texans look for in a nose tackle and McClain has a real opportunity to make this team at back up nose tackle. Still young in NFL years, McClain has the talent to make the team.

Outlook: Will be in a fight for the back up nose tackle position but has the lead heading into training camp.

Chris Jones

Chris Jones, #95

Chris Jones, #95

The "Monster of the Mac", Jones was a wrecking ball at Bowling Green and his ability to rush the passer was an added bonus for the rookie. Jones should be the back up nose tackle by default but he will have to prove he can handle the NFL game. With veterans pushing for that spot, Jones is not guaranteed anything being a drafted player. He is what the Texans like when it comes to motor and never quit attitude, but getting in pads will be important for the rookie to show what he has.

Outlook: He looked like the shoe in at back up nose tackle but the emergence of McClain has put that into doubt.

Ra'Shon Harris

Harris stole the show at training camp in 2012 but a triceps injury late in the preseason landed him on the injured reserve. He played fast and caused issues at the nose tackle position and that caught the coaches' eyes. This season, Harris came to OTAs out of shape and was hurt the second day of practice with a foot injury. Harris did not appear in another practice and, with new players in town, has put himself in a tough position to open up training camp.

Outlooks: Harris has gotten off to a tough start to the season and the odds are slowly stacking up against him.

You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans.