HOUSTON — The Houston Texans caught a break during their Week 1 match against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
For the first time since he entered the league in 2018, the Texans did not have to face All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard. Without Indianapolis' best player, the Texans were able to leave NRG Stadium with a tie while going up against their AFC South foe.
When the Texans take on the 0-1 Denver Broncos on Sunday, the game will mark the second consecutive week Houston will face a team missing one of their best defensive players.
The Broncos will take the field without All-Pro safety Justin Simmons. Denver placed Simmons on injured reserve on Wednesday following the thigh injury he sustained during the Broncos' 17-16 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks Monday night.
Without Simmons, Denver's secondary will be weakened against the Texans. But Houston will still have to find a way to create offense against a Broncos' defensive back unit that features second-year prospect Patrick Surtain II.
"You talk about guys that have been playing at a high level for a while. Patrick came into this league playing at a high level early on," wide receiver Brandin Cooks said. "You look forward to those types of matchups, great defense, but we’ve got guys who can play too. We look forward to the matchups."
Surtain, the Broncos' best cornerback, will spend nearly all of his snaps shadowing Cooks inside Empower Field at Mile High.
His sophomore campaign has already gotten off to a solid start. Although he gave up six catches, he held D.K. Metcalf to 36 yards amid recording four tackles in the loss.
Eight-year veteran cornerback Ronald Darby also helps the Broncos sustain their prominent secondary in the loss of Simmons. Darby posted six tackles, one forced fumble and a pass deflection in the loss to Seattle.
"They play well together — a lot of talent," quarterback Davis Mills said. "We have to be good at recognizing immediately post-snap to what they’re getting to so we can go through our progressions and how we want to attack them on offense.”
The Broncos failed to make the playoffs last year due to their 7-10 record. But Denver's shortcomings did not fall on the shoulders of its secondary.
Denver allowed an average of 177.0 passing yards during the 2021 campaign, marking the sixth-lowest in the league. The Broncos finished the year with 13 interceptions. Simmons led the way with five interceptions, while Surtain accounted for four as a rookie.
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