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Texans' Secondary Gets Boost From Latest Switch

Eric Murray hops off bench and intercepts a pass against Dolphins

HOUSTON -- Eric Murray leapt into the air to intercept a desperate heave from Miami Dolphins backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett on Sunday.

For the veteran safety, the Texans' 17-9 loss represented his top game of a season during which he's been in and out of the lineup.

After being on the bench for the previous five games - after starting the first three - Murray replaced Lonnie Johnson Jr. in the starting lineup and recorded eight tackles and one of the Texans' five takeaways in 96 percent of the defensive snaps.

"It was an electric feeling," Murray said. "Just to be back out there play defense again, felt really good and I think we had a great outing."

The constant at safety has been veteran Justin Reid, who's now lined up opposite Murray, Johnson and Terrence Brooks this season.

Signed to a three-year, $18 million contract that includes $10.75 million guaranteed, Murray has 29 tackles and played 49 percent of the defensive snaps. A year ago, Murray had 71 tackles in 14 starts while allowing six touchdown passes and an opposing passer rating of 134.5

“I’m real comfortable," Reid said. "I like E. Murray a lot. He’s a very smart player. Our communication is really good on the disguises and everything like that. I was very comfortable in order to do those disguises, mix up the views for Brissett a little bit and cause some confusion. Really good player and I’m happy he’s back in the lineup.”

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A former second-round draft pick and converted cornerback from Kentucky with imposing size and speed at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds and a 4.36 time in the 40-yard dash, Johnson leads the Texans with three interceptions and 41 tackles. He's also had some lapses in deep coverage and as a tackle in the open field, yielding two touchdowns and an opposing 101.7 passer rating.

Reid's advice to Johnson, who was moved full-time to safety last year.

“You’ve just got to stick down a path.," Reid said. "He’s played football for a long time. He’s not a rookie or anything like that. He knows football, he knows how to play ball. That just comes with experience. So, those reps were invaluable for him. He’s going to continue to develop, and he’s going to be a good player. He just has to keep sticking to it.”

For Johnson, it's another reset and it's unclear when or if he'll regain his starting job.

“It’s not easy, him being rotated from corner to safety, safety back to corner," Reid said. "He’s still trying to find his footing on what his best position is. He’s versatile, he has athleticism, he has the length, he has the want-to and the will. It’s just got to come together for him, and it will.

"It’s just tough, though. Every year he’s been something different. His first year, he’s a corner. Second year, he’s a safety. Next year, he learns a completely new defensive system. So, there needs to be some consistency for him, too, to see that growth.”

Despite all of the changes, Murray expressed confidence in the situation.

"In spite of adversity you've just got to keep playing and striving for perfection," Murray said. "And I think regardless of who's in there, people have done a good job of just stepping up and doing their job when their name is called."