Analysis: Is The Texans' Defense Really The Worst In NFL?

The Houston Texans' defense has been ranked as the worst in the NFL. Is this fair?
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Judging the state of the Houston Texans' defense is near impossible at this time given the extremely high turnover of players, the newly appointed defensive coordinator and the new defensive scheme on its way in. 

But it's the offseason, so ... judgments, however premature, are made.

Houston will transition for the first time since 2010 from 3-4 base over to a 4-3 under new coordinator Lovie Smith, and that could be a reason for hope.

Or ...

Bleacher Report is ranking all 32 NFL defenses post-NFL Draft, and placing the Texans dead last among all rosters. 

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The Texans made a trio of offensive picks to start their draft and didn’t address defense until the fifth round when it took linebacker Garret Wallow at No. 170. The club also acquired nose tackle Ryan Lopez a round later at No. 195, a player that could wind up seeing the field right away for this depleted team. 

Houston didn’t acquire much veteran talent this offseason either, with the most notable signings including a pair of linebackers in Jordan Jenkins and Kevin Pierre-Louis, as well as cornerback Terrance Mitchell. Given the club parted ways with star pass-rusher J.J. Watt, things are looking quite bleak for this club in 2021. Alex Kay, BR.

It's easy to label Houston's defense as the league's worst given its multitude of issues in 2020. But is looking at the glaring needs remaining instead of also acknowledging the ones corrected one-sided?

Although the writer is correct in stating that Houston did not address its defensive woes until the fifth round, what isn't mentioned is the fact that they did acquire what the Texans think is a potential starting quarterback in Davis Mills with the No. 67 pick. They also added (again, what in the Texans' view is a) high-end starter in wide receiver Nico Collins to close out the third round.

Houston primarily focused its attention this offseason in bringing in veteran free agents for the new defensive scheme, meaning that they were never likely to build on this side of the ball through the draft. 

Claiming that the Texans "didn't acquire much veteran talent" is, on paper, incorrect.  

Did they revolutionize their defense in free agency? No. Did they suddenly become a top-20 defense? Highly unlikely as well. 

While Pierre-Louis, Jenkins and Mitchell are mentioned, Shaq Lawson, Maliek Collins, Christian Kirksey and Desmond King are not. Those four have all arrived and are all talented in their own rights — each providing a case to be starters come Week 1 at their respective roles.

Combine these signings with Smith's vast defensive knowledge, this unit should look vastly different and more aggressive in 2021. Despite the loss of J.J. Watt, it could be argued that there is now more overall talent available than last year, when they not only lacked quality starters at various positions but, crucially, any real depth.

Maybe we are nitpicking, because we are prepared to argue that they are not the league's worst defense ... while also acknowledging that they aren't likely to be in the NFL's top half this season, either. 

Where Houston needs to start on defense is by being better than it was in 2020. On what we can fairly judge so far? Maybe, just maybe, that is happening.

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