With a tie followed by a pair of losses to begin the season, the Houston Texans are not exactly among the proverbial toasts of the town in the AFC.
Quarterback Davis Mills has been largely underwhelming, currently having completed 62 of 197 passes for 662 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Wideout Brandin Cooks has yet to record a touchdown reception. Defensively, the Texans are allowing an average of 203.3 rushing yards per game.
If one were so inclined, they might say that Houston has a … problem. Or many?
However, if there is one silver lining to be found among the cloudy skies of Houston, it would reside in the Texans' defensive backfield.
Newly-acquired cornerback Steven Nelson has been a strong contributor, earning 15 total tackles and three pass-break-ups throughout their first three games. The ex-Philadelphia Eagle is at his best in a zone system, which has provided him with the ability to assimilate into the zone schemes typically employed by Texans coach Lovie Smith.
Nelson has also paired quite nicely with rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.
Despite some of Stingley’s early struggles, he flashed his playmaking ability on numerous occasions. Like Nelson, he also has logged three pass-breakups, with 18 total tackles and one sack. Stingley routinely matches his targets both step-for-step and in-and-out of breaks. He also possesses great instinct for making plays on passes thrown in his direction.
Stingley's skill set will undoubtedly make him a player to be watched throughout the upcoming season. Once he is able to harness his consistency, he will round into a top-level presence on the perimeter.
At safety, Houston has been just as brilliant. Rookie Jalen Pitre has been a standout performer, earning 23 tackles (two for loss), two passes defended, and two interceptions. His efforts in Houston’s 23-20 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 3 (Pitre intercepted Bears’ quarterback Justin Fields twice) was truly one of Houston’s bright spots on an otherwise dismal day.
Strong safety Jonathan Owens has been a consistent performer, as well. The four-year veteran out of Missouri West has led the NFL in tackles for the past two weeks, having compiled 36 in total through three games played.
In preparing for their Week 4 showdown with the potentially explosive offense of the Los Angeles Chargers, Houston may take solace in the fact that their secondary will be up to the challenge.
As for their defensive front … that is a conversation for another day.
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