Midseason Report Card: Defensive Line
Patrick D. Starr
Here is the report card for the Houston Texans defensive line.
J.J. Watt has been a pleasant surprise since being picked at #11 in the 2011 NFL Draft. He has been plugged into a starting spot since coming to Houston and he has not disappointed. One thing we have to remind ourselves is that he is a rookie despite being 6’5” and 288 lbs. He seemed to hit the rookie wall around weeks 4 and 5, but looks like he is coming back to life. Watt has been consistent for the Texans and instantly upgraded the defensive line; he has 26 total tackles and two sacks in the first 8 weeks of the season. Expect Watt to continue to grow and be a staple in the Texans defense for a long time.
Earl Mitchell who was an early favorite to take over the nose tackle duties has been anything but that. He has been very questionable as a nose tackle because he constantly gets moved from his spot. He has provided some good moments, but a C is given to him because he can be more effective that what he has shown. Also, look for Mitchell to get some work at the defensive end position in spot duty.
Tim Jamison has given some good snaps and had a big game against the Ravens. He has done nothing but impressed the defensive coaching staff with his play. Even with his limited snaps, he still causes issues for opposing offensive lines. Tim Bulman has gotten some snaps, but really has been just another guy. He has been the odd man out at times and has already been released during one point of the season. Bulman gets a C because he can contribute at a higher level, but he needs to crack the defensive line rotation.
The nose tackle position was a question mark coming into the season, but Shaun Cody has done nothing but good things for the Texans defense. Cody is a big part of the run defense and his success in this new scheme can be seen with how successful Brian Cushing has been and his ability to run to the football without being touched. Cody has made a big jump in his play this season and his grade of an A is well deserved.
One of the captains of the defense Antonio Smith has been a terror on the defensive line for the Texans. Already with 4.5 sacks to his credit, Smith has established himself to command the double team. Smith’s ability to disrupt has allowed other Texans defensive players to prosper by being single blocked. Look for Smith to push for his first pro bowl appearance if he continues his play at this level.