No, I’m not high on some drug that makes you say the exact opposite of what is true. The Houston Texans (lest you be confused by which Texans team I was referencing) are in first place in the NFL in total yards per game.
I feel comfortable admitting that I was completely, totally, absolutely, undeniably 100 percent wrong about the Texans’ decision to switch to a 3-4 defense.
People thought Shaun Cody was too small. People thought Mario Williams was too big. People thought Connor Barwin was too inexperienced, that Brooks Reed was too young and JJ Watt was unnecessary. People thought Glover Quinn was a bad player, that Brian Cushing was only good because he was on steroids and that Wade Phillips was more hype than substance.
People were wrong.
There are plenty of people that deserve credit on this defense, but no one deserves more credit than Wade Phillips.
Houston’s new defensive coordinator came in during a lockout shortened offseason to revamp one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Texans were giving up 376 yards per game and 26.7 points per game. Those are stats that make it next to impossible to win in the NFL.
However, with almost no time to install his defense, Phillips managed to take six players that had never played in a 3-4 system and get them ready to be the best defense in the NFL before their bye week.
Among the players on the field, Brian Cushing is playing like a defensive MVP candidate. He is averaging just under nine tackles per game, with two interceptions and two sacks. However, the numbers themselves are not what are most amazing about Cushing’s performances. He has become the heart and soul of this defense.
DeMeco Ryans has typically made all calls during games, but Cushing has taken that over this year. Cushing has become a complete player that stays on the field for the team during nickle and dime packages.
He also plays with a fire and determination that is truly inspiring. He has had two games in which he was forced to come out (briefly) because his face was gushing blood. Those indelible images stay with his teammates and inspire them to keep on fighting.
Any talk of the difference between this defense and the one the Texans had last year must also mention Johnathan Joseph. The former Bengal has been the kind of lock-down corner that this team has never had. What’s more, he is not a finesse player like Deion Sanders. Opponents can’t run at him because he is a good tackler and physical against backs. Joseph has clearly made a case for being considered in the elite of the elite cornerback conversation.