By Joshua Reese

Houston (CBS HOUSTON) – Last season the Houston Texans had the best defense in the NFL, only allowing 301.3 yards a game.

While most of that same defense will be returning, the team will be without some very key contributors, in the secondary alone, strong safety Quintin Demps and slot cornerback A.J. Bouye both left in free agency.

Demps picked off the second most passes in the NFL with six interceptions and the veteran safety was rarely out of position. Bouye a fourth-year corner, had a breakout season, with 17 pass deflections, good enough to tie him for seventh in the NFL, he would also become a weapon for the team against tight ends which is something that’s haunted Texans defensives in years past.

“It’ll definitely be tough to replace what they did for us last year, but we got some great guys in the room,” Kareem Jackson said when asked how do they make up for what both Demps and Bouye provided. “Getting Kevin (Johnson) back is definitely huge for us as a defense, Corey Moore played a ton of ball for us last year as well, so with those two guys out there I think we can definitely the job done.”

While the secondary did lose to top contributors, the biggest overall weapon for the Texans, J.J. Watt only played in three games last season, and after a second back surgery, the three-time defensive player of the year is ready to rejoin a defense that was number one without him.

“He’s a huge piece to our defense and to have him back healthy out there on the field, definitely means a lot to us as a team and as a defense,” Jackson said of having Watt for this upcoming season. “Anytime we have him out there and we got (No.) 90 (Jadeveon Clowney) and Whit (Whitney Mercilus), we know it’ll definitely make our job easier as a secondary, those guys are definitely going to do any and everything they can do to get to the quarterback so it only helps us as a team.”

Last year, while the Texans had the number one defense, the team’s sacks numbers were among the lowest in the league, with only 31 on the season, they tied with the L.A. Rams and the Baltimore Ravens for the 24th fewest.

On top of the poor sack numbers – which is understandable considering Watt missed nearly all last season, the Texans also finished with 17 total takeaways, good enough to just miss the bottom five teams in the NFL, but tieing them with the Indianapolis Colts for the sixth worst in the league.

“One of the things we talked about as soon as we got back for OTAs is creating turnovers,” Jackson said. “We feel like as a defensive unit, that’s our job, to create turnovers, If we can improve on that as well as continue to get better in some of the other defensive categories and situational football and continue to progress as a group, like I said, we definitely want to be the best unit in football.”

The Texans had the best defense in the league last season, and that was without Watt, a ton of sacks, or turnovers. They did lose some big pieces through free agency, but it’s hard to think they can’t be as good or even better next season.