TeX’s and O’s: Georgia Safety Javon Bullard could bring physicality to secondary

The Houston Texans are ready to contend.

Coming off an 11-8 campaign, general manager Nick Caserio and head coach DeMeco Ryans have had a spectacular start to the off-season and have brought in players with Super Bowl optimism.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs, edge rusher Danielle Hunter, running back Joe Mixon, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and defensive tackle Denico Autry headline a group that’s propelled the Texans into five-five odds. The team appears ready to compete with one large caveat

Is the defensive secondary ready?

The current projected starting safety duo was hit-and-miss throughout the division-winning campaign. Veteran Jimmie Ward missed multiple games due to injury, ending the year on the reserve list. Jalen Pitre regressed from his breakout rookie campaign, especially in man coverage.

Houston may be ready to run ample man coverage looks with star corner Derek Stingley Jr. and newcomers Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson, but they’ll need a constant security net over the top if expecting better results.

Safety has been on the mind of Caserio. Three have visited NRG Stadium this past month, including Georgia’s Javon Bullard, perhaps the best fit for Ryans’ man-heavy scheme.

Bullard, a two-year starter for the Bulldogs, often was tasked with high-leverage roles under Kirby Smart’s man-based unit. He had 56 tackles, seven passes breakups and two interceptions last season in Athens. He also was named the Nation Championship game’s MVP during the team’s title run in 2022.

His pre-draft run has been equally impressive. Bullard was named the top safety of the Reeses’ Senior Bowl practices and impressed NFL teams throughout the week in Mobile, Ala.

Additionally, he had a strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash and tied together a strong 8.24 “Relative Athletic Score.”

It should come as no surprise that Ryans and defensive coordinator Matt Burke are interested in potentially seeing the Bulldog product supplemented to the ‘SWARM’ persona. The film shows an instinctive player in coverage who isn’t afraid to crash violently and support the run.


Bullard is comfortable playing on the back end, reading out plays, and positioning himself well when asked to defend the run and on passing concepts. He may start the following play farther off the line of scrimmage than any of his fellow defenders, but Bullard is quick to see it and react.


These instincts allowed Bullard to be a plus player in the run game and he was a reliable tackler if running backs managed to get past Georgia’s formidable front seven.

That same ability to trigger downhill also allows Bullard to make highlight plays on the football. He had four interceptions in his final two seasons with Georgia. That can largely be attributed to how he dissects plays.

Defensive backs coach Dino Vasso should love the attentiveness and pursuit angles Bullard presents downfield, but also the physicality when asked to guard receivers.

This play against Florida shows Bullard at his best. The safety reads the quarterback early, flies downhill to the developing slant route, and crushes the receiver to prevent a first down. The ability to recognize passing concepts and punish targets will be one of Bullard’s best assets at the NFL level.


While a promising player, Bullard’s not a finished product. He tends to launch at plays he recognizes, which can also leave him in poor position should he misread the coverage.

Earlier in that same contest against Florida, a similar concept was drawn up. Instead of making a highlight tackle, Bullard took a bad angle in coverage, leading to a Gators’ touchdown.

In terms of character, Bullard isn’t a slouch. In The Athletics’ draft analyst Dane Brugler’s “The Beast,” he found glowing commentary on the safety including that, “High school and college coaches agree that he has a future in coaching, because of his mental toughness” and that he was “Regarded as one of the team leaders in the Georgia locker room.”

Bullard is a motivated player and a good athlete tasked with handling free safety responsibilities as the last line of defense for a proven championship-caliber program. His football IQ and attentiveness for sniffing out plays suggest he’s someone well-prepared to play at the next level.


In Ryans’ defense, Bullard could plug in immediately next to Ward or Pitre and serve as a reliable coverage safety who brings a new element of physicality to any secondary.

Additionally, his presence could allow Pitre to play closer to the box on running downs and potentially create a better role for the third-year Baylor product. Pitre, a former second-round pick, won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year while lined up in the STAR position under a similar defensive formation.

Bullard is a very realistic draft target for Houston during the 2nd round, either at pick No. 42 or pick No. 59. It would be far-fetched to imagine Bullard falling out of the second round, let alone to Houston at pick No. 86 midway through Round 3.

Whether Caserio and Ryans believe he could require a trade up, or are content to wait for him where they currently sit, is yet to be seen.

What’s certain is that Bullard could bring a sense of dependability and physicality that Houston desperately needs for its Super Bowl chase.

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire