One of the more optimistic position groups for the Houston Texans heading into 2023 was their safeties. With 10-year veteran Jimmie Ward, who had the past two years with DeMeco Ryans as his defensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, joining forces with second-year standout Jalen Pitre, the expectation was Houston had their backend locked down.
Ward missed Week 1 with a hip injury, and Pitre was knocked out halfway through the 25-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens with a bruised lung. With Houston set to host the Indianapolis Colts for Week 2 in the NRG Stadium opener, chances are neither Ward nor Pitre will be ready to go.
Texans defensive coordinator Matt Burke nevertheless remains confident in his safeties, especially after their resilience against the Ravens.
“Yeah, I thought they did a great job,” Burke told reporters Sept. 14. “Honestly the question in here last week I think about that group, and I said I thought that was our best unit and most prepared and had the most depth and I think it showed.”
Eric Murray played 64 defensive snaps, representing all of Houston’s plays, and generated four combined tackles. M.J. Stewart, who filled in for Pitre, played 35 snaps and had five combined tackles and a fumble recovery.
I don’t think we missed a beat with either of those guys playing and we felt confident in that — the players feel confident in those guys going out there,” said Burke. “That didn’t affect us at all. I don’t think we blinked.”
The Texans may have to roll with Murray and Stewart against the Colts, and Burke and the coaching staff appear to believe their defensive backs won’t blink.