Anyone who has ever served in the military will tell you that the one thing you must have when you engage in battle is a solid front line that will prevent the enemy from attacking the personnel behind you.
The Houston Texans’ defensive front seven might want to talk to a couple of war veterans and ask them what mindset and attitude it takes to protect the line.
The defense has played with a “bend but don’t break” mentality the first three weeks of the season, which has kept them in games, but the results have not been great as the Texans have a 0-2-1 record heading into their Week 4 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
One of the most significant weaknesses of the Texans’ defense has been the run defense which ranks last in the league giving up 202.3 yards per game.
The eyesore from the Week 3 23-20 loss to the Chicago Bears was the 281 yards rushing they gave up to the Bears backups, who ran for 270 of those yards after starting running back David Montgomery went down with a lower leg injury in the first quarter.
“We just got to tackle and wrap up,” said Texans defensive lineman Jonathan Greenard when expounding on the issues in the run game. “We preach a lot of knocking the ball out when sometimes you just have to get the man down.”
“A couple of times we have to be more physical at the point of attack and push the pile backwards. They are getting too many yards on those initial first and second down runs. We have to stop that in order to get in good situations.”
Even when the Texans’ defense is effective on the first two downs, they seem to have a problem stopping the momentum on third downs to get their offense the ball back. Houston has given up 70 first downs this season, with 28 coming by way of the opponents running back, which ranks them 31st in the NFL.
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A more significant indictment on the defensive front seven is that starting safety Jonathan Owens, is tied for first in the league in tackles at 36 (19 solos). That says a lot when your last line of defense has that many tackles.
There is a silver lining in the misfortunes of the Lovie Smith-led defense. They have been able to create takeaways (four interceptions, one fumble recovery) this season and have ten sacks, led by defensive lineman Jerry Hughes. His four on the season have him ranked second amongst all defensive players.
“There is no hesitation or thinking, he is just going,” said Greenard when asked about Hughes’s play on the field. “That is just about preparation and how he goes about himself during the week.”
“He is taking every single note you can think of and goes back through his game plan every single day of the week. He is a guy that has done it multiple years and that is a guy I would love to keep taking notes from.”
This week’s matchup against the Chargers should bring some excitement and joy for the run defense as they have only been able to produce 177 total yards on 67 attempts which are a putrid 59.0 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry. All those stats put the Chargers in dead last regarding the run offense.
Houston will seek their first win of the season on Sunday as the visiting Los Angeles Chargers make their way into NRG Stadium. Kickoff is at noon CST.