Shaky secondary leaves Texans last in pass defense
The Houston Texans drafted Kareem Jackson in the first round and immediately ordained him their top cornerback, assigned to lock down every opponent's No. 1 receiver.
So far, it seems like a disastrous move.
The Texans rank last in pass defense (329.6 yards per game) and have allowed an opposing receiver to top 100 yards in four of their five games.
Houston coach Gary Kubiak is sticking with Jackson, Quin and fellow second-year cornerback Brice McCain as the Texans (3-2) prepare for Sunday's game against Kansas City (3-1). Houston has a bye week after that, and Kubiak insists the team won't be shopping for a veteran cornerback during the gap in the schedule.
''When you make those decisions, you have to move on,'' Kubiak said. ''We went young and we know who we're playing with. I think they're going to all be fine players. I think it's part of the growth process, but we need that process to hurry up.''
The secondary has undeniably improved in one area in the last two weeks, intercepting four passes after failing to pick off one in any of the first three games.
Backup safety Troy Nolan had two interceptions in the Texans' 31-24 win over Oakland on Oct. 3. Jackson and fellow rookie Sherrick McManis intercepted passes in Houston's 34-10 loss to the Giants last week.
Defensive coordinator Frank Bush sees progress, and said the cornerbacks look fine in practice. Bush said the cornerbacks - Jackson, in particular - have been sound in their techniques overall, but have been unlucky on some of the big plays against them this season.
''Some guys have slipped and fallen down, and guys have made plays on them,'' Bush said. ''We've had some bad angles, things like that, things I know we work on that we've not been able to do at times. It's not because of effort and it's not because the kids aren't smart enough. They've just had some bad luck.''
Jackson stumbled at the line on Roy Williams' 63-yard touchdown catch in Dallas' 27-13 win over Houston on Sept. 26. The former Alabama star said the following week that he sees the mistakes he's making when he watches replays, and he's frustrated because they seem so simple to fix.
''For whatever reason, I just do something differently than I would normally do,'' he said. ''I've got to correct it.''
Jackson did not speak to reporters on Wednesday, but Quin and McCain said they're not worried about a dip in the rookie's morale. Quin said the interception against Eli Manning may be just the spark Jackson needs to turn around his season.
''Any time you can make a big play, that's always good. When you make plays, it's a boost of confidence and it makes you feel all right,'' Quin said. ''Nine times out of 10, if you make a big play, you were probably doing everything right on that play.
''So it kind of goes in your mind that, if I do things right every play, I could probably make a lot more plays,'' Quin said. ''Interceptions are good for you.''
The secondary can't be blamed for all the issues in pass defense. Houston ranks 18th in sacks (9) and couldn't muster one in losses to Dallas and the Giants.
Defensive end Mario Williams has five sacks and the Texans have been trying for weeks to find a suitable complement, first courting retired Buffalo defensive end Aaron Schobel and then adding former Bears' defensive end Mark Anderson. Linebacker Brian Cushing returned last week from a four-game suspension, and he should give a boost to the rush after getting four sacks last season.
''We've got to continue to search as a group,'' Kubiak said. ''I think Cush did help us out (Sunday). He put some pressure on the quarterback. But it's about the group. It's not good enough as a group. It's not about one player or one position, it's about the whole group playing better.''