Texans secondary looks for more in 2012
Cornerback Johnathan Joseph and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips arrived in Houston last year and found the NFL's worst pass defense.
Tall task, right? Not so much.
The two and another newcomer, safety Danieal Manning, helped transform the unit into one of the league's best as the Texans made the playoffs for the first time. The one-year turnaround was remarkable: In 2010, the Texans allowed a whopping 267.5 yards passing a game. Last season, Houston gave up just 189.7 yards - third fewest in the NFL.
The Texans (No. 6 in the AP Pro32) face new challenges this year along with even bigger goals.
''We're not patting ourselves on the back, because we've still got a lot of work to do,'' Manning said. ''We want to be the best, no doubt, making plays and we want to see if we can get everybody in the Pro Bowl.''
Joseph earned the honor last season after finishing with 44 tackles and four interceptions in helping Houston capture its first AFC South title. He joined the Texans after spending the first five seasons of his career in Cincinnati.
The most important thing this season for the group, according to Joseph, is simple: The secondary must be consistent.
''It's one thing to be good one year, it's hard to be great for three or four years in a row,'' he said. ''We want to do it longer than one year, of course. We want to be a great defense for years to come.''
Coach Gary Kubiak raved about everything Joseph has brought to his team, and said it makes him feel good knowing that Joseph is on the field to help the team execute Phillips' schemes.
''It's a great challenge for all of our offensive guys to go against him every day,'' Kubiak said. ''He was a big addition to our team. He really raised the level of our play, he and Danieal Manning both, no doubt about that.''
Phillips let Joseph get comfortable with the team before giving him the task of covering the top receiver on each team midway through the season. Joseph impressed Phillips in that role and the coach expects him to fill it again this year.
''We need him to again be the shutdown corner,'' Phillips said. ''We put him on the team's best receiver ... and we found out he could cover everybody and shut them down pretty well. The other team knows that. It's a challenge for him and I think it's a good challenge for him.''
Joseph never doubted that the Texans could turn things around in the secondary last season. Now that they've done it, the group doesn't plan on letting up.
''There's more confidence, but you have to focus more,'' he said. ''It's out there that you are a good unit, so teams are going to prepare for you and attack you a lot of different ways. We want to put the same intensity onto the field every day and keep improving day in and day out.''
The Texans expect solid performances from Joseph and Manning again this season, but they're interested to see how Kareem Jackson develops in his third year. Jackson, a first-round pick out of Alabama, was much improved last season after struggling mightily as a rookie.
''We try to utilize Kareem with the things he does well,'' Phillips said. ''He's got real good quickness, he's tough and he's a good, strong tackle, so that helped us on things we do with him. We try to get him in those situations.''
Jackson has missed practice time early in camp because of a minor hamstring injury, allowing Kubiak to see extra work from some young players including Sherrick McManis, Brice McCain and Roc Carmichael. Kubiak expects Jackson to be out for a couple more days.
Joseph likes what he's seen from the less experienced members of the secondary in camp so far and said they've even improved in the short time since their last workouts which ended in June. He's naturally quiet, but has made an effort to be a more vocal leader now that he's got a year with the team behind him.
''I always lead by example; I'm not much of a talker. But I've been chatting a little bit since I've been here in practice,'' he said. ''I try to get guys riled up in practice and make it more competitive and have fun at the same time.''
Notes: Kubiak said he hopes that receiver Andre Johnson, who strained his groin on Sunday, can return to practice on Monday.
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