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


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.

Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and