Houston Texans Must Build to Force More Turnovers Next Season

Ryan CookContributor IDecember 23, 2013

Dec 22, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) reacts after a defensive play during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans are still alive in one race: the race for the No. 1 draft pick. 

It was the same old problems that lead to the Texans' undoing on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Matt Schaub looked plain, the secondary allowed Peyton Manning to throw for 400 yards, but most importantly, the Texans left the game without a single turnover or takeaway to show. 

For most of the season, it's been like this. Houston has only six interceptions this year and eight fumbles, while the rest of the Texans' opponents have managed to force 20 interceptions for five touchdowns during either Matt Schaub or Case Keenum's struggles. 

When a team turns the ball over that much, 2-13 type seasons are bound to happen. When a team has the kind of talent on defense that the Texans do however, it's inexcusable. 

Blaming the Texans' takeaway problem on one player is hard, but there's no denying the fact that J.J. Watt has had a down year, at least by his standards.

A year ago, we watched Watt pile on 20.5 sacks, and everyone expected double that in 2013. With a week to go in the regular season, Watt now has only 9.5 sacks and three more tackles than he did 12 months ago. 

What has changed between Watt back then and Watt right now is thanks to what the Texans have been able to produce as a team.

Last season, Houston featured one of the best rush defenses in the league, but now, Watt is being asked to chase down guys like Zac Stacy while the rest of the Texans defense collapses in the red zone. It seems either the defensive line gets severely outmuscled, or the Texans defensive ends reach the ball-carrier a few seconds too late. 

Dec 22, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker (87) makes a reception during the fourth quarter as Houston Texans cornerback Brice McCain (21) attempts to make a tackle at Reliant Stadium. The Broncos defeated the Texans 37-13. M
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If it isn't running backs, it's opposing quarterbacks that are also having their way against the Texans. Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme almost seems like it's become predictable, and with so many guys in the secondary having an awful year, it probably calls for a change.

The number of defensive backs that have been burned is high. Rookie D.J. Swearinger shows so much promise in coverage but almost looks lost in Phillips' scheme. Brice McCain signed a new deal in the offseason but hardly looks worth it. And Brandon Harris and Kareem Jackson have been a mess for most of the year. 

It's been an icy cold few months for the Texans' secondary bar guys like Johnathan Joseph. Phillips is a huge fan of man coverage, but while the Texans dabbled a little in zone coverage this past weekend against the Broncos, it worked okay.

A transition is hardly likely just yet with so many other issues to address. After cashing in 15 interceptions and 17 fumbles in 2012, though, finding more takeaways is just as big a problem as finding a new quarterback.

Whether or not that thinking proceeds into the draft is a whole other story.