During the fourth game of the 2009 season the Houston Texans hosted the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium, and rectified a run defense that was at the time the worst in the league.
This was accomplished by shifting the front four around a bit, and the addition of strong safety Bernard Pollard. These adjustments changed the tide for the Texans defense, which went from No. 32 against the run in the first four games to No. 13 overall by the end of the season.
This season the Texans defense has flip-flopped from being riddled with gaping holes for running backs, to burst through to a medley of missed assignments, tackles, and opportunities in the passing game.
Here is a look at some adjustments that will need to be made in order for the Texans to overcome this virus this weekend for good.
The best way to help out a struggling secondary is to apply pressure to the quarterback.
Since opening day against the Colts, and the loss of sophomore defensive end Connor Barwin, the Texans' pass rush has been inconsistent from quarter to quarter.
Defensive end Mario Williams is off to a solid start with a total of four sacks so far this season, however without a threat on the other end teams are learning how to double Williams and remove him from the game.
Much like the Cowboys did in their Week 3 victory over the Texans.
For Williams to be effective he is going to have to get some help from either the interior of the defensive line, or from one of the other ends on the roster.
It has seemed that the second-year defensive end from Colorado Jesse Nading flashes the screen the most at this point in the season.
Defensive coordinator Frank Bush is less likely to call elaborate blitz packages when he is concerned that the last line of defense will not hold, if opposing teams check dump off quick slants and short passes.
With the secondary in the third level of the defense struggling, linebackers need to be dropped into coverage more to help contain the receivers. This makes their effectiveness in pass rush situations a non-factor.
To compound this issue, this week the Texans linebackers are thin with Kevin Bentley, Xavier Adibi, and Darryl Sharpton missing time this week. It will be up to sophomore David Nixon to take up the slack at strong side position until the return of Brian Cushing next week.
In order to fix this problem Bush is going to have to take more of a risk on his secondary’s ability to cover, and send some extra men on blitzes to pressure the quarterbacks into making some bad decisions.
The Texans young corners have been taking most of the rap for the humongous numbers the first three quarterbacks this team has faced are putting up.
Sophomore Glover Quin has really looked very good in coverage so far this season. He is a true tackler, and has an immense amount of upside if he continues to improve over the season.
Sophomore Brice McCain seems to be in the right spot, just unable to attack the ball or the player. He is always in the face of the receiver, who is always catching the ball over his head. He is the nickel corner, and has a zero in the pass defended column.
Rookie Kareem Jackson started out shaky, and is improving every game. Against the Cowboys he made more plays then he has in games past, however he also had a costly slip on a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Roy Williams. Otherwise, he is on the precipice of becoming a viable corner in this league.
Look for Jackson to make adjustments to his technique this week, causing him to appear to come from nowhere, but really he has been real close for the last two games.
The Texans have four safeties on the roster, and only two have spent time on the field this season.
Strong safety Bernard Pollard leads the team in tackles, and is one of the emotional leaders on the squad. However, Pollard is only one guy, and cannot defend the pass all alone.
The other safety to start this season has been free safety Eugene Wilson. The eight-year veteran has seemed to be struggling machining tackles and in backing up the young corners against the pass. Wilson pulled a hamstring in the game against Dallas trying to catch Roy Williams from behind on a touchdown pass. He will not be starting in game four against the Raiders.
The starting free safety will be third-year free safety Dominique Barber. Barber was a starter for most of last season, while Wilson was injured. Look for the back end of the defense to shore up this week with Barber on the field.
The fourth safety on the Texans roster is sophomore and preseason stand out Troy Nolan. Nolan was everywhere during the preseason, and should begin to creep on the field more and more starting this week against the Raiders.
The best way to defend the pass is to keep the Raiders offense off the field all together. If they are sitting on the bench watching the Texans run game chew up the clock, the Texans defense can keep their legs fresh.
Against the Cowboys last week the Texans were able to hold the Cowboys offense for the first 40 minutes of play or so. However, after the offense was unable to put together a few first downs, the defense began to weaken.
By the middle of the fourth quarter the Texans' defense was worn down, and the Cowboys were able to move the ball at will against them. Arguably if the Cowboys were not so set on being balanced and improving their run game, they could have put up another 14 points on the Texans through the air in the fourth quarter.
The Texans are going to have to find a way to keep running the ball, and to score in the red zone once they get there in order to fix this teams passing defense issues.