The offense is solid and can definitely score. The defensive line is a young, fast, and talented group led by Mario Williams. The secondary is probably the weak spot on the team, but given the age and inexperience of some of the players such as rookies Troy Nolan and Brice McCain, that should only improve with time. Then you get to the strong spot of the defense, the linebacker group, that could amount to one of the best in the league.
Whether you’re looking at veterans DeMeco Ryans, Chaun Thompson, Kevin Bentley, and the newly added Cato June, or the young guys featuring Xavier Adibi, Zac Diles, or free agent pick-up Buster Davis, not to mention the first-round pick from football factory USC, Brian Cushing, and the undrafted free agent rookie Toddrick Verdell (Florida State), depth and talent are overflowing.
So what should the Texans do? They could switch things up to the 3-4, but who would play the nose? Shaun Cody? That could possibly work, if only he wasn't 6'4". Ideally you want a shorter, wider player to clog up that middle and get underneath the blocks from across the trenches. Amobi Okoye would be probably your best bet if he could add another 20 pounds or so. The 4-3 is what they will probably stick with though and so that means it's decision time in Houston. Which six (the most likely number) of the nine linebackers are going to make the squad?
You have to look at the obvious selections to make the team. DeMeco Ryans is the defensive captain and one of the best young middle linebackers in the game, and a former defensive rookie of the year. Zac Diles could be the best of the group if he can remain healthy. After watching some highlight plays on him, he has the ability to become the next Ray Lewis. Xavier Adibi's work ethic, football IQ, and his ability to lead both on and off the field make him a staple in the Texans plans for years to come.
Bud Foster, the defensive coordinator for Virginia Tech and Adibi's former coach, spoke in the Roanoke Times about his former linebacker—
"Xavier might be the fastest guy and the most athletic linebacker I've had the opportunity to coach. His first asset is he's got great speed. Plus, he's physical. He's a complete linebacker. On top of all that, he has a good football IQ and will be a great team guy."
Then you look at the team's first-round selection of Brian Cushing. He is coming in immediately to compete with Diles and Adibi for a starting outside linebacker position. The former Dallas Cowboy fan in a New York Giant home is a wild, rabid dog on almost every play, and many feel that he was the second-best linebacker in this year’s draft behind Seattle’s Aaron Curry.
Brian Cushing at USC (Getty Images)
Having several talented players at a position is a problem that many coaches would love to have, but it’s nevertheless a problem. Head Coach Gary Kubiak, Defensive Coordinator Frank Bush Sr., and Linebacker Coach Johnny Holland now have the unenviable task of determining who should stay and who should go. The players who will make the squad will be aiming to inflict pain and shut-outs against the AFC South and the rest of the league.