Several mock drafts have seen the Texans taking DE Cameron Jordan in the first round of this month's NFL Draft. Depending on the players left on the board, that could be a very smart pick for Houston. You can never have enough effective defensive linemen.
Here's yet another national writer saying Houston may look to the defensive end position, despite the fact that Antonio Smith and Mario Williams are entrenched into the two starting spots.
Before the Texans officially hired Wade Phillips to become their defensive coordinator, there were concerns amongst some Texans players that the 3-4 defense wouldn't be a good fit for their skill sets.
Of course, by now the players are all saying the right things and falling in line, as we knew they would.
From the above-linked article:
Antonio Smith is slated to be the starting left end. He played the same position in an odd front in Arizona earlier in his career, but we have heard concerns regarding his ability to hold the point of attack. Veteran DE Damione Lewis, perhaps better suited for the role, is an unrestricted free agent. Even if Smith does pan out, adding depth at the position will be critical.
The problem is, if Antonio Smith "doesn't pan out," that's not a position where the Texans can plug in a late-rounder or cheap free agent. It would be a shock if Smith wasn't the starter, considering 1) he's effectively played the position before, 2) he's making a ton of money for Houston, and 3) he was the Texans most consistent defensive lineman last season - arguably by FAR.
Even if Smith looks like he will make the transition to Wade's version of the 3-4 without any hiccups, the Texans will, as the article suggests, absolutely need to beef up their depth at the position.
To have a solid defensive line rotation, the Texans would do well to add another DE who can do some damage right away. You can't get that in the late rounds. You can't get that from a cheap free agent. The Texans, with their multitude of defensive problems, are going to have to find a way to add a good rotational DE, or a versatile guy who can slide between tackle and end. That's certainly no small task, but it could absolutely be a key to the success of Houston's 2011 defense.
When number 11 comes around on April 28, there's a very good chance that the best players for Houston's biggest need positions won't be on the board. Does the team then take a guy like Jordan? Or do they reach for a guy who fills a more dire need?
Texans fans can only hope that the experience Wade Phillips brings to the draft War Room will be given final say over anything that Gary Kubiak or Rick Smith want on that side of the ball. Houston must, must hit on their early defensive picks. Their defense certainly isn't going to get any worse, but when you're as bad as they were last year, even significant improvement could leave them well-below average.