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Lockout Or Not, Wade Phillips Is Leaving His Mark

Despite being locked out, Wade Phillips has shown that the Houston defense will not be the same as it has been in its first nine seasons.

Admittedly, this has been a hard off-season to get excited about. The NFL Lockout slowly rolls on as the millionaires and billionaires keep fighting over revenue distribution. Yet, somehow, I am excited. I am excited because I like the news that has slowly come out of Reliant Stadium this off-season. The main generator of that news? Mr. Wade Phillips - the new defensive coordinator of your Houston Texans.

For those who once wondered if Frank Bush was going to be Richard Smith part two, Phillips has come in and clearly shown that he will not be a re-run of Bush, Smith, or even Vic Fangio. Even with limited windows to make moves, Wade has shown that complacency and laziness are things of the past for the Houston defense.

Eugene Wilson? Released. Bernard Pollard? Told he wasn't a good enough fit for Wade's defense. Zac Diles? A name that hasn't even been uttered by Wade. Amobi Okoye? His first round status does not guarantee him a starting spot. The ol' vanilla base set defense with a cover-2 shell? Gone as Wade talks about three and four man fronts with shifting personnel and cornerbacks who need to fight harder, hinting at more man-to-man coverage as he brings the pass rush.

It is hard, after a near decade of mediocre to abysmal defense, to not be excited when Bum's son talks about putting his best defensive talent - Mario Williams - in positions to succeed and take advantage of the best one-on-one match-up he can get. It's hard not to get excited when Wade Phillips is breaking down tape of players and looking for technique to fix and correct - as he has talked about with Mario and last year's punchline Kareem Jackson.

The 2011 NFL Draft was a nice oasis in the lockout desert as fans saw that Wade had a plan to infuse this defense with athleticism and high motors - the kind of attitude he needs in his relentless attack-the-quarterback defense. It's the kind of attitude that will put quarterbacks on their back, as Wade-led defenses typically do. It's the kind of hardhat-like attitude that will end the jokes about the Houston defense. Yes, there is still some top-of-the-depth chart talented needed in the defensive backfield while the linebacking corps could use a bit of depth, but you can already see Wade turn this into his defense.

Most Texans fans are understandably skeptical and jaded, but Wade Phillips has made this defense better. In an off-season with little to get excited about leaguewide, Houston fans just may have something that could spark some hope for 2011....or 2012, ya know whenever that pesky Lockout ends.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.