Two years ago when the Houston Texans finished dead last in pass defense it was made a priority to improve a defense that included many talented players like Mario Williams, Demeco Ryans, and Brian Cushing. That offeason the team signed Wade Phillips, a Houston native and son of the iconic Bum Phillips. I remember fans mumbling about what would have to be done to become a 3-4 defense. I knew it wasn’t as much as fans made it out to be, yet I did know we were at least a few players away. Now after one season Phillips might have the best defensive unit in the game today. Fans in the city of Houston gave the defensive unit a nickname, Bulls On Parade.
For those who don’t know the story on Wade Phillips career as a defensive coordinator, I’ll give it to you in short. Phillips, 63 at the time had been a head coach in Dallas (2007-10), Buffalo (1998-2000) and Denver (1993-94) and an interim head coach in Atlanta (2003) and New Orleans (1985). He has been an NFL defensive coordinator for 22 seasons, during which time he coached nine top-10 defenses and 12 top-13 defenses.
During the strike shortened offseason of 2010 the Texans wanted to make a splash immediately. Going after CB Johnathan Joseph right away after hearing the amount of money Nnamdi Asomugha was asking for and deciding it was a little rich for their blood. Joseph was a proven physical CB and in Cincinatti he and Leon Hall were one of the best tandoms in the league. After adding Joseph they signed S Daniel Manning who was a 4 year veteran coming to them from the Chicago Bears. With those 2 signings the Wade Phillips defense started to shape itself a bit. But even after that most fans still had so many doubts about not having a traditional OLB or a traditional NT. All offseason there were stories about Mario Williams having to stand up and rush, and if he could actually do that after playing from the three point stance his whole career. No one really knew what to expect out of the Houston Texans in terms of the defense. But the one person that never doubted the talent he had in the group of players was Wade Phillips. I think he knew what he had, and knew this team would be a special unit.
First thing that fans worried about was moving, probably the teams best CB to SS because his style of play also matches Wade’s typical SS. Now we know Glover Quinn will be at SS and Manning’s playing the FS. Didn’t sound too bad at the time knowing they had signed Johnathan Joseph that offseason. Now to the linbackers. Phillips took the 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year from OLB and moved him to ILB in his new scheme. Noting that Cushing had the skill set to play up the middle in his defense with the OLB mainly being used to only pass rush and play zone. I’m guessing Phillips knew Cushing was capable of doing all that so he would be better inside. Playing alongside him was 2006 Defensive Rookie of the Year Demeco Ryans. Smart and an excellent tackler, he actually fits the mold to play ILB or MLB in a 4-3 defense. So Ryans was a no brainer for Phillips. The OLB’s were Mario Williams and Conner Barwin, both were converted DE’s. The defensive line needed some help but not where many people thought. In the draft Wade Phillips got his guy with DE JJ Watt. Along with veteran Antonio Smith he would man the end spots on the defensive line. That left Shaun Cody playing the NT spot for Wade’s defense, a group group of guys known as Wade Phillips and his Bulls On Parade.
The first 2011 preseason game came against the Saints, people were ready to see this new look defense not knowing what to expect. I watched that game and after the first look at the defense I knew then they were going to be really good. They were all over the field all game, even the second and third teams.” Something about this Phillips scheme is working,” I thought. As the presason continued I saw more of the same. But with limited time against starters and the shortened training camps it was still not known that they really had a handle on the defense. So week 1 comes around and Wade Phillips and the Texans defense have something to prove to the league, and their fans. In the opener they get after Kerry Collins all night as they routed the Colts 34-7. The theme of not allowing passing yards and limiting the run continued all season. The Texans closed the season at 2nd in the league in total yards per game against their defense at 286. They accomplished this with OLB Mario Williams out after playing the Raiders in week 5. Brooks Reed, a player Phillips also drafted stepped in and collected 6 sacks the remainder of the season. Opposite Reed OLB Conner Barwin had a great year as well ending the season 3rd in the AFC and 9th in the league with 11.5 sacks. As a team the Texans finished with a team record 44 sacks.This Texans defense went on a 7 week run in which they didn’t give up more than 20 points in a single game. No coincidence that the team didn’t lose a game during that stretch. CB Johnathan Joseph did his job along with newcomer Daniel Manning going from last to 3rd in pass defense in just one season. After a turnaround like that there’s no doubting that Wade Phillips and his Bulls On Parade took care of business.
Now with the new season starting the Houston Texans defense is expected to be as good, or better than last season. To me, it sounds like the defense likes the pressure. After losing both Mario Williams and Demeco Ryans to trade and free agency they believe they’re still one of the best in the game. With yet another draft Phillips was able to build on top of the talent already there. Picking up players like Jared Crick, Whitney Mercilus, and Hebron Fangupo. Also the Texans picked up former Dallas Cowboys defensive captain ILB Bradie James to fill the void left by Demeco Ryans. A smart pick up, he played the same position in Dallas and led the team in tackles every year playing for Wade Phillips. Should be a big year for Wade’s Bulls On Parade down in Houston this year, the skies the limit for this defense.