Houston Texans: Johnathan Joseph

Here's a look at how the Texans allocated their cap space at the cornerback position.

Texans' Adjusted Cap Value: $133,467,230
Cap Value: $110,222,071
Dead Money / Other: $21,865,072
Cap Space: $1,380,087

Cornerbacks: $17,335,123 vs cap, 38.26 percent of defensive cap, 15.73 percent of overall cap

Johnathan Joseph: $11,250,000 vs cap, 24.83 percent of defensive cap, 10.21 percent of overall cap

Kareem Jackson: $4,335,000 vs cap, 9.57 percent of defensive cap, 3.93 percent of overall cap

A.J. Bouye: $496,666 vs cap, 1.1 percent of defensive cap, .45 percent of overall cap

Darryl Morris: $495,000 vs cap, 1.09 percent of defensive cap, .45 percent of overall cap

Andre Hal: $437,281 vs cap, .97 percent of defensive cap, .34 percent of overall cap

Jumal Rolle: $321,176 vs cap, .71 percent of defensive cap, .29 percent of overall cap

Joseph's $11.25 million cap figure for the 2014 season led to some speculation about his future with the Texans last offseason. The problem with that line of thinking was that the Texans couldn't have replaced Joseph with someone who could play at his level. It increases next season to $12.25 million. Jackson will become a free agent this season and was a relative bargain on the last year of his rookie deal. Joseph and Jackson, both with significantly higher cap hits than the league average, were the only two Texans' defensive backs overall to make more than the league average at his position.
The Wednesday editions or our series examining playing time and salary-cap allocation turn now to the defensive backfield.

Cornerbacks

Of this group, Jackson is the only one scheduled to hit free agency. When active for games, he played more than any other corner, though Jackson missed three games to injury. He played outside and then slid inside when the defense called for a slot corner. Jackson spent last offseason learning the position and did well, offering that versatility to the Texans. Mack was only on the roster for a short period of time, released on Oct. 28, about the time when the Texans picked up Rolle. Hal, a rookie seventh-round draft pick, had plenty of playing time early in the season, but played saw five snaps in the last seven games.
HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans were without three starters at practice for the second straight day.

Johnson
Johnson
Tight end Garrett Graham (ankle), receiver Andre Johnson (concussion), and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (back) were among the players to miss practice two days in a row. Defensive end Tim Jamison (knee) and guard Xavier Su'a-Filo (back) also missed practice.

Graham suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of last week's game against the Jaguars. Johnson took a hard hit to his head last weekend that seemed to knock him unconscious for a few seconds and caused his concussion.

Mercilus was having issues with his back that limited his playing time against the Jaguars. On Thursday, O'Brien was unsure about Mercilus's status for Sunday's game.

Brian Cushing did not practice Wednesday, but returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. Rather than the knee recovery that kept him on the injury report earlier in the season, Cushing is now on the report with an ankle/back designation. The seriousness is unclear, but it's good news that he returned to practice.

Running back Arian Foster (groin) and cornerback Johnathan Joseph (knee/achilles) both returned to practice after missing practice Wednesday.
HOUSTON -- T.Y. Hilton seemed unstoppable against the Houston Texans in October. He had one of the best games any receiver has had against the Texans and it wasn't an outlier. Hilton has touchdown catches of 61, 70 and 59 yards against Houston. He has 611 yards and six touchdowns in his five games against Houston.

So how do they stop him?

Hilton
Careful planning and increased physicality.

"You have to be physical with him," Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. "You have to make him earn it. obviously he's going to make his catches, but you have to make it a long day for him. You can't give him anything easy, nothing cheap. You can't give him the big explosive plays, the 50 and 60-yard catches."

They've seen that work for other teams on film against Hilton. He averages 99 yards per game this season, less than half what he gained in Houston this October. He's been kept under 100 yards seven times this season and under 70 yards four times.

"When guys challenge him, it's harder for him to get into his route and get downfield and get the vertical looks, to where [Colts quarterback] Andrew Luck will see him get jammed up pretty well and his read will go to someone else," Texans safety Kendrick Lewis said. "[The Texans will be] giving him different looks, but at times when we have the opportunity to press him and put our hands on him, [the Texans will] try to use that to slow him down."

Right now, Hilton ranks third in the NFL with 1,295 receiving yards. In the past he has had Joseph shadowing him, but it takes teamwork for players to keep an eye on him as he moves around quite a bit.

"It’s hard to locate him," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "It’s kind of like, relative to how we move [J.J.] Watt around where it’s hard to slide the protection to Watt or direct the run at him or away from him because you don’t know where he is. Relative to Hilton on offense, OK, how do you cover this guy when he’s over here at flanker, he’s in the slot, he’s at split end. Pep [Hamilton] does a really good job with him."

HOUSTON -- Observed and heard in the Houston Texans' locker room after their 45-21 win over the Tennessee Titans:
    Fitzpatrick
  • After his record-setting day, Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was joined in the locker room by three young boys -- his son, Brady, his son, Tate, and their friend, Dylan. I asked him to introduce them during his postgame press conference, and after doing so, he called Brady to the podium. Like a magician, Fitzpatrick asked a reporter in the audience to provide two numbers between 90 and 99 for Brady to multiply. The reporter chose 93 and 97 and multiplied them on his calculator. Brady stood on stage for a few ticks before revealing the answer: 9,021. "BOOM!" Fitzpatrick said. Then he walked off the stage muttering something about "Rain Man."
  • Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph left Sunday's game in the third quarter with an unspecified Achilles injury. Joseph came back to the sideline but never back to the game. Had it been closer, he probably would have. "I think the game was out of hand, and they just kept me out," he said.
  • J.J. Watt had some words with some Titans during a timeout. "I told the guys today in my pregame speech, when you step between the white lines, there's no more Mr. Nice Guy," Watt said. "Off the field, I consider myself a pretty nice guy, trying to do lots of different things, but when you step between the lines for those three or four hours every Sunday, it's time to go. There's no more Mr. Nice Guy."
  • Texans coach Bill O'Brien and quarterback coach George Godsey trusted Fitzpatrick to throw deep more often because of his week of practice. "That's what gave us confidence," O'Brien said. "Not that in the past he hadn't had good practice weeks, but this week it seemed like everything kind of came together for him for this particular game."
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Texans' 22-13 loss to Cincinnati at NRG Stadium:

Clowney limited: Jadeveon Clowney walked gingerly in the locker room after the game, his gait not that of someone fully healthy yet. Clowney had knee surgery in September to repair a torn meniscus and has been playing on a limited basis since then. "Some things are holding me back still, but I'm just out here trying to do what I can do and have fun," he said. Having not been through a serious injury before, the return is an adjustment. "You never know if you're going to have an injury or not coming into the league," he said. "So when that happened to me, it was a setback."

Joseph
Joseph has moment: Cornerback Johnathan Joseph's emotions overtook him after he returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown. "I had an anxiety attack or something," Joseph said. "It was a great play. It picked us up from a team standpoint. ... Just one of those things. It's part of the moment. I'd like to be out there with my teammates and all, but that play right there, it just took over my body and controlled my body. I had no control."

Dalton stays clean: The Texans hit Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton only twice and never sacked him. Part of that was a function of how quickly Dalton got rid of the ball. "There's not a whole lot the defensive line can do when he is doing that," defensive end Jared Crick said.

Shift nets safety: Cincinnati's defensive front shifted to the left in anticipation of the Texans' play out of their own end zone. The result was a safety when running back Alfred Blue was tackled in the end zone. Blue never really had a chance. "They just overloaded that side," left tackle Duane Brown said. "We had nothing there. We had nothing over there, basically."
HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans' bye week following this week's game against the Eagles will come at a time when a lot of players need some rest.

Clowney
Seven players did not practice Wednesday, including Jadeveon Clowney, who coach Bill O'Brien said came out of Sunday's game a little bit sore. It was Clowney's first game back since having knee surgery Sept. 8. Running back Arian Foster, whose workload has significantly decreased in the past few weeks, also got the day off. I'm expecting him to get a lot of Wednesdays off as the season progresses.

Here's the rest of Wednesday's injury report for both the Texans and the Eagles.

Texans

DID NOT PARTICIPATE

OLB Jadeveon Clowney (knee), ILB Brian Cushing (knee), RB Arian Foster (knee), WR Andre Johnson (ankle), CB Johnathan Joseph (knee), OLB Brooks Reed (groin), ILB Jeff Tarpinian (knee)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

RB Alfred Blue (ankle), CB Darryl Morris (ankle), OLB John Simon (ankle)

FULL PARTICIPATION

DE Tim Jamison (groin), OLB Whitney Mercilus (shoulder), CB Jumal Rolle (wrist)

Eagles

DID NOT PARTICIPATE

S Nate Allen (hamstring), CB Brandon Boykin (hamstring)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

WR Brad Smith (groin)

FULL PARTICIPATION

G Todd Herremans (biceps), C Jason Kelce (hernia), LB Mychal Kendricks (calf), WR Jeff Maehl (foot), LB DeMeco Ryans (groin), RB Darren Sproles (knee), CB Jaylen Watkins (wrist)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Texans' 20-17 overtime loss to the Cowboys.
  • Watt
    Watt
    The Houston Texans led the Dallas Cowboys 7-3 when Tony Romo eluded J.J. Watt and found Terrance Williams in the end zone. Watt was frustrated after the game. "Obviously on the one I should've had a sack," Watt said. "Those are the type of things that weigh on you. ...Every team throws the house and the kitchen sink at me. That's fine. I'm fine with that. It's something I have to deal with on a weekly basis. That's why it's that much more frustrating when I'm in clean and miss a sack that turns into a touchdown."
  • Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant's sure-handed catch over cornerback Johnathan Joseph in overtime was one on which Joseph's coverage was exactly what he needed. "Third down, man-to-man coverage. Just ran a stutter and go. Had great position. He just made a tough catch. ...I don't think I could have any better coverage than what I had on the play, but you know it's the NFL so those guys get paid. He made a hell of a catch."
  • "I'm not playing well enough to win the last few weeks," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. Fitzpatrick finished with a passer rating of 64.4 with one interception and no touchdowns. He completed 16 of 25 passes.
  • "Sucks," running back Arian Foster said, when asked to offer his thoughts on Sunday's loss.
HOUSTON -- This version of the Houston Texans suffered its first loss of the season Sunday. Their most important questions going forward will be about how they respond and if they'll cure what ailed them against the New York Giants.

We'll go a little bit more in depth about what they need to fix later this week. For now, let's take a look at the attitudes of the head coach and some key players as the Texans work to recover.

Head coach Bill O'Brien: "They never quit. Right down to the last play, those guys were playing hard. It was a very physical game. Like I said after the game, give the Giants a lot of credit. They obviously coached and played better than we did. This group of guys, really, they’re very focused and they have really good work ethics and they care about each other. They hate to lose. They hate it. Just like we do as coaches. We all do. They come in here today and certainly they don’t feel great about how the game went yesterday. But they know they can play better and we know as a coaching staff we can coach better."

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: "It’s definitely about being steady and not letting what’s going on outside or not letting last week’s performance kind of affect the work you put in this week. And that’s kind of the big thing. Not allowing anything that happened in the past affect the way that you go about your business for the next week."

Left tackle Duane Brown: "We just have to keep it in perspective. It’s one game. Obviously, you want to win every time you go out there. We have a lot to learn from this game and that’s just what we’re going to do: We’re going to learn from it, we’re going to correct our mistakes. We have a long season ahead of us. I don’t think anyone in here is sulking or walking with their heads down. We’re all still motivated and optimistic about the rest of the year and about this week. All we can do is move on and be professional about it."

Inside linebacker Brian Cushing: "That’s the mindset after a win, too. It’s just one game. You’re only as good as your last game but at the same time, you have to put it behind you. It’s 16 one-game seasons really if you look at it and that’s how you have to treat it."

Cornerback Johnathan Joseph: "Of course, you go into every game thinking you’re going to win it but you come out sometimes as the loser and you just have to learn from it. And never forget the feeling and just go into the next game with the same mentality."

O'Brien: "Most of the guys that I’ve been around are guys that are mentally tough, the successful guys. The guys who are able to say, I’m going to play the next play. Even though this play was a bad one, I’m not going to dwell on this play. I’m going to try to play the next play and make up for it. We’ve got a bunch of guys like that on the team. They realized that was not a good game for them. Give the Giants credit, they played better than us, coached better than us. Our guys are resolute in the fact that they’re going to get the mistakes corrected and try to go out there and play better."

Joseph, Fiedorowicz practice fully

September, 18, 2014
9/18/14
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HOUSTON -- Two Houston Texans moved from the limited participation list to the Texans' lengthy full participation list on today's injury report -- cornerback Johnathan Joseph (foot) and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (foot).

Fiedorowicz missed last week's game in Oakland. Earlier this week, Texans coach Bill O'Brien said it looked like Fiedorowicz would probably be ok to play, but they haven't made any final determinations yet.

Running back Arian Foster (hamstring), guard Ben Jones (ankle/knee) and safety D.J. Swearinger (elbow) were limited today, as they were yesterday.

Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (knee), receiver DeAndre Hopkins (illness) and safety Shiloh Keo (calf) did not practice. Clowney actually made a brief appearance in the locker room during the open period today. He had a sleeve on his surgically repaired knee, but no brace, and didn't appear to have a limp. Clowney had arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago. Hopkins caught a bug, but is expected to play Sunday.

For the New York Giants, punter Steve Weatherford, who didn't practice yesterday, returned to practice on a limited basis. Linebacker Jon Beason (foot/ankle), receiver Odell Beckham (hamstring) and linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) did not practice. In addition to Weatherford, offensive tackles James Brewer (back) and Charles Brown (shoulder) were limited.

Texans' secondary doesn't give up

September, 17, 2014
9/17/14
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HOUSTON -- Something struck me in listening to J.J. Watt talk about the Texans' secondary's superlative performances lately.

What they've been doing sounded a lot like what has made Watt who he is.

"A couple of the turnovers were just pure effort plays, which is awesome to see," Watt said. "Two of them especially, down the field, after a big play, and our guys just hustling to get the ball out and create something that’s a big deal. I think Romeo [Crennel]’s defense has done some different things for our team, but I think on a couple of occasions it’s personal individual effort by some of our guys, which is outstanding."

The Texans' secondary is playing like it never feels truly beat. That's one of Watt's hallmarks. His mind is always working to figure out what else he can do. His batted balls often happen when he has been blocked but then figures out how to impact the play anyway.

Swearinger
That's exactly what happened when Kendrick Lewis and Johnathan Joseph stripped Oakland receiver James Jones, Lewis first, then Joseph, for two fumbles on the same play. That's also what happened when D.J. Swearinger stripped Washington tight end Niles Paul in Week 1. Swearinger noted Paul wasn't supposed to make that catch, acknowledging he got beat, but the end result worked just fine for the Texans.

Swearinger's growth has been evident this season. Some of his teammates predicted it based on what they saw in training camp.

"He’s always been confident in his skills and what he can do as a player," Watt said. "One of the biggest things for him is knowing when to take his shots and knowing when to play within the defense. He’s continued to grow as a player, he’ll continue to grow as a player. It’s good to see."

Knowing when to play within the defense and when to freelance is something Watt does very well. So far this season, Swearinger has made important plays by taking the right chances. He garnered his sack that way in Week 1, striking at quarterback Robert Griffin III rather than dropping back as the play called him to do.

Turnovers going Texans' way again

September, 14, 2014
9/14/14
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- No moments were more indicative of the renewed attitude of the Houston Texans' defense than what followed a deep pass from Oakland quarterback Derek Carr to receiver James Jones.

Jones initially picked up 26 yards with the catch, then safety Kendrick Lewis knocked the ball from his hands. Jones picked the ball back up off the ground and kept running, this time meeting cornerback Johnathan Joseph near the end zone. The ball was knocked out of Jones' grasp again. D.J. Swearinger picked it up that time and the Texans had the ball back at their own 3-yard line.

Swearinger
Joseph was initially defending Jones then got back up and chased him down to the goal line. Swearinger was ready to pounce on the opportunity.

"Everyone’s excited to play," inside linebacker Brian Cushing said. "Not giving up on plays. Even when they get a big play, we’re chasing after balls, getting it out."

Shortly after halftime, Swearinger returned the favor for Joseph, knocking the ball from tight end Mychal Rivera for Joseph to recover. Joseph returned that recovery 49 yards, hoping to get a score there, too.

Already this season, the Texans have forced six turnovers, more than half of what they had in all of the 2013 season. They notched two interceptions (by Kareem Jackson and Brooks Reed) and two forced fumbles to add to Week 1's two forced fumbles.

"Games in the NFL, they come down to third-down conversions, they come down to red-area percentage and then obviously, probably most importantly, they come down to turnovers," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "So if you're the team that doesn't turn it over and the other team does turn it over, then you've got a heck of a shot to win and our team is doing a pretty good job of that right now."

It's a dramatic difference from last season when turnovers were a massive issue for the Texans on both sides of the ball. Houston's minus-20 turnover margin in 2013 was the worst in the NFL. Their offensive struggles there were well documented, and happened in part due to the quarterback who was shipped to Oakland after the season. Their defensive turnover struggles meant only 11 forced turnovers in 16 games.

Their goal on Sunday against the Raiders was to give up no more than seven points. Swearinger lamented that they didn't, but the Raiders' extra touchdown was a meaningless garbage-time touchdown.

They met one goal, though, one that mattered even more.

"We can’t be the defense we want to be if we don’t force turnovers," Swearinger said. "So we have to."

RTC: Texans transition to Mercilus

September, 9, 2014
9/09/14
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Reading the coverage of the Houston Texans...

The Texans will replace one first-round draft pick with another, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, the 26th overall pick in 2012, will replace Jadeveon Clowney, the first overall pick in May. "I feel good about Whitney stepping up," inside linebacker Brian Cushing said. "He's a good player, and he did a good job replacing (Clowney against Washington). He's played a lot of football for this defense."

Sean Pendergast of the Houston Press found the Texans' ugly 17-6 win over Washington to be beautiful. He presents his winners and losers here. His four winners are tackling in the secondary, Arian Foster, Brooks Reed and J.J. Watt. In his losers we learn that he is very, very unhappy Texans coach Bill O'Brien got rid of individual pregame player introductions.

Clowney's teammates understand his frustration at suffering a torn meniscus in the Texans' season opener, writes Dave Zangaro of CSNHouston.com. Two players who might be especially helpful for him mentally during his recovery are cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety D.J. Swearinger, both of whom played college football at South Carolina as Clowney did. “You gotta continue to keep your head up, block all the outside noise out,” Joseph said. “You’re not the first one to get injured and you won’t be the last one. Obviously, you got a great support cast here with his team and coaches and we’re just encouraging him to have a speedy recovery and just get back out there.”

Washington coach Jay Gruden didn't mince words about his team's performance in their season opener in Houston. Gruden said running back Roy Helu was "out to lunch" on the punt that Texans running back Alfred Blue blocked.
HOUSTON -- Starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph missed the Texans' preseason games as the team managed his recovery from January foot surgery.

It's the time to perhaps be a little extra careful.

Joseph
 Now, Joseph feels he's ready to go, "without a doubt."

Asked if he's 100 percent healthy, Joseph hedged a bit.

"Somewhere along the lines," he said. "...You're never 100 percent in this league."

If he plays Sunday in the Texans' season and home opener against Washington, Joseph would join running back Arian Foster as starters who didn't play at all during the preseason heading into the regular season.

"Any time you can get some good work, it's always important, but at the same time, the overall health of the team is important to us as well," Joseph said. "Just being smart about it, taking my time and getting myself prepared for opening day."

Of course, the opinion that counts when it comes to whether and how much Joseph will play is that of the Texans' trainers and coaches.

W2W4: Houston Texans

August, 23, 2014
8/23/14
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DENVER -- The Houston Texans (1-1) and Denver Broncos (2-0) face each other in their third preseason game Saturday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium. Here's what to watch for:

1. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: He recovered in a big way from his uninspiring debut this preseason. Two scoring drives showed a marked improvement last weekend compared to his performance in the Texans' preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The Fitzpatrick who appeared against the Falcons is much closer to the quarterback I've seen in practices lately than the one who could barely stay on the field in Arizona. His improvement needs to be a trend, though. Fitzpatrick needs to be more consistent, especially outside of two-minute drills.

2. The slot receivers: The position is a competitive these days. Mike Thomas was the early leader, and he has still looked excellent in practices, but don't count out Keshawn Martin. This week's game will be important for both. Thomas sat out last weekend against Atlanta after getting knocked in his helmet during the week of practices against the Falcons. Martin and undrafted rookie Travis Labhart really took advantage of his absence.

3. The secondary: The Texans' depth at defensive back grew before our eyes from Week 1 to Week 2. I don't expect starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph to play tonight, which means another serious look at those guys against the best passing game in the NFL. We'll couch this by saying preseason games involve a pared down playbook and little game-planning. But the Texans will still learn a lot by watching cornerbacks such as A.J. Bouye, Elbert Mack and Andre Hal, who have all had promising moments this preseason. Mack, especially, had a strong week against the Broncos in practice. He could fight his way onto the roster in the next two weeks.

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