NFL Nation: Broks Reed

My plan for the Houston Texans

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
1:00
PM ET
My plan for the Houston Texans as we approach the start of the 2013 NFL calendar year:

Finances: Cut wide receiver Kevin Walter, saving $2.5 million in cap space. Restructure the deal of wide receiver Andre Johnson, reducing his base salary from $10.5 million to $940,000 (giving him the rest now as a bonus), resulting in a salary cap savings of $7.17 million. Restructure the deal of cornerback Johnathan Joseph, reducing his base salary from $7.5 million to $940,000 (giving him the rest now as a bonus), resulting in a salary cap savings of $4.373 million. Extend defensive end Antonio Smith, reducing his 2013 base salary of $6 million and his cap charge of $9.5 million significantly.

Continuity: Re-sign safety Glover Quin. The Texans didn’t use the franchise tag on him but would face a tough hole to fill if they let him depart. He’s carved out a good role on this defense, and it would be mutually beneficial for him to stay. In addition to extending Smith and saving money, invest in inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who counts $4.643 against the cap in the final year of his initial deal and is due $3.143 million in base salary.

Turnover: Allow outside linebacker Connor Barwin to leave as a free agent if he gets a good deal. Although it would be nice to keep him, the team is equipped to move on without him and should be able to draft a player who can be the third guy at the position behind Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus. Brice McCain can be a nice nickel but should be replaceable if he finds an opportunity he prefers. Be done with nose tackle Shaun Cody.

Additions: Sign a free agent defensive tackle like Roy Miller from Tampa Bay. He’s a good run stopper who could replace Cody and be better in tandem with Earl Mitchell in Wade Phillips' 3-4 front, which allows for a smaller nose. Mike DeVito (New York Jets) could also work and wouldn’t have to transition to 3-4 thinking.

Draft: Swing big for a wide receiver who can line up opposite Johnson and pose a matchup threat. Perhaps Cal’s Keenan Allen or Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins fits the bill. Tavon Austin from West Virginia, who is smaller and quicker, could give the Texans the sort of weapon they don’t have. Use other early picks on inside linebacker, safety depth and corner/nickel depth. Emphasize linebacker with late picks, looking to boost special teams coverage and blocking.

Key injuries in the AFC South

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
5:43
PM ET
A look at the key injuries and what they mean in the AFC South…

Colts

Safety Tom Zbikowski, right tackle Winston Justice, inside linebacker Kavell Conner, center Samson Satele and running back Delone Carter are out.

Of the new missing guys, replacements will be right tackle Jeff Linkenbach, inside linebacker Pat Angerer, center A.Q. Shipley and running back Mewelde Moore.

Jaguars

Running backs Rashad Jennings, Maurice Jones-Drew and Jordan Todman, cornerback Aaron Ross and defensive end George Selvie are out. Montell Owens will start at running back again.

Austin Pasztor is expected to start at let guard, where Mike Brewster is done for the season and Eben Britton is seemingly out of chances. Receiver Cecil Shorts is expected to play.

Texans

Outside linebacker Brooks Reed and cornerback Alan Ball are out. Whitney Mercilus will continue to work as the outside linebacker replacing Reed.

Inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton, safety Glover Quin (hip) and right tackle Derek Newton are questionable. Quintin Demps would replace Quin.

Titans

Designations come tomorrow since they play Monday night. Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is not expected to play and Tim Shaw would start for him again. Receiver Damian Williams and end Scott Solomon also missed Friday practice.
Too much has been made, I believe, of what the Texans lost in the leadership department on defense when they dealt inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans to Philadelphia.

Cushing
While Ryans was an excellent leader for the group in his six seasons, the Texans move forward with a defensive roster loaded with productive players: J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith on the line; Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed at linebacker; Johnathan Joseph, Danieal Manning and Glover Quin in the secondary.

There is a lot of positional leadership on that list, and enough of it will emerge as overall leaders to offset Ryans.

After the trade, when Ryans spent some time training in Nashville, he told me Cushing is the guy who should, and will, take on more of a leadership mantle now.

Watt agrees.

“He’s the guy in the middle, he’s the guy flying all around making plays, and in my opinion he’s the best middle linebacker in the game,” he said.

Cushing’s not going to change his football personality. But he said, discussing the Texans without Ryans, that he does expect to take on more of a leadership role.

“I think so,” he said. “And that’s completely fine with me. I really did learn under DeMeco. I played without him when he had the torn Achilles, and last year I was out there on third down and he was first- and second-down linebacker. A lot of times I was out there alone with just the guys.

“I feel that last year really prepped me for a leadership role. Leaning from a guy like him for three years, he kind of just groomed me. It wasn’t so much intentional. It’s just the kind of player he is, he gives you a leadership sense, he has a certain character about him. He got me ready.”

If there is an issue with the Texans' defense this season, I don’t expect it’s going to be leadership.

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