Mathews sees opportunity on Texans’ D-line

Mathews sees opportunity on Texans’ D-line
August 5, 2014, 7:00 am
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As Louis Nix III began to slide in the draft, the Texans packaged two picks and moved back into the third round to pounce on their future starting nose tackle.

Only, Nix isn’t ready to play. The Notre Dame product is on Active/PUP list as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery he had before camp. That has left the nose tackle position a little light and the player with the most to benefit from that is veteran Ricardo Mathews.

And Mathews knows it.

“It’s always an opportunity,” Mathews said on Monday. “They did draft a nose, they brought me in but … yeah, if you say you don’t feel good about it, then something’s wrong with you. We still a team but it is what it is.”

Jerrell Powe, 6-2, 331 pounds, is penciled in as the team’s starting nose tackle. He’s bigger than Mathews and knows Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense from his time in Kansas City. But Mathews is getting plenty of reps too and trying to make the most of them.

Mathews, who spent the first four years of his career with division rival Indianapolis, has the ability to play nose tackle and defense end, and he works at end during individual drills, but has been focusing on the nose tackle position.

Mathews, 27, signed with the Texans as a free agent this offseason and on Monday said he’s happy he did so. The biggest difference between Crennel’s defense and the one he played under in Indy is that he called Crennels’ 3-4 a “true two-gap defense.” Basically, defensive linemen in a two-gap scheme are responsible for the gap on either side of the O-lineman they line up across from. It’s their job to wait and clog that gap. Mathews said he thinks he’s been pretty good in the new defense.

The Texans’ defensive line under position coach Bill Kollar has been known for batting down balls at the line of scrimmage and Mathews has really bought into that. Over the past two days, Mathews has accounted for four or five batted passes of his own.

“I’ve always been told to get your hands up,” he said. “Bill really stresses batted balls and J.J. (Watt) having all those batted balls. We do it constantly. We do it in practice, individuals, and come back for our walkthrough. We just work straight pass-rush drills and getting our hands up and that’s what the emphasis is on.”

Watt is obviously one of the best defensive players in the league and Mathews is excited about the chance to play alongside of him because he thinks it’ll provide him opportunities because of the attention Watt attracts.

“He’s a lot more than I expected,” Mathews said. “He’s really a true student of the game. I’ve been around some freaks, so to speak, being around. But J.J. is truly one of a kind. It’s really good playing for him.”