Texans face tall task in Seahawks’ secondary

Texans face tall task in Seahawks’ secondary
September 27, 2013, 11:00 am
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Texans preparing to face Seahawks' Wilson

The Texans’ offense, specifically its wide receivers, has a big challenge awaiting it on Sunday afternoon.  

Literally.

The Seattle secondary isn’t just one of the best units in the NFL. It’s one of the biggest too, boasting three players measuring at least 6-foot-3.

“All of them are big, (Brandon) Browner, (Richard) Sherman,” Texans Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson said. “The smallest guy is Earl Thomas. But they’re a very good group. I think their front and back end work very well together. I think that’s why they’re very successful at what they do.”

The Seahawks’ two corners form the tallest cornerback duo in the NFL. Sherman is 6-3 and Browner is 6-4. Strong safety Kam Chancellor is 6-3 too. The shortest member of their secondary, like Johnson said, is Thomas. But the 5-10 safety makes up for his height with skill; he’s a two-time All-Pro.

Aside from being big, the Seahawks’ secondary is good too. Really, really good. Seattle (3-0) leads the league in passing defense, giving up an average of 147 yards per game and has five interceptions, the second best total in the league. Seattle is also first in overall defense, giving up just 241.7 yards and nine points per game.

“Dominance,” Arian Foster said. “They’re a very dominant defense.”

And that big secondary definitely sets the tone. The average height of a starting cornerback for the other 31 NFL teams is 5-foot-11 ¼. That’s also the average height of the starting corners on the teams the Texans have faced so far this season. Meanwhile, Johnson is 6-3 and rookie DeAndre Hopkins is 6-1.  

“Yeah, you don’t see guys of that size, where all of them are big like that in the secondary,” Johnson said. “Like I said, they’re a great group and they work well together. You look at them and they’re very disciplined in everything that they do. It’s very rare that you find that where a team is very disciplined in what they do in their coverage and things like that. It’ll be a big challenge. We know that. We’re looking forward to it.”

There are only six other teams in the NFL with two starting corners who both stand 6-feet tall. At 6-4, Browner is the tallest starting corner in the NFL. Sherman is tied for second with the Chiefs’ Sean Smith at 6-3 but Smith plays across from the 5-foot-9 Brandon Flowers.

By comparison, the Texans’ starting cornerbacks are both under 6-foot. Johnathan Joseph is 5-11 and Kareem Jackson is 5-10. Brice McCain, the Texans’ nickel corner, is just 5-9.

“No,” McCain said when asked if he ever thought about what it would be like to be tall cornerback. “I wonder if they wonder what it’s like to be fast like me. I don’t think they’re as fast, as quick as me. That’s just how it is. Bigger, you’re not going to be as quick as a shorter guy.”

But the Seahawks’ secondary is fast. In fact, speed was the first thing Texans head coach Gary Kubiak mentioned when he was asked about their defense. But, like everyone else, Kubiak was impressed by the size of the secondary too.

“You watch their safeties come down in the box or their corners getting down around the line of scrimmage, they look like linebackers down there,” Kubiak said. “It will be the biggest corners we’ve played and the biggest set of safeties. Pete (Carroll) is a big secondary guy and boy has he put one together. They’re a big force for their football team and a big challenge for us.”

Three of the four members of the Seattle secondary have been Pro Bowlers. The only one who hasn’t been named to a Pro Bowl is Richard Sherman, which is laughable. Sherman was a snub on last year’s Pro Bowl roster but was named to the All-Pro team and is considered by many to be the best cornerback in football.

Carroll, the Seahawks’ head coach, didn’t mind Kubiak’s calling him a “secondary guy.” In fact, Carroll has relished that distinction since early in his career. When he was at USC, he wanted it to be known as “Corner U.” And Carroll’s infatuation with defensive backs has served him well at the NFL level this time around.   

“They do everything,” Johnson said. “They can run, physical, they’re all long. Even if you get a step on them or so, they find a way to make plays with their length. They’ve just been exceptional.”

And now the Texans have to try to find a way to beat them.