In our eight-part Making the Grade, we look back at the Texans' 2-14 season in 2013. We've already looked at the secondary, running backs, linebackers, coaches and quarterbacks. Up now: defensive line.
Don't believe the statistics. J.J. Watt had another tremendous season.
Watt didn't duplicate the numbers from the Defensive Player of the Year season in 2012 but he was just as disruptive in 2013. If you don't believe it, just ask any offense linemen who he barreled through this past year.
Really, the entire defensive line had a decent season. Seventeen of the team's 32 sacks came from the defensive line. Watt had 10.5 of them. Heck, the D-line had to do something right, Bill Kollar was the only coach retained from the 2013 season.
While Watt was Watt, Antonio Smith had another solid season. Smith finished with five sacks, which isn't great but isn't awful either.
Earl Mitchell was fine but wasn't on the field a whole lot. It wasn't his fault, it's just a part of the defense they ran. Either way, he was certainly an upgrade over Shaun Cody.
Jared Crick and Terrell McClain were the main backups and performed alright. Crick will fit nicely in a more traditional 3-4 defense if the team chooses to go that way. Tim Jamison was a non-factor even when he got a chance to play.
He's clearly one of the best players in the NFL.
It's not that Mitchell, in his fourth and final year under contract, had a bad season; he actually had a good year. It's that he didn't live up to the play he showed during training camp and in preseason. He's a free agent and it's likely he won't be back. He really deserves a 4-3 defense, where he can thrive as an interior lineman.
Free agents: Smith, Mitchell, McClain (RFA)
-- Dave Zangaro