The Houston Texans already had a promising secondary for the new year of the league.
Second-round tight end Jalen Pitre led the defense with 147 combined tackles and five interceptions. The Baylor product managed to win the starting job and relegated Eric Murray to a reserve role when Pitre started all 17 games.
Add in first-round cornerback Derek Stingley, who had his season limited to nine games due to a hamstring injury, and the Texans have two young pieces to make their backend formidable in the coming seasons.
However, Jimmie Ward’s signing in free agency was a move that made Houston better on the backend in the present.
According to Dalton Wasserman of Pro Football Focus, the former San Francisco 49ers defensive back ranks as the fourteenth-best depth in the NFL.
Ward, one of the most versatile players on this list, moved almost exclusively to the slot in 2022 after several years of acting as a more mobile chess piece. Ward believes he will return to his old role in Houston with DeMeco Ryans running the show, and even if he doesn’t, he will likely be very productive. Ward’s 91.4 rushing defense rating last season should help the Texans’ worst career defense in the league.
Ryans particularly appreciate Ward’s ability to remain versatile, a key in today’s NFL that features offenses that attack in a variety of ways.
“With the secondary, with the way the game goes, there are more passes throughout the NFL,” Ryans said on June 6 after the team’s organized activities. “So, the more versatility you can have on your back-end, whether you’re playing five-cent or ten-cent defense, the more defensive backs you can have to cover and do multiple things, the better you can be when you’re trying to create a strategy against these different opponents running more RPO games, more passing threats.”
Houston, which has a top-15 talent in high school to go along with its young talent, creates an opportunity to have a stingy defense at some level in 2023.