The Houston Texans played their first full decade of football in the 2010s (since they were formed only in 2002), and that decade was all over the place. They’ve had six playoff appearances (all of them being division titles too), which included going as high as 12-4. But they’ve also done as poorly as 2-14. And they haven’t made it any further than the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Still, they’ve had a fair amount of success, and as such, they’ve had a lot of good players. Let’s break down the best players of this decade, and take a look at the Houston Texans All-Decade Team. This article will focus on the defense and special teams and will be using a 3-4 formation.
2010s Houston Texans All-Decade Team: Defense & Special Teams
Defensive End: J.J. Watt
Easily the biggest no-brainer on this list on the defensive side of the football. He made the overall NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, and there’s a reason why (okay, multiple reasons). Watt won Defensive Player of the Year award an absurd three times (only Lawrence Taylor has ever gotten as many). Watt is also the only player to get at least 20 sacks twice. He led the league in sacks twice as well and has made five Pro Bowls. He would probably have a lot more, but he’s had a hard time staying healthy since 2016. He’s only played one full season since, and he’s missed a total of 32 games between the other three seasons. That doesn’t take away from his other accomplishments, though. Easily one of the best defensive players of the entire decade and was pretty much the face of the franchise for a while. Not too many defensive players can say that.
Defensive Tackle: D.J. Reader
The Texans haven’t had a ton of outstanding defensive/nose tackles. D.J. Reader was pretty decent, though. He got progressively better since getting drafted in 2016 and capped it off with a 2019 season that included 52 tackles and two and a half sacks. He ended up being a Pro Bowl alternate, though he wasn’t called in. His efforts got him a big payday with the Cincinnati Bengals during this past off-season.
Defensive End: Jadeveon Clowney
The issue with Jadeveon Clowney is that he never lived up to his #1 overall selection; and he never came close to the heights of fellow defensive end J.J. Watt either. However, he was no slouch either. He consistently racked up a modest number of sacks and made three straight Pro Bowls from 2016 to 2018. His statistically best season came in 2017 when he had 59 tackles and 9.5 sacks. Clowney might not go down in Texans history the way Watt will, but he was still a good member of the defense.
Outside Linebacker: Connor Barwin
Due in part to a lost season in 2010, Barwin only played full two seasons in the 2010s. However, one of them was quite good. In 2011 he racked up 47 tackles and 11.5 sacks, as well as seven pass deflections. His 2012 season was much quieter and he ended up moving on to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he had some more success. Barwin wasn’t with Houston for very long, but given the timing of his best year with the Texans (their first playoff season ever), he gets the nod here for statistics and impact.
Middle Linebacker: Brian Cushing
Brian Cushing never made the Pro Bowl during the 2010s – he only got one in 2009, plus a Second-Team All-Pro nod in 2011. However, by the time he was released in 2018, he was the Texans franchise leader in tackles with 664. Even though it’s a young franchise, that’s got to count for something. Although he had a few injury-shortened years, he also had a couple of seasons with 100+ tackles.
Middle Linebacker: Benardrick McKinney
The other middle linebacker here is the guy who is quite likely to break Cushing’s tackle record as long as nothing crazy happens. He’s only been around for five years, but he’s already got 493 career tackles. He’s had 100+ tackles three out of five years. He got a Second-Team All-Pro nod in 2016, and his first Pro Bowl berth in 2018. If he keeps it up, he’ll likely get a few more accolades before it’s all said and done.
Outside Linebacker: Whitney Mercilus
First off, Whitney Mercilus has one of the best names in football. And he’s also been a good piece of the linebacker corps for quite a while. He doesn’t rack up a ton of tackles, but he gets quite a few sacks – his career high being 12 in 2015, and coming off 7.5 in 2019. He got a second-team All-Pro nod in 2016 and got a nice extension towards the end of the 2019 season to keep him with the team for years to come.
Cornerback: Johnathan Joseph
One of the more long-tenured cornerbacks currently in the NFL, Joseph spent almost the entire past decade with the Texans. He got two Pro Bowl berths in 2011 and 2012, and over nine years has pulled in 17 interceptions and four pick-sixes.
Cornerback: Kareem Jackson
Like Joseph, Kareem Jackson spent a long time in Houston during the 2010s and spent much of it opposite Joseph. Unlike his teammate, he never got a Pro Bowl nod, but he was no slouch either. He pulled in 16 interceptions with the Texans during his career there. His final season with them in 2018 ended up being one of his best statistically, as he got 87 tackles and 17 pass deflections – both career highs, as well as two interceptions.
Free Safety: Justin Reid
The Texans have not had much in the way of good safeties over the past decade. The best free safety they’ve had has only been there for two years, and he hasn’t even gotten a Pro Bowl berth yet. He had a good rookie year though, with 88 tackles, 10 pass deflections, and three interceptions (including a 101-yard pick-six). His 2019 season was good too, especially once we found out he was playing with a torn labrum the whole time.
Strong Safety: Quintin Demps
Demps literally only gets on here because of one quite good season, because no one else did good enough as a whole to earn this spot. Demps had two separate stints with the Texans, and at the tail end of his second one in 2016, he had a career season as – despite missing three games – he pulled in six interceptions and had nine pass deflections. Surprisingly he wasn’t re-signed, but losing most of 2017 to injured reserve ultimately ended his career anyway.
Kicker: Nick Novak
Ka’imi Fairbairn’s been locked up as the kicker of the future but has been a little more prone to inconsistency on occasion. On the other hand, Nick Novak was only there for two years but was quite reliable on field goals. He was 85% on kicks both years, and in 2015 he didn’t miss a single field goal under 50 yards.
Punter: Shane Lechler
Shane Lechler, one of the best punters ever, was one of the other Texans to make the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team. He didn’t have any more Pro Bowls during his five years with the Texans, but during his final season in 2017, he did lead the NFL in punting yards one more time.
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