Counting Coleman's move to FS and Wong's move to ROLB we will have new starters at 5 of the 11 starting defensive positions this year
. Robaire Smith at DE, Wong to ROLB, Coleman to FS, and Robinson and Babin will be rookie starters.
Three-fourths of the Texans secondary expected to start the opener against San Diego will be different from the one that let the season finale slip away on the final drive against the Colts. Aaron Glenn will be back after a season-ending injury late in 2003. Rookie Dunta Robinson will start at the other corner and Marcus Coleman will move to safety. Compared with the lineup that started the final two near-misses, there should be seven new faces in the Texans' starting defense. There's your next step. A year ago, five players who played significant time defensively were picked up off waivers — off the street, essentially. When it counted most late in games, often after Carr or backup Tony Banks delivered go-ahead points, the lack of top-shelf defensive talent showed.
Against the Titans, Carr directed his team on a fourth-quarter drive that was finished off with a Domanick Davis touchdown run with just 1:48 remaining. But the Titans swiftly moved the ball downfield, and McNair hit Drew Bennett with a 23-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 17 seconds remaining. A week later against Indy, Carr had the Texans up 17-10 in the fourth, before the Colts tied it and then hit the winning 43-yard field goal after a Manning to Marvin Harrison completion on third and 10. The next step: late game stops.
Although coaches probably won't say it officially until after camp and a couple of preseason games, they already have seen enough from top draft picks Robinson and Jason Babin to know they'll be in the starting lineup. On the defensive front, the addition of Robaire Smith and return of Seth Payne will be expected to add much-needed stopping power. If the Texans are going to win, that will have to happen.
Coleman needs to entrench himself at safety and get comfortable with the position switch. Even veterans Kailee Wong and Jamie Sharper, both of whom played well last season, will have to adjust to new surroundings and responsibilities. Welcome to what could be a defining season. But spell it, "D-E-F-E-N-S-E."
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