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Old 05-29-2012   #1
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Default Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

ProFootballFocus: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans
May 29th, 2012 | Author: Khaled Elsayed

2011 was a largely successful year for the Houston Texans as the Gary Kubiak-coached team finally got over the playoff hump. It was sparked by a defensive turnaround the likes of which you rarely see, with the Texans going from earning a team grade of -54.5 in 2010 (second lowest in the league) to +103.2 in 2011 (third highest).

A lot of praise rightly went to Wade Phillips who installed a new aggressive 3-4 scheme that got the best out of a number of players. Players like Brian Cushing, Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt starred up front as they harassed quarterbacks and made it tough to run the ball on the Texans. But nowhere was the change more evident than in a Houston secondary that went from laughing stock to one of the NFL’s top units.

Part of this transformation came down to the offseason acquisitions of Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning and moving Glover Quin to safety. But one of the more understated moves Wade Phillips made was moving Brice McCain into the slot cornerback position. The results of which led to this selection of McCain as the Texans’ Secret Superstar.

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Before he was the Texans’ sixth-round pick in 2009, not much was thought of McCain. He spent his college career playing second fiddle to Sean Smith, a cornerback who would go on to be a second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins. To some he was something of a long shot to even make the Texans’ roster, but make it he did and he ended up getting on the field for 217 snaps in his rookie year. Did he impress? Not exactly–as his -5.9 grade would attest–but given what the Texans had on their roster, that wasn’t actually too bad and suggested he could feature more prominently going forward.

That proved the case as he got on the field for 407 snaps in 2010, but unfortunately what promise he had shown as a rookie seemed to disappear. Instead he was a prominent part of a porous secondary, earning a -10.8 grade and giving up 373 yards and four touchdowns on 41 balls thrown into his primary coverage. Nothing summed up his struggles like a horrible 19-snap outing against the Jets in Week 11 where he gave up three receptions for 71 yards and two touchdowns. With just three more snaps to come in his season and a new defense being implemented, no one believed McCain would be in line for a big role come 2011.

Slotting In
In 2009 and 2010 McCain had spent most of his career playing outside corner with just 22% of his coverage snaps coming in the slot. But a new defense had different ideas on how to use him, and from Day 1 of the regular season he was deemed the team’s slot cornerback. With Johnathan Joseph on one side and either Kareem Jackson or Jason Allen on the other, McCain found himself on the field whenever the Texans brought on their nickel or dime defense; a role far more important than people give it credit for.

As the NFL evolves, we’re seeing more and more three- and four-receiver sets. It means teams are forced to turn to their nickel and dime units more often than ever before. In 2011 the NFL average saw teams spend 52.17% of plays with at least five defensive backs on the field, and while Houston were at the low end (39.9%), that’s still a considerable amount of plays you’re getting your slot cornerback on the field. The need to have one who can match up with guys over the middle of the field is something that is only going to increase as team’s continue trying to spread a defense out.


With the importance of the role growing, it’s key to have someone who can hold up to life in the slot. In that respect, McCain’s 2011 was something of a revelation, with the Texan slot cornerback earning a +8.5 coverage grade (including postseason) while managing the seventh-most slot snaps of all corners. The table below is a look at some of the key metrics for McCain in the slot which show just how good a player he is (the table looks at those who played at least 150 snaps in the slot).

...............NFL Rating_Coverage Snaps/Target_Yards/Coverage Snap_Coverage Snaps/Reception
Metric...........48.5....................6.9............................0.76...........................13.2
Rank.............2nd.....................8th............................2nd............................1st



Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but in this case they paint a pretty good picture at showing just how effective the former sixth-rounder was when he was moved into the slot. With the role seeing cornerbacks matched up with the likes of Wes Welker, Victor Cruz, and Marques Colston among others, it’s a position of increasing importance. So while it won’t garner attention like a shutdown corner, it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Indeed, it’s arguably a tougher position to play than being an edge corner. Playing outside you can set up in such a way that you only have to defend one release, whereas in the slot you have to watch out for a receiver going either way. You’re also closer to the snap of the ball so have greater responsibilities in the run game, and have to contend with playing through traffic over an often congested middle of the field.

It’s an area of the game teams are exposing more with the emergence of players like Welker, and it’s something defenses need to adjust to if they’re going to contend. After all 31.4% of all wide receiver yardage came from guys lined up in the slot. So having a sure tackler like McCain (just two missed tackles in 2011) who can keep track of these guys and make plays on the ball (no touchdowns allowed, two interceptions and nine pass break-ups) is becoming more and more of a necessity, especially with them being so hard to find.

It’s why Brice McCain is more than just a role player. He’s a Secret Superstar whose importance to the Texans’ defense is much more than you’d think.
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Old 05-29-2012   #2
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

If McCain continues to play well, he'll continue to be the biggest hurdle Brandon Harris has to overcome to get on the field.

Major props to McCain though, I remember the big play he made at the end of the Jags game. I think it was on 4th down. He may have had bigger plays that either went unnoticed by the media or cameras, but I was proud to see him come up big in a one score game.
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Old 05-29-2012   #3
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

I remember him making some big interceptions his rookie year. He's always had raw ability.
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Old 05-29-2012   #4
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

I loved seeing him seal the deal for us in Tennessee this past year.
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Old 05-29-2012   #5
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

Is this the same site that told us Fred Bennett was the best corner in the league according to their statistics?
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Old 05-29-2012   #6
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

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Originally Posted by Brisco_County View Post
I remember him making some big interceptions his rookie year. He's always had raw ability.
You must be misremembering, he only had one pick his rookie year and none in year 2.

That said, he is a helluva slot CB, another nice pick up by Rick Smith in the 6th round.
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Old 05-29-2012   #7
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

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Originally Posted by dc_txtech View Post
Is this the same site that told us Fred Bennett was the best corner in the league according to their statistics?
Nope.

PFF had Bennett ranked 171/198 CBs in 2009 & 168/200 in 2008.
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Old 05-29-2012   #8
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

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Originally Posted by dc_txtech View Post
Is this the same site that told us Fred Bennett was the best corner in the league according to their statistics?
That was Football Outsiders, iirc.
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Old 05-29-2012   #9
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McCain was miscast by the old defensive staff. He can play outside some, but McCain is better suited in the slot.
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Old 05-29-2012   #10
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

Good stuff.

I was weary of the pick at first, but he has shown that he can play ball. I hope he can stick around and improve, and make a name for himself.
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Old 05-29-2012   #11
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

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Originally Posted by dc_txtech View Post
Is this the same site that told us Fred Bennett was the best corner in the league according to their statistics?
That was KC Joiner.
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Old 05-29-2012   #12
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

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Originally Posted by The Pencil Neck View Post
That was Football Outsiders, iirc.
Pretty sure it was KC Joyner (of ESPN).
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Old 05-29-2012   #13
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

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Originally Posted by Rey View Post
McCain was miscast by the old defensive staff. He can play outside some, but McCain is better suited in the slot.
What makes McCain better suited for the slot? In the past, we had Dunta Robinson & Glover Quin. I'm not a big fan of Dunta, but I don't think there are many guys who can play the inside better than him... & I love GQ playing inside as well.

McCain doesn't have the physicallity to play (which I think is essential for a) Nickel Corner. He's too small to play on the outside.
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Old 05-29-2012   #14
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

Brice is the perfect SLOT corner, nothing more, nothing less. To expect him to shut down tall more physical receivers would be foolish. JJo is our number 1 and Brice is a great 3, we just need someone to take control of our number 2 corner spot and have a better cover LB on the field to eliminate those pesky rb passes.
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Old 05-29-2012   #15
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Default Re: Secret Superstar: Brice McCain, CB, Houston Texans

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Originally Posted by TdotTexas2Step View Post
If McCain continues to play well, he'll continue to be the biggest hurdle Brandon Harris has to overcome to get on the field.

Major props to McCain though, I remember the big play he made at the end of the Jags game. I think it was on 4th down. He may have had bigger plays that either went unnoticed by the media or cameras, but I was proud to see him come up big in a one score game.
Maybe but coaching may help Harris as it did McCain.
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