Why the Texans Need to Push for Patrick Peterson
When the Texans signed Tyrann Mathieu this offseason they knew they were getting a star at safety. When the Cardinals drafted him in 2013, they weren't exactly sure what they were going to get from him. Mathieu stayed at home and attended LSU, and after being a Heisman finalist in 2011, he was charged for possession of marijuana and arrested later that offseason. In the 2012 BCS Bowl, LSU took on Alabama. The game was played in New Orleans, a home game for the Tigers and Mathieu. Mathieu though, was too easily distracted by being home for the entirety of the game preparation. "I remember worrying about me playing in my hometown and showing up and damn, I don't think I'm going to show up", Mathieu recalled. Mathieu was an undisputed first round talent, but these off-field problems allowed him to slide down the draft board.
Patrick Peterson was an LSU cornerback from 2008 to 2010 and a top five selection in the 2011 draft. Peterson and Mathieu were teammates and close friends at LSU, so the young cornerback approached Cardinals management and told them that Mathieu's off-field issues weren't a good depiction of who he was. He assured them that if they would select Mathieu, he would take him under his wing to turn him into a star. Mathieu was then selected in the third round by the Cardinals and both Mathieu and Peterson became pro bowlers.
Mathieu is now a Houston Texan after signing in this past offseason, and Patrick Peterson has requested a trade out of Arizona. Now, it's up to the Texans' management to bring them together once again.
The Texans have had some trouble with their secondary in the past. It's been the Achilles heel of the team since they made the playoffs for the first time under O'Brien in 2015. Last season the secondary was rendered useless after the bye week as the Texans lost nine of their last ten games.
Jonathan Joseph was a bright spot at cornerback last season though as a 33 year old. He had a comeback season and looked like the same player that we saw in his solid 2015 season where he had 22 passes defended. 2015 first round cornerback Kevin Johnson never panned out, and has been injured too often to rely on. Kareem Jackson looks out of place at cornerback, really struggling in coverage. All he was really good for was run defense, grading out as the best run cornerback by a large margin according to PFF.
At safety Andre Hal performed extremely well and became a pillar of the defense. Across from him was a rotation of Marcus Gilchrist, Corey Moore and Eddie Pleasant. Safe to say none of those guys ever became big pieces of this defense, and they were pretty big liabilities downfield that the opposing team's exploited with ease.
This offseason the Texans made a splash signing by agreeing to a one year deal with Tyrann Mathieu. They also signed Aaron Colvin, a cornerback who had broken out for Jacksonville.
Unfortunately, Andre Hal had been diagnosed with cancer this offseason, and to compensate, the Texans moved Kareem Jackson to safety. He's been exceptional at safety so far this season, making it a great move for the team and Jackson. Andre Hal announced last week that he was officially free of cancer, and he was subsequently activated. Now the Texans have an abundance of above average safeties with Tyrann Mathieu, Andre Hal, Kareem Jackson and rookie Justin Reid out of Stanford.
Jonathan Joseph has continued to look very good. Colvin has performed well, but he's strictly a slot cornerback, and he also suffered an ankle injury and will miss some time. Unsurprisingly, Kevin Johnson is also injured once again after looking awful in the first game of the season. Shareece Wright has stepped into this defense and he's looked like he belongs. He's broken up a couple passes this season and if he keeps playing this way, he can expect to keep his job when Colvin returns from injury.
The Texans passing defense has been good this season, sitting twelfth in the league in passing yards allowed per game, they are definitely an above average group. Still though, they are the only spot on the defense that isn't filled with elite players. Mathieu is a pro bowler, but he makes up 25 percent of the secondary's base defense whereas the defensive line has Watt and Reader, as well as the linebacker position having Clowney, Mercilus and McKinney. Joseph has been very good, but I'd be hesitant to call him an upper echelon cornerback.
The rush defense allows the eight least yards per game and the second best yards per attempt on the ground. They are also the only team in the NFL with two top fifteen run defenders in the NFL with Watt, Clowney and Jackson all fitting the bill.
Adding Patrick Peterson
It's obvious that the Texans offense has the firepower to put up big numbers, and even though underperforming, they'll hopefully come around and perform on par with the talent they have. Even so, the offense has only been underperforming to the tune of playing close games, and not to the level of Bortles and Jaguars offense. With the talent on offense, and the ability that we've seen to create big plays and drive the field in clutch moments, an elite defense makes them a true contender.
If the Texans want to be a threat come playoff time, they will need to make moves to get there. This team and this roster can get to the playoffs, but they may not be good enough to take down the experienced, well-coached Patriots if they meet on the AFC side of the bracket. Adding Peterson can put them over the edge.
The defensive line has two stars on it with Watt and Reader with a formidable Blackson manning the other edge. Clowney, Mercilus, McKinney and Cunningham make up one of the best linebacker corps in the league. The secondary is good as well, and the stats will back that up. At the end of the day though, the Texans have one elite safety in Mathieu, and three very good safeties across from him; but when it comes to cornerbacks Joseph is above average and Wright is likely over-performing right now. Adding Peterson, an elite, 7-time pro bowl cornerback to a secondary that is alright in the top half of the league may just turn the defense into what Jacksonville had last year with theirs.
It's always difficult to part ways with assets, but Peterson has two and a half years of control left on his contract and he may lure Mathieu into staying with the Texans once his contract expires this offseason. Trading assets for Peterson will surely be worth it.
Amari Cooper was just traded for a first round pick. The consensus was that Dallas shouldn't have given up a first round pick, but Cooper is still 24, born in the same year as rookie receiver Calvin Ridley. Peterson has requested a trade, and since that's been released to the public his trade value is probably slightly decreased because of the leverage point for every other team negotiating with the Cardinals.
The Texans currently have all of their picks for next season, and a second rounder that was acquired from the Seahawks in the Duane Brown deal. If the Texans were truly ready to compete for a championship they would hop on the phone line and contact the Cardinals, offering a second round pick and a late rounder.
It's difficult to predict potential moves with the Texans because Brian Gaine hasn't been the general manager for long enough to know his tendencies. Tendencies aside though, this is a move that can push the Texans from good to great, and any general manager should pull the trigger on that.
- Max Freedman is the Founder and Editor of Texans Journal. Like and follow on Twitter @MaxEFreedman