Ed Reed’s Health Pivotal For Houston Texans’ 2013 Success
Gary Kubiak let it be known today that newly signed Houston Texans’ safety Ed Reed had undergone an unexpected hip surgery this off-season after signing with the franchise in free agency. Reed was a key part of the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl winning team in 2012, but played through the whole season with a torn labrum.
Reed’s torn labrum made him a liability as a tackler, while his somewhat diminishing skills at 34 years of age are slowing him down slightly.
Of course, when you slow down one of the smartest safeties in the history of the game who will ultimately be a hall-of-fame inductee because of his ability to create turnovers, you’re still going to be fast enough to be a difference-maker for a championship caliber roster. Reed has the potential to be exactly that in Houston.
The Texans have made the playoffs twice in the past two seasons, but they have fallen short of the AFC championship game on both occasions. Last year their biggest issue on offense was the lack of a second receiving threat or a Plan B when their original gameplan was curtailed. The addition of DeAndre Hopkins gives them that second receiver, while DeVier Posey, Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin will be looked to in their second seasons to provide that depth and dynamism in the gameplan.
Defensively, the Texans were led by JJ Watt and had another fine season. However, injuries once again caught up to them and they were unable to impose their will on the New England Patriots when they needed to most. The loss of Brian Cushing to a torn ACL early on in the season was massive, while Jonathan Joseph was notably limited at times during the season. Having Joseph and Cushing back at 100 percent will have a major impact on what Reed can do as a roaming free safety.
If Cushing is healthy, the spine of the Ravens defense will feature defensive player of the year JJ Watt, the inspirational inside linebacker and that hall-of-fame veteran. Watt will have the greatest impact on the field, while Cushing gives them a legitimate presence to counter-act the athletic tight ends which is vital in today’s game. Reed renews the veteran leadership that was lost when DeMeco Ryans was traded to the Eagles last off-season. Not only does Reed have more experience than Ryans though, he also has more playoff experience and a championship carrying over from last season.
That kind of locker-room character is exactly what Wade Philips’ defense and the Texans’ roster as a whole has been lacking over the years. Nobody but Reed on the roster has ever even played in a Super Bowl, while most have only featured in a handful of playoff games.
It’s always almost impossible to quantify what leadership is as an outsider looking in on an NFL locker-room, but it’s easy to see what the player will do on the field.
Reed is a hard-hitting free safety who can play anywhere on the field. However, he does his best work when freelancing as the sole deep safety who can read the quarterback and react to his eyes. In Baltimore he was allowed to do this very often because the front seven was so strong and Bernard Pollard was better suited to playing closer to the line of scrimmage than he was.
In Houston, he could potentially do it even more.
The Texans’ front seven has proven to be overwhelmingly effective since drafting JJ Watt and adding Wade Philips to the coaching staff. If Whitney Mercilus can reach some of his potential as a pass-rusher, Watt continues his form of last season and Cushing returns to being fully healthy, the unit should be able to keep Reed clean and allow him to concentrate almost exclusively on playing the pass. That means that rarely will he have to worry about play-action and he can react to the run only when it is definitely not a fake.
If you couple that front seven with the Texans’ secondary congruency, then it’s easy to understand why the Texans gave Reed a three-year-deal.
Reed and Bernard Pollard were one of the best safety pairings in the league during their time together in Baltimore. Pollard joined the Ravens after leaving the Texans, where he was replaced by current starting strong safety Danieal Manning. Manning and Pollard are essentially the same players, but many believe that Manning is the better player. Crucially for Reed, he is an enforcer who is better suited to play in the box, which will allow Reed to play deep like he did in Baltimore.
What the Texans can offer Reed that he didn’t have for most of last season is a shutdown cornerback on the outside.
The Ravens did have an elite cornerback on their roster over the last two years in Lardarius Webb. However, Webb moved inside on nickel packages and missed most of last season with a torn ACL. Webb moving inside on nickel packages is important because it means that there isn’t an area of the field that Reed could forget about. In Houston, Jonathan Joseph will stay outside all the time and Reed won’t feel pressured to help him because of his coverage ability.
Not only does this mean Reed has less open field to cover if he wants to make plays on the football, but it also means it will be easier for him to bait quarterbacks into throwing the ball his way. Teams won’t want to throw at Jonathan Joseph consistently, but they definitely don’t want to throw at Reed. There is only so much grass between the gridirons that a quarterback can throw to. If a team has a high-quality pass-rush and two defensive backs who intimidate quarterbacks, then the result is only going to be good for the defense.
The Texans are losing a very good safety to the Detroit Lions in Glover Quin. Quin started for four years for the Texans, and although he was a very effective player, he never carried the same turnover potential that Reed is integrating into the secondary.
For a team that will either be limited on offense in the playoffs or enduring some growing pains trying to broaden their approach in the regular-season, those added turnovers could prove to be huge. The AFC is not the stronger conference by any means. There are only a handful of teams who can reach the Super Bowl seemingly. If that is indeed the case, the one big impact addition to either side of the ball for one team can have a much greater impact than it has had in previous seasons.
Ed Reed is definitely that impact player, but he needs to be healthy if he is to prove it in a Texans uniform.
You can follow Cian Fahey on twitter @Cianaf