Anthony Weaver: Texans' Defensive Scheme Will Be 'More Exotic'

Brandon Scott
May 13, 2020 - 2:21 pm

(SportsRadio 610) -- Texans first-year defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver does not believe it's fair to say the team's defense has not been aggressive enough in the past. 

But Weaver, who spoke with the media Wednesday for the first time since being name defensive coordinator earlier this year, said to expect the scheme to be more exotic so the opposition can't pinpoint where players will be on the field.

"Through scheme, we'll try to create more opportunities for our guys," Weaver said when asked a question about improving the Texans' performance on third down.

The Texans struggled on third down in 2019, giving up the third-most conversions in the league. 

They also had issues generating a pass rush outside of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, though Weaver is high on the young players along the defensive line. 

"We have a bunch of talented rushers on the roster," Weaver said. "The beauty for me is that I have to find ways to put them in the best place to be successful. .. We just have to put the pieces in the right spots."

Weaver said some of the schematic changes he's making has brought on some excitement among the players. 

Creativity is one Weaver's favorite aspects of the job. 

"You gotta love the chess match ... that's part of the beauty in schematics," Weaver said. 

Watt, Mercilus free 'to go get it'

If the Texans defense is going to be good this season, it will need big performances from Watt and Mercilus.

Weaver talked about allowing players like those "a little professional initiative" to go make plays. 

"While we want our defense to be disciplined, I don't want them to be robots," Weaver said.

Mercilus just signed a contract extension that averages $13.5 million annually, making him the 16th-highest paid edge rusher in the NFL. He was Pro Bowl alternate last season with a team-high 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Watt has faced season altering injuries in three of the last four seasons, only playing more than half the regular season games in 2018, when he started in all 16.

Watt is still a dominant force when he's on the field and it will be up to Weaver to coach up the players around him.

'Utmost confidence' in safety position

The Texans signed safety Eric Murray, Michael Thomas and Jaylen Watkins this offseason. 

They also released Tashaun Gipson, who started 14 games for the team last season. 

Head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien said ahead of the draft that safety is a position the Texans could stand to add depth to.

Since then, they've released Gipson, signed Thomas and did not draft a safety. 

Weaver said they're "extremely excited" about Murray and Thomas, who he called two "proven veterans and phenomenal human beings." 

Of course, there's third-year safety Justin Reid, who is widely considered to be a rising star.

Reid recovered from shoulder surgery after playing in 2019 with a torn labrum

"When he comes back this year and he's 100 healthy, he can take a big jump," Weaver said. "I have the utmost confidence with our safety position."

It's still unclear who will start alongside Reid, who has openly campaigned for the Texans to sign his brother, free agent safety Eric Reid.

Lonnie Johnson is a corner

Rookie seasons are tough, especially for cornerbacks, and even more so for ones who struggle in a playoff outing to the eventual Super Bowl champs.

Lonnie Johnson Jr., whose size at 6'2", 214 pounds makes him intriguing as a safety, will continue to player corner for the Texans. 

As a rookie last season, Johnson started seven games and played in 14 games. He recorded 41 tackles, seven passes defended and no interceptions.

Johnson has been working out in Tomball with expert trainer Rischad Whitfield. 

“I’m just working on all my weaknesses I noticed last year,” Johnson told the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson in April. “I’m trying to be a complete corner this year. I’m trying to stay in shape, stay moving, try to make myself be better this year.

“I’ve got a lot of growth, a lot of room to grow. I’m still learning the position, doing everything possible to come into the game as a different kind of player.”

"I think we have to get his confidence right, and I don't think he lacks in that department," Weaver said.

"He's going to come in more with more knowledge," Weaver said. "I expect him to take a jump here in Year 2."

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