How Houston Texans new identity will revolve around this key element

Texans Will Anderson DeMeco Ryans, Bryce Young
The Texans will hang their hat on defense. Composite Getty Image.
Here are the underlying factors heavily influencing Houston Texans draft

The Houston Texans are in the early stages of what they hope is the season that kicks off a new era in the franchise’s history.

They signed new head coach DeMeco Ryans in January, drafted a new quarterback in C.J. Stroud, and they also got the defensive anchor in Will Anderson Jr.

Heading into the summer, this year could be the launch pad season to what the team’s identity becomes for years to come. In order for that to happen, however, one of Houston’s newest veterans said it is important for the Texans to create their own, unique brand.

“We got to find our own culture, you know what I’m saying? We got to create our own identity. We’re not San Fran. We are Houston, so that is who we are going to be,” said Jimmie Ward, the defensive back that signed with the Texans on a two-year deal in free agency.

Ward, who is entering his 10th season in the NFL, has seen the 49ers go through everything from being a middle of the pack 8-8 team to one of the worst in the league to competing in multiple NFC Championship games.

For him, the Texans have solid building blocks to create their own identity, similar to what San Francisco did over the course of the past five seasons. For Houston, a key piece to the puzzle in a new identity will revolve around the defense.

With Ryans and the defensive scheme they will try to run, Houston is going to need to have its defensive line be disruptive, Ward said. Adding Anderson is an important start to what the Texans will try to do under Ryans.

When it comes to Houston’s secondary, Ward believes the team has a lot of talent that can flourish under Ryans’ scheme. The key for players like safety Jalen Pitre and cornerback Derek Stingley will be patience.

One of Ward’s roles this upcoming season will be to help bring them along.

“I have been through a lot going on my 10th year in this league,” Ward said.

A key message Ward said he will aim to pass along to the younger defensive backs in the group will be the importance of taking care of their bodies.

When it comes to on the field, Ward is excited to see what Pitre and Stingley do in their second years in the league. Ward believes he and Pitre could cause a lot of havoc on opposing offenses because they are both interchangeable when it comes to being able to play nickel.

The versatility will give the Texans the ability to disguise their coverages better, he said. As for Stingley, Ward believes he is on track to be great because of the skill set he brings to the table when it comes to his speed and size.

The coach that is going to be in charge of making sure all the pieces fit together will be Ryans, and Ward is confident he can figure it out. Watching Ryans grow from a linebackers coach to defensive coordinator with the 49ers, the biggest intangible he had was adaptability, Ward said.

If something is not working, Ryans is not afraid to throw it out and try something new that will put his players in a position to exceed, Ward said.

For Houston, having a player-oriented coach is a breath of fresh air in and of itself. Only time will tell if the Texans can indeed establish their own unique identity under Ryans.

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Have the Astros turned the corner? Photo by Jack Gorman/Getty Images.

One presumes the Chicken Littles have stopped clucking about the Astros’ season being a goner, or if not gone, on life support. It wasn’t when they were 7-19. It wasn’t when they were 12-24. It certainly isn’t now that they’ve won six straight games and eight of their last nine. Another three or four weeks of inept play could have doomed them, but the worm has turned. A 20-25 record is no cause for celebration, but it has the Astros within four games of first place. Yes, getting to play the A’s four times this week helped. And?

I detailed the schedule issue on our Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast this week. The Astros were flat lousy for the season’s first six weeks. But… Starting the week the Astros had played a whopping 32 of their 40 games against teams with a winning record as of Monday. The Seattle Mariners had played 23 such games, the Texas Rangers only 16. The Philadelphia Phillies have been sensational so far and are fully legit. But… The Phillies entered the weekend having played three games vs. teams now sporting a winning record. Three! Out of 45 games. Going into this weekend's series only the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels had played more games against winning teams than had the Astros. It’s not mere coincidence that the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Angels are the three last place teams in the American League. The Astros were not up to the challenge of their first quarter schedule, but by no means did it render them dead, particularly in the thus far Mild, Mild, American League West.

A good Brewers team visits Minute Maid Park for three games this weekend. The Astros beat their best starter Friday night. Next the Astros get the pathetic Angels here for three before a three-game series at Oakland. Meanwhile the West leading Mariners start a ten-game road trip this weekend: three at the excellent Orioles, four at the excellent Yankees, three at the respectable Nationals. The Astros stand a good chance of overtaking the M’s by the end of this month if they can win the four-game series they open Memorial Day in Seattle.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers snapped a five game losing streak Wednesday to eke back over .500 at 23-22. The reigning World Series champs hope to get somewhat well vs. the Angels in Arlington this weekend but dropped the series opener to drop back to .500. For their sake they better because the Rangers then hit the road for Philadelphia and Minnesota.

Naturally, many Astros fans are upset with Ronel Blanco serving a 10 game suspension for illegally using whatever substance on his glove and non-pitching hand. The suspension is basically automatic. The suspension is also not a big problem. Blanco has been fantastic since getting a starting rotation spot only because of Justin Verlander’s delayed start to his season. It’s said that all life owes us is opportunity. Man, did Blanco seize his. With just seven big league starts to his name before entering this season as a 30-year old, Blanco has made eight this season with a sparkling 2.09 earned run average. So, what’s that about the suspension is not a big problem?

Blanco will miss one start and have another pushed back a day or two. That’s just not a big deal. In fact it may be helpful in the bigger picture. With last year being the first time in his professional career that Blanco topped 100 innings pitched (125 1/3), the Astros need to be wary of Blanco’s workload which is on pace to blow past last year’s career-high innings total. J.P. France probably pitched over his head for a while last year, but went well past his prior career-high innings total and faded badly. Cristian Javier was tremendous in 2022 while pitching more than in any previous year, but he pitched even more in 2023 and faded badly.

Alex Bregman lives! After being nearly inconceivably inept through the first quarter of the season, the Alex awakening in the Oakland series was not shocking but most welcomed. Over his first 37 games Bregman had a paltry seven extra base hits. Even with a feeble .201 batting average and .534 OPS, that Bregman had scored just eight runs over those 37 games was hard to believe. Then Monday and Tuesday saw five extra base hits and four runs scored.

In a trade not commanding any headlines, Dana Brown Wednesday sent outfielder Corey Julks to the White Sox for 20-year-old low minor league pitcher Luis Rodriguez. There is now no reason to call it a great Astros trade but Brown made a smart deal. Julks had no future here, hence he would have been released if no deal was struck. Taking a flyer on a young arm can’t hurt. Frankly, the White Sox are dumb to trade a young arm of any promise whatsoever for a 28-year-old outfielder with limited value. Julks was a nice story for parts of last season. The Clear Brook High School grad and UH product had a couple windows of production, highlighted by a sizzling nine game 17 for 34 stretch straddling June and July. Alas, not two weeks later Julks began what would become an 0 for 36 nightmare. He was sent to the minors for good in late-August.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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