How improved is the Texans' defense?

Can Wade Phillips improve what was a miserable Houston Texans defense last year? AP Photo/Eric Gay

The Houston Texans took an important step this offseason: They finally decided to stop letting the defense be run by Gary Kubiak's choices. In came Wade Phillips, who has a long track record of quick turnarounds as a defensive coordinator. In came consensus top-five free agent Johnathan Joseph and veteran safety Danieal Manning, who were tasked with bringing instant credibility to a secondary that had none. In came a pair of very solid defensive performances against the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins that left Houston with the top-ranked pass defense by yards allowed after two weeks.

And then in came the New Orleans Saints, scoring 40 points -- including a 24-point fourth quarter -- to take all that positive momentum away and turn the armchair psychologists loose on the Texans' ability to close out games. Again.

The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. The Texans' defense has some very noticeable flaws right now -- trying to rebuild a unit that was one of the worst in the NFL in one offseason is a tough task -- but the pass defense should show improvement from last season's version.

New Orleans' offense, though, is one of the few units in the NFL that is uniquely constructed to be able to take advantage of the Texans' main defensive weakness: depth. Between Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson, the Saints have one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, even without the injured Marques Colston. Once New Orleans was trailing by two scores and moved to its receiver-heavy sets, the Texans struggled mightily because they don't have enough talent in their secondary to win those matchups.