As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. Up next: The Houston Texans
Defensive end J.J. Watt was the breakout player from Houston's playoff run, and for good reason. But Watt only tied for the NFL lead in postseason sacks with 3.5 in only two games. Fellow Texans rookie Brooks Reed did similar damage.
Reed and Watt were the first rookie duo in 15 years to notch at least five sacks apiece. Reed's pass-rush production fell off with zero sacks in his final five regular season games, but his playoff success shows why Reed is ready to break out.
Not the player you think
Reed came into the league with a reputation as a potentially dynamic pass rusher who would be weak against the run. That proved to be far from the truth. Reed was solid as a pass rusher as a rookie, but he arguably was better against the run. He has the size and strength to set the edge well, lining up as a defensive end or outside linebacker.
We re-watched every snap from Reed against the Ravens in the playoffs. We were impressed by how technically sound, strong and versatile he was. Reed recorded 13.5 tackles and a forced fumble in the two playoff games mostly due to strength and effort. He lined up all over the field, including at inside linebacker occasionally. He can cover when asked. If Reed hit a rookie wall during the season, it crumbled in January.
The Texans drafted Whitney Mercilus in the first round in part to serve as insurance with Barwin in a contract year. It will take time for Mercilus to get regular snaps playing behind Barwin and Reed.
Reed, a second-round pick last year, is a different player than analysts expected coming out of Arizona. He's ready to make a bigger impact than expected starting now.