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Houston Texans' defense counting on LB Bradie James

Around the League will examine one key figure under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season. Next up: The Houston Texans.

Under Pressure: Bradie James

The Houston Texans' decision to cut ties with middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans was one of the more surprising moves of the offseason.

Ryans, 27, was a two-time Pro Bowler for Houston, and was known as a popular clubhouse leader. Sending him to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fourth-round pick and a swap of third rounders seemed -- on the surface -- like a swindle job by Andy Reid & Co.

But this was hardly a case of the Texans being in a generous mood. Ryans was expensive (due $5.9 million in 2012) and wasn't an ideal fit in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense. Houston obviously believed it could find a cheaper alternative who would fit its scheme better.

That alternative was Bradie James, who signed a signed a one-year, $890,000 contract with Houston after nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. James, 31, spent four years playing under Phillips during the coach's run in Dallas, breeding a level of familiarity that made him a natural fit.

"I don't mind throwing it on the table, we're pretty pleased with picking Bradie (James) up, because we feel like we gained back what we lost with DeMeco leaving, and then some, to be honest with you," Texans linebackers coach Reggie Herring said Tuesday at OTAs. "At the end of the day, whatever we lost with DeMeco, we feel very confident that we've regained it with Bradie."

That's pretty heavy praise for a player who sat on the free-agent pile for a month before Houston signed him on the cheap.

By trading Ryans and letting Mario Williams walk to the Buffalo Bills on a huge free-agent contract, the Texans are putting a lot of faith in Phillips finding a way to keep the Texans' defense effective without as many name brands. James will be asked to be a major contributor, whether he's still able to handle that kind of responsibility or not.

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