The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is the part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player for the 2012 NFL season on each NFL team. For the Houston Texans, that player is cornerback Brice McCain.
The Texans lost a big and underrated part of their defense this offseason, losing #2 cornerback Jason Allen. Allen replaced Kareem Jackson, a 2010 1st round pick, in the starting lineup midseason in 2011 and played very well, allowing 39 completions on 77 attempts (50.6%) for 457 yards (5.9 YPA), 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, while deflecting 5 passes and committing 2 penalties.
Jackson sucked as a rookie as a starter in 2010, allowing 57 completions on 86 attempts (66.3%) for 924 yards (10.7 YPA), 5 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, while deflecting 6 passes and committing 4 penalties. He wasn’t much better in 2011, in a reduced role, allowing 38 completions on 62 attempts (61.3%) for 646 yards (10.4 YPA), 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, while deflecting 5 passes and committing 5 penalties.
With Allen gone, Jackson will be forced back into the starting lineup. Unless he turns things around, he’ll really struggle. Fortunately, the Texans may have the answer waiting in the wings, Brice McCain, a 2009 6th round pick. McCain had a very strong season in a limited role last year. He was 8th at his position in terms of his rating in coverage on ProFootballFocus, despite playing just 482 snaps, and 2nd at his position in QB rating allowed, among eligible cornerbacks (25% of team’s snaps). He allowed 24 completions on 51 attempts (47.1%) for 251 yards (4.9 YPA), 0 touchdowns, and 2 deflections, while deflecting 9 passes and committing 3 penalties.
He’ll start the season as the nickel cornerback, but so did Jason Allen last season. Jackson will be on a short leash and, if he continues to struggle and McCain continues to play well, McCain could steal his job midseason and, if he does that, he might not look back. It’s certainly a projection to say that he will be an elite cornerback, but he’s got the potential to be an above average starting cornerback and solidify the cornerback position in Houston opposite Johnathan Joseph.
If you’re interested in doing a fantasy football league with me, here’s the link (no draft date set yet, currently standard, with the option to become PPR with group vote). http://msn.foxsports.com/fantasy/football/commissioner/Registration/Private.aspx?league=55086&password=FanSpot2