The overabundance of changes in Houston has left some big revamps mostly ignored at this stage of the process. One aspect rarely discussed among the rundown of alterations to the Texans organization is the defense adjusting from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 alignment as part of new coordinator Lovie Smith's plan.
As part of the adjustment, transitioning away from the 3-4 defense will take an overhaul of personnel. With J.J. Watt gone, the Texans traded for veteran Shaq Lawson from Miami to help the transition.
A former first-round pick by Buffalo in 2016 when Leslie Frazier commanded the defense, Lawson is experienced in the type of D Houston wants to run.
"When I found out it was Houston, it was great to hear because I know what their scheme is, and that's what coach Smith was bringing back: what I did in Buffalo," Lawson told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. "It's perfect for me, so it's definitely a win-win. I'll put my hand down in the dirt and play."
An edge defender capable of playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 or defensive end in a 4-3, Lawson is a valuable veteran who can plug a gap on a squad lacking options. With 20.5 career sacks, he's not the QB disruptor that the Bills hoped they were drafting. Lawson, however, believes getting set loose on the edge in Smith's scheme under new coach David Culley can bring out his best.
"Coach Culley was in Buffalo with me, so he used to hear my mouth talking junk at practice," Lawson said. "I've got a great relationship with those guys, man. I'm glad they wanted me to be here. I'm happy they did. We've just got to build trust and get to know each other. Everything is gonna work itself out. I'm not a guy to make predictions and stuff. You just gotta put your head down and work.
"This is another situation for me with a new coach, a new reveal. I experienced that in Buffalo and Miami because they brought in a lot of new guys. With new guys, you meet another new face and get to know new people. You will have your ups and downs together. Every team has adversity. It's about how you overcome that adversity."
Still just 26 years old, Lawson has his best chance to prove it on a Texans defense that is in dire need of difference-makers.
"They're getting the best Shaq Lawson," he said. "They're getting the best, the best version of me. I'm going to work hard every day and take pride in everything I do. I'm a young player whose best ball is yet to come, a guy who's going to bring the energy every day."
The Texans defense ranked 30th in the NFL last season, and with Watt released, there isn't a big-name player in the front seven. Whitney Mercilus' running mates have all moved on. With Smith returning to the NFL on a squad that on paper doesn't have a ton of top-shelf pass-rushing aid, we'll see how well the longtime coach's scheme plays in 2021.