Sean Pendergast

Four Thoughts on Justin Reid, The Houston Texans' Unsung Hero

Justin Reid is a foundational piece for the Houston Texans.
Justin Reid is a foundational piece for the Houston Texans. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, J.J. Watt. Those are rightfully the first names that come to mind when you ask a Houston Texans fan about the star players on their favorite team. Truth be told, left tackle Laremy Tunsil's name is probably on the cusp of the star circle in which those other three reside, given the importance of his position and what the Texans gave up (two first round picks, for starters) to secure his services.

Make no mistake, though, second year safety Justin Reid is knocking on that door, as well, both currently and looking into the crystal ball for this team for the next decade. This past Sunday, Reid's tackle on the Jaguars' attempt at a game-winning, two point conversion was another reminder of how big a hole there would be in the secondary if Reid, the rare Texans third round pick that's become a success story,  were playing for another NFL team.

So let's spend this Tuesday morning counting our Reid-related blessings with Four Thoughts on the Texans' precocious safety:

Sunday's tackle on Fournette is the leader in the Texans' clubhouse for Biggest Play of the Year
Maybe you're just taking this 2019 Texans schedule one week at a time, and not looking too far ahead, and if that's the case, I say "Good for you!" That's healthy. However, allow me to mix in some unhealthy glancing ahead — the fact of the matter is that, early in this season, the Texans' schedule has had some fortuitous twists. Andrew Luck's retirement and Nick Foles' broken collarbone immediately downgrades the starting QB in four of your six division games. Also, Cam Newton looks shaky, Tyreek Hill is injured, and the Raiders had to release Antonio Brown. Those are all first half of the season opponents for the Texans! So what I'm saying is that an 11-5 record is feeling more doable, and if this team is going to hang out in that strata of team, they'll need their C- games to still result in wins. That's what Reid's tackle on Sunday allowed — it allowed the Texans to take one of their subpar performances and still steal a W. Let's relive that play one more time....

Tremendous, and something we've become accustomed to during Reid's short career, thus far. Let's go there now....

That tackle is just the next play in a trend of game changing plays by Reid
It's probably not a complete coincidence that the Texans' fishing their 2018 season out of an 0-3 hole last year, running off nine straight wins in the process, happened in conjunction with Reid getting his sea legs underneath him as an NFL player. In the first three games of the season (again, an 0-3 start for the team), Reid totaled just 10 tackles with a pass defense and a QB hit. Starting with the win over the Cowboys in Week 5, Reid began making game-changing plays, forcing turnovers and adorning highlight reels. In fact, beginning with that Cowboys game, the Texans were 5-1 in games where Reid intercepted a pass or caused/recovered a fumble turnover. Most prominent among those plays was the 101-yard return of an Alex Smith interception that completely flipped that win over the Redskins in Washington last year. Between that play and the tackle on Sunday, Reid has made unquestionably the most important defensive plays in a two-point and one-point win in his first 18 games as a pro. That's impact. Let's relive the magic of Reid's rookie season via highlight YouTube!

The selection of Reid is Brian Gaine's magnum opus
We've listed the Texans' failures in the third round here enough times already. There's no need to dredge up the bodies with such specificity here. Just know that Justin Reid, the 68th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, is the rare exception to that rule. He was Brian Gaine's first and CLEARLY best draft choice in his short tenure as general manager of this football team. Despite what's felt like a concerted effort by Bill O'Brien to take out any Gaine-related personnel trash, you can count on Reid being a guy O'Brien wants here for the long term.

Reid is the next foundational piece
We mentioned the other names above. Watt and Hopkins are already on big money deals. Watson and Tunsil have a chance to become the highest paid players at their positions, as well. The team has given long term extensions to linebacker Bernardrick McKinney and center Nick Martin, which put them in the top half dozen or so players at their respective positions. I think Reid will ultimately command a deal that puts him in a layer in between the upper, upper crust guys and the McKinney/Martin level of player, a deal where he is among the highest paid safeties in the league, but not at the very tippy top. That said, if Reid continues to progress and make an even bigger impact every week, perhaps he does command top of the market safety money. This would be a welcome problem for the Texans to have. The bottom line is that every NFL team has about eight to ten players that are viewed as "foundational," guys you build around for the next decade. Justin Reid is one of those guys.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast