When the Houston Texans drafted D.J. Swearinger out of South Carolina in the second round in 2013, there was intrigue on the big hitting safety. The Texans were a team and organization that lacked intensity on the field and players who did not back down from challenges.
Swearinger was rough around the edges with his play on the field but he possessed the game changing ability that all NFL teams look for in players. He was suspended for a game at one point of his college career for a hit he put on a receiver from UAB. Swearinger has taken that attitude he played with in college to the NFL, but the early returns have come with some mixed opinions.
Despite the criticism that Swearinger has taken since he arrived to Houston, the Texans starting strong safety is not in a rush to change his playing style:
“I haven’t thought (to) change. It won’t change. I’m the player that I am. That’s why I got here. It hasn’t changed since I’ve been in the league. It’s me.”
Forced into action his rookie season with an injury to Danieal Manning, Swearinger had to learn the game on the fly. Playing next to experienced safeties, he had little help on how to see the game and understand what it takes to perform day in and day out.
This offseason, Swearinger came in much more focused on what he had to do to help the team win, and it started with a much quieter player during practice. His rookie season he was one of the loudest players on the field letting everyone know he was out there. Under Romeo Crennel and Bill O’Brien, Swearinger’s approach to practice is noticeable and it is paying off. What else that is not seen with the brash and loud Swearinger is his work ethic to understand the game and perfect his craft on the field, his tireless attempts to find time to workout and train for the upcoming season.
One veteran who has helped Swearinger is safety Kendrick Lewis, who has been the leader of the secondary since he arrived to Houston. He has been a constant voice to Swearinger talking football and helping him understand the new defense. Even his fellow safety does not want Swearinger to change who he is, as Lewis explained:
“That’s just the way he plays, that’s the type of player he is. This is a physical game. You’ve just got to come out and if that’s what it takes, where he doesn’t hit a guy the proper way, that’s what he’s got to correct. Whether it’s how he tackles or when he tackles, just doing it in a proper way and the way the league wants it to be done.”
A work in progress, Swearinger needs to be more consistent in coverage and keep refining his game inside the box. In three preseason games, Swearinger has put his physical play on display and has had some moments in pass coverage.
With all of the talk from national and local media on how Swearinger plays, the only person’s opinion that matters is his Head Coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien has made it clear what he wants from his players, and that is what Swearinger is giving to his teammates.
“His reputation with our football team is that he practices hard, he plays hard, he’s a guy that’s emotional in the fact that he wants to win, he wants to help his team win. “ O’Brien continued, “That’s the reputation that we’re concerned with.”
When asked if he was concerned with what anyone else thinks of his starting safety, O’Brien calmly said,