Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips couldn’t stop talking about Manning, who signed with the Texans from the Chicago Bears in 2011 on the same day as cornerback Johnathan Joseph, on Twitter. Every single time he tweeted about individual players who stood out in practice during OTAs, Manning was included.
“D-Man was all over the field,” Phillips wrote on May 23. “D-Man continues great effort,” he said on May 24. “D-Man had another big day,” Phillips wrote on May 29.
I asked Phillips about Manning during the first episode of my “Off the Turf with Scurf” podcast last week.
“Tremendous player,” Phillips said. “Coaching-wise, when you see a guy play like he plays and practice like he practices, you realize how good they really are and how important they really are. Really important. He plays faster than everybody else. I’m talking about everybody else that I see play safety. He plays faster than they do. He’s special.”
Manning not only plays fast but is fast (4.46 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2006). He missed three games with a fractured fibula in 2011 but still finished fourth on the team with 59 tackles as the Texans improved from 32nd to third in passing defense. He had two interceptions in the regular season and one in the playoffs.
Manning also averaged 27.4 yards on kickoff returns last season. He indicated Thursday that he won’t be returning kicks in 2012, smiling as he said, “If the head man don’t want me back there, I can’t be back there.”
That’s probably because the head man, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, knows how important Manning is to the Texans’ defense. Kubiak mentioned this week that Manning is one of several players who look like they’re taking their game to another level.
“He’s a leader,” Kubiak said. “He loves to play. He’s 100 miles an hour all the time when you see him out here. He’s kind of becoming a leader of the back end in his own way, him and J-Jo (Joseph). Just another year of being comfortable here in Houston, and I think those things start to take over a little more.”
So why does a seventh-year veteran practice as hard as Manning does?
“You want to simulate what you’re doing in the game,” Manning said. “The only way you can do that is at practice. You’re pretty much going to be losing if you’re just doing it in the game. So you want to practice good habits and get your team doing the same thing. You want to come out here and lead with example before you start opening your mouth, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Manning is excited for his second season in Wade Phillips’ defense. He said Phillips’ defensive calls and packages put him in position to make plays, more so than when he was with the Bears.
“I’m just working on my leadership skills, developing my craft a whole lot better in this defense, playing the style of defense that they play,” Manning said. “I wasn’t used to playing in this defense. I played in a Tampa 2-based defense (in Chicago) and now it’s different in a 3-4, and I’m more aggressive now. There’s a lot I have to learn, also.”
As he continues to learn, he’ll continue to lead by example for the Texans’ younger players.
“When you come in with a mentality of putting a staple of a defense that wants to be physical and dominate and finish, rookies have got to come in and they’ve got to catch a hold of that chain,” Manning said. “That’s the staple we’re trying to set here as a defense.”
Tags: Danieal Manning, Gary Kubiak, Johnathan Joseph, Organized Team Activities, Wade Phillips
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