Texans' Will Anderson leaning on Danielle Hunter in Year 2

Watt to McAfee: The expectations are very high for the Texans (1:29)

J.J. Watt joins Pat McAfee and discusses the expectations for the Texans this season. (1:29)

HOUSTON -- Ever since Danielle Hunter signed his two-year, $49 million deal to join the Houston Texans this offseason, the defensive end has taken on a mentor role with second-year pass-rusher Will Anderson Jr.

The pair intend to "wreak havoc" on opposing offenses. Anderson is coming off his debut season when he won Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he's now leaning on the nine-year veteran to take his game to the next level.

"I'm really impressed by Will," Hunter said. "It feels like he's like in Year 4 or 5 or 6 -- how he plays and how he carries himself. He always holds himself accountable. He's always coming outside practicing with the same attitude every day, trying to lead a group from the front. You don't see that in players who are in Year 1."

The two are constantly talking about the nuances of the position as they've navigated OTAs and mandatory minicamp together. Hunter has focused on Anderson's fundamentals. According to Anderson, the former Minnesota Viking has helped him fine-tune two pass-rush moves in the "long arm" and "swipe" techniques.

They've also spent time working on hand placement. The aim is to more quickly discard offensive tackles' hands as they come off the line of scrimmage, which can be painful.

"We've been doing a lot of hand work, a lot of hand fighting. We were actually doing this one drill and he grabbed my wrist, and I thought he almost broke my wrist because he's so strong," Anderson said while laughing. "But he's just been teaching me the ropes to just keep my hands active in my rush.

"He has so much wisdom and knowledge that he's been pouring into all the guys in the room."

The plan for Hunter and Anderson is to supercharge coach DeMeco Ryans' defense as it enters Year 2. Ryans' scheme is built around the pass-rush pressuring quarterbacks using only four defenders.

"With Danielle and Will, I think they instantly have this connection that you need for both of those ends," Ryans said. "[They are] playing off of each other, picking off of each other's brain. Danielle is a veteran in the league. He has done it for a while, so Will being able to lean on him for advice on how he has seen it done. I think that is very important. I like the connection that they have had, they are working well together, and it is great to see both of them collapse in the pocket and finishing on the quarterback."

The Texans had 46 sacks (tied for 13th) last season, which set a single-season franchise record. The Texans' defense also allowed the 11th-fewest points per game (21.1) and helped the team win the AFC South for the first time since 2019.

But there is room for improvement, which a playoff loss to the No. 1-seeded Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round showed. The Ravens' 34 points were the third-most allowed by Houston last season, and their 229 rushing yards were the most Houston surrendered all season.

The Texans sacked quarterback Lamar Jackson three times in that game, though, with Anderson getting one. He finished his rookie season with seven sacks. Defensive end Jonathan Greenard led the team with 12.5 sacks, the Texans let him walk in free agency and replaced him with one of the league's most-prolific pass-rushers in Hunter, who was coming off a career-high 16.5 sacks.

"[Ryans'] biggest thing is just meeting at the quarterback because that's his vision of both of us coming off the edge, burning the edge and meeting the quarterback," Anderson said. "As Danielle and I grow our relationship, that's the vision that we see from each other."

The Texans made some other changes along the interior of their defensive line. They lost defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency, and they traded defensive tackle Maliek Collins to the San Francisco 49ers. They signed defensive end Denico Autry, who had 11.5 sacks last season for the Tennessee Titans, to a two-year, $20 million contract to help offset the losses.

Switching up a record-setting front four could be a gamble, but the team viewed Hunter -- one of the biggest names to hit the free-agent market -- as a clear upgrade. His résumé speaks for itself as the two-time All-Pro has the seventh-most sacks (87.5) since 2015.

And at 29, Hunter's tutelage of the 22-year-old Anderson could be vital to get the Texans to where they want to go.

"His desire to just want to be great, he's always trying to get better," Hunter said. "He's trying to learn from me in everything that he can possibly learn. ... You don't see that a lot."