FOXBORO -- Throughout the course of the season, the Patriots secondary has shown an affinity for playing press coverage. Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington are all strong cornerbacks who aren't afraid to get physical with receivers off of the line of scrimmage.
Talib, especially, has had success getting his hands on some bigger, faster, stronger receivers and throwing off the timing of their routes. If the game plan calls for something similar this weekend against receiver Andre Johnson and the Texans, Talib explained that he'll have to be careful when he initiates hand-to-hand combat on the outside.
"If you off balance when you try to jam him, he's a bigger guy, he'll throw you out the way," Talib said. "He just bring that physical aspect to the game."
The tail of the tape between Talib and Johnson? Talib is listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds. Johnson comes in at 6-3, 230. Though Talib has handled larger players like Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and Atlanta receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, Johnson is dangerous thanks to both for his size and his experience. He still has the physical skill of an elite No. 1 receiver, but he also possesses savvy as an 11-year veteran.
"Moving fast, running great routes and going to get the ball," Talib said of Johnson, "he's still one of the best in the league."
On the season, while playing with three different quarterbacks, Johnson has 74 catches for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns. Though he caught just two balls for 36 yards last week in a loss to the Jaguars, he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the seventh time in his career.
"You always look forward to going against great receivers," Talib said. "They got a great corps in all. They got the young rookie [DeAndre Hopkins]. He playing good. Tight ends, man. They got a great group over there."
The Texans are just 2-9 on the season and quarterback Case Keenum is coming off of his two worst performances of the year. Talib and the entire Patriots defense will be taking both the young quarterback and its scuffling offense seriously, however, when they head to Reliant Stadium on Sunday.
"He can get out the pocket, man," Talib said of Keenum, who has replaced Matt Schaub under center. "He can move the pocket around, and he's got a strong arm. He makes a ton of throws, across his body, across the field. He makes a ton of throws that a lot of quarterbacks won't be able to make.
"It's football, man," Talib added. "Any given Sunday, you still gotta line up. You still gotta prepare. Just 'cause they 2-9 doesn't mean they gonna come and just hand us the win. We just gotta treat it like it's any other week. We gotta prepare all week for it and we gotta show up here and treat it like it's any other week."
Talib has been nursing a hip injury that has kept him limited in practice for the last few weeks and has at times forced him to the sidelines mid-game. When asked on Friday, he wouldn't claim he's at 100 percent for Johnson and the Texans, saying only that he's improving.
"Feeling better," he said.