CYPRESS – Jalen Pitre read quarterbacks’ eyes and intentions all season, instinctively and crisply breaking on the football for a handful of interceptions.
It was, overall, a stellar rookie season for the Texans’ hard-hitting safety and Stafford graduate. The second-round draft pick from Baylor, a former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, led the Texans with 147 tackles and five interceptions.
He recorded the most tackles among all NFL rookies and became the first player to record more than 125 tackles and intercept five passes since the tackle statistic began being tracked in 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I look back and I say it was a great year,” Pitre said Saturday during an appearance at a Verizon store in Cypress. “I got a great number of turnovers and I think I was very impactful for the defense. Looking forward, I want to do a lot more and I want to be able to bring a lot more guys and help the team a lot more. That’s what I’m focused on going forward and I think we’re going to continue to improve.”
Aggressive, fast and smart, Pitre manufactured one of the most productive seasons in NFL history.
Pitre intercepted his fifth pass of the season during a 31-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second-to-last game of the season and recorded 13 tackles. He intercepted Jaguars backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, breaking under the route run by wide receiver Zay Jones in the third quarter.
Pitre became the sixth player to have 135 tackles or more and five interceptions since 1991, joining Rashad Jones, Lavonte David, London Fletcher, Donnie Edwards, and Ray Lewis.
Now, Pitre is recharging after last season and looking forward to his second NFL season. Time off doesn’t necessarily agree with Pitre, who has a blue-collar work ethic and loves to prepare for the next football game or practice.
#Texans safety Jalen Pitre @JalenPitre1 @HoustonTexans @BUFootball @StaffordFTBL @TR_RES reflects on rookie season after intercepting five passes, recording 147 tackles https://t.co/6sJlgtGSlR pic.twitter.com/nbaw6u90RO— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 28, 2023
“It’s been weird,” Pitre said. “I’ve had too much free time. I feel like I’ve been kind of useless because I haven’t been doing much. Soon, I’m going to be getting back to getting my body in shape for next season. That’s what’s most important.
“Definitely, you want to get some rest, but it does feel a little bit weird not being around football and not being in meetings so I’m actually ready to get back right now I’m trying to be smart with it and give my body a rest.”
Pitre improved his tackling since moving full-time to free safety, but improving his tackling is a major goal heading into the offseason as he was attributed for 33 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, the analytics website. Nonetheless, Pitre made a ton of plays as a rookie, including an outstanding game against the Dallas Cowboys where he stopped running back Ezekiel Elliott shy of the end zone.
‘Can’t say enough about how much he, as a rookie, works at his game, studies the game, takes care of his body,” Texans safeties coach Joe Danna said. He takes the coaching. The credit is to him. We try to coach everybody the same. He works at it. It’s important to him. It’s just good to see he was able to reap the benefits of some of that work.”
“I think it just shows he really loves the game. It’s not a chore for him to sit in a meeting, watch the film and study and things like that. He truly enjoys it. I think it’s a passion of his. When you have that, it doesn’t feel like work. It makes it a little easier to come into the building every day. I think he’s kind of proven that.”
Pitre promoted a Super Bowl sweepstakes for fans to win tickets to the big game.
“It’s a blessing,” Pitre said. “Everybody doesn’t get chosen to be in the league and blessed to do stuff like this. I’m very thankful I get the opportunity to come out here and see some fans today.”
Growing up as a Texans fan, Pitre would have enjoyed attending an event like this one to see some of his favorite players like Arian Foster and Andre Johnson.
“It’s wonderful,” Pitre said. “Man, it’s crazy. I could have been in this store shopping one day. This is so close to home. It’s surreal. I’m blessed to do stuff like this.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com