Monday morning brought about the news that the Texans would not retain the services of Jordan Black or Quinn Gray. In the wake of the final day of OTAs, GM Rick Smith and Coach Kubiak addressed several questions from the media. Smithiak discussed what was, what is, and what will be as the Texans put the OTAs behind them and prepare to head into training camp. All quotes courtesy of www.houstontexans.com.
Doing away with Black and Gray
After Gary Kubiak led his team through their final day of OTAs, he took time to reflect on what the team was able to accomplish over the last month:
"We basically went through a mini-look at our camp, trying to hit all the situations, trying to let the players know what they are up against. We’ve got a couple of tough cuts to make here. Believe it or not, this time of year we are still trying to evaluate some guys. We got a lot accomplished, and the good news is that we are really healthy. Only the guys who have been out for a while, Travis (Johnson), (N.D.) Kalu, and we plan on keeping them out for a while. We got good work down. We are all in one piece, so we are ready to go to camp."
Speaking of cuts, Rick Smith spoke candidly about the decision to release Quinn Gray and Jordan Black:
"I think that we have decided on the number we are going to take (to camp), and just felt like at this point he (Gray) did not have a good chance of making it. So in fairness to him, to give him an opportunity to maybe go and try to latch on with another team, to make that release today."
Kubiak, when asked a similar question, took a more philosophical approach in his explanation:
"My philosophy is if I’ve got a veteran player playing in this league and I don’t see the opportunity or feel like I can give them a fair opportunity to make a football team, then I want to give them a fair opportunity somewhere else. I felt that way with both those players and with where they are at those positions. As I told Quinn, I know if I can’t give you reps, I don’t want to do that to you so I’ll give you an opportunity somewhere else."
Kubiak and Smith’s comments about Quinn Gray reaffirm my initial hunch, which was that Gray agreed to come to the Texans with a handshake deal on the table that would allow for Gray’s release if he went to camp as a QB3. They took a wait and see approach during the draft. If they had received an offer that they really liked, then Sage would have been dealt and cleared the way for Quinn to take that QB2 spot. With Gray being given his outright release, I figure that was the plan all along. Of course, that’s pure speculation.
Old quarterbacks coach gets excited
"Mainly at the quarterback positions, I made a decision to work with those two young players (Boyd and Brink). I watch Alex and I watch Shane and I think they have a chance to play in this league. It’s really an excitement to work with those two young kids and see how they do."
Rick Smith also echoed Kubiak’s sentiment, but without the same sense of excitement Kubiak has for the young quarterbacks .
"Shane is making progress. Alex Brink is making progress. We’ve got some young quarterbacks that we really like that are doing a decent job and we feel comfortable with those guys going into training camp."
I am of the opinion that we will go to camp with all four quarterbacks, but will only keep three during the season, with two on the active roster and one on the practice squad. I know Kubiak has said that Schaub’s injury issues last season scared him into considering carrying a third active quarterback, but I’m not sure I buy it. I think he uses that slot for an extra lineman. We could see Shane Boyd end up a late summer roster cut. Again, its pure speculation, but I think Alex Brink has a better quarterback skill-set than Shane Boyd, which could spell the end of his run as a Texan.
Rooks cutting their teeth during OTAs
Alex Brink isn’t the only member of the 2008 draft class that has caught Kubiak’s eye. He also seemed really encouraged about the play of the other rookies on the squad:
"It’s amazing. You look at Antwaun Molden. You look at Xavier Adibi. The young tackle, Duane Brown. The progress they have made, they’ve made it because they’ve gotten reps. It’s almost like their first training camp before they’ve ever been to one in a lot of ways. We had some great work with them mentally. I would say those kids are – I don’t want to say any further ahead than some of the ones we have had in the past, but they are every bit as close to them. Hopefully, they’ll help our team like our young guys have had in the past."
Color him impressed. I’m thinking those three players, along with Frank Okam and Steve Slaton, are poised to make noticeable contributions this year. Rick Smith also addressed the progress of the Texans first round draft pick:
"(Duane Brown) is doing a nice job. He’s learning. That’s a difficult position, as you know, to come in this league. And then you couple that with the fact that he’s playing against a guy that probably in my opinion (could be) the most dominant player that we have this year the way he’s preparing and working this year, Mario (Williams). So he’s got a lot to work on but he’s got a great attitude and all the athleticism that we need and the right temperament, so I’m pleased." He handled (his first month of practice) great. You look at the first day he came out here, it was a rude awakening and he was able to compose himself even as quickly as the next practice and improve, and so he’s got the right temperament. This kid’s a tough-minded kid. He’s smart. So he’s going to be fine."
I appreciate Rick Smith’s input, but if I had my druthers, I’d buy Alex Gibbs a beer and get his first impressions of the rookie. Nonetheless, by all accounts, it looks like D. Brown has his hands full with a heavy helping of Mario, which can only make him stronger – provided Mario doesn’t kill him.
Okoye gearing up for second season
As Duane Brown trudged past one of his first career milestones, second year player Amobi Okoye seemed to be hitting his stride. Kubiak took time to talk about the improvements he has seen in Okoye thus far:
"(Amobi) has grown up. He’s a much more mature kid. He’s an effort player, down in and down out, right now which is something I wouldn’t say he was last year so that’s something he has corrected. But he’s got a lot more maturity about him as we move forward. He’s a better player."
With Amobi coming into his own, and Mario coming off a season where he was a one man wrecking crew, I have every reason to believe that the front seven this team will be much improved. If the reports about Weaver coming into the season at full strength are accurate, then there should be no reason that last season’s sack total (31) shouldn’t be surpassed by week 12. (That’s adding less than a sack a game average…) I figure with the lineup we trot out there, we should be averaging 2.5 sacks a game. That would give us 40 on the year, and based on last year’s sack totals, put us in the top ten. If we were to average 2.75 sacks a game, we would be looking at top five, which is something the team can realistically shoot for once they break into the top ten.
Colvin watch 2008
One person who many think can make an impact on our overall sack total is free agent linebacker Rosevelt Colvin. While there is no deal in place, discussions are still on-going. Rick Smith spoke about the negotiations:
"They’re ongoing, yeah. I talked to Kennard (McGuire, Colvin’s agent). I’ve stayed in contact with him, and so we will continue to explore that option and see if it’s something that we can come to an agreement on. No, (the chances of landing Colvin) haven’t changed. I’m behind that preposition. We’ve talked. We’ve got good conversations going. You know my relationship with Kennard, my relationship with Rosevelt, and so if it’s something that we feel like we ought to do, then we’ll move on it."
I’ve been thinking a lot about this potential deal and the more I think about it, the more apprehensive I become. I’ve had a couple of heated exchanges on the Texans Talk message boards discussing the possibility of landing Colvin. While I don’t doubt that he is still a player who can be a contributing factor on the field, I do think that Colvin is on the downside of his career. At 31, he is coming off an injury and a reported failed physical in New England. The Colvin of six years ago would have been one hell of an addition to this ball club, but now that he is entering into the latter part of his career, I don’t see him having the same type of impact he had as a Pat, let alone a Bear.
My contention is that he hasn’t played in a 4-3 defensive alignment since 2002 and the move back maybe too much for him to absorb considering the difference in terminology and overall defensive strategy. He has had a major injury to his hip in 2003 and another season ending injury to his ankle in 2007. While they say that time heals all wounds, I’m afraid that age will cause those healed wounds to ache with the added abuse an NFL player puts his body through.
If they can get him to agree to some sort of incentive-laden deal with little or no risk if he fails to produce, then I’m all for it. That’s the kind of low risk, high reward this team should shoot for. Anything other than that, and the Texans will be setting themselves up to experience the Ahman Green debacle all over again.