The Texans are focusing on getting a lot of game tape on players who are fighting for roster spots. WR Braxton Miller (71 snaps), OG Chad Slade (58 snaps), OT Kendall Lamm (58 snaps), OG Kyle Fuller (52 snaps), and OG David Quessenberry (47 snaps) led the team in snaps played last week and for good reason.
Here are some notable updates as we get started. Joe Webb III put on a dazzling performance in the second half of the Texans-49ers preseason game. With this team’s QB injury history, coupled with his play on special teams, Webb has staked his claim for a roster spot and removed his name from the bubble. Also, Braxton Miller fans will be satisfied to hear that he played almost the entire game on Sunday; although he dropped a solid throw from Deshaun Watson on a 2nd and 5 deep post route, he played a good game. I believe the team is beginning to trust Miller more and more, which takes him off of the Rosterology board.
Sadly, several names have fallen off the board for a different reason. Both Stephen Anderson and Tyler Ervin are falling behind in the roster battle and were replaced on this list. It’s becoming more murky who is going to make the roster with two weeks of film, but this next week and game against the Rams should clear up most of the confusion about who is going to make the team.
Safe, But In Position Battles
Fullbacks are an endangered species in the NFL, and the necessity for one on the Texans’ roster may be as well. The transitioning offense with Deshaun Watson at the helm will stress different positions than before. The new offense, from the short glimpse that we have seen, runs more from the shotgun and does not rely on lead blocking as much. Prosch is a good fullback but definitely replaceable if push comes to shove. Depending on the amount of corners, wide receivers, and linemen the Texans keep, Jay may be a potential surprise cut from the Texans’ roster.
I trust Brandon Dunn and Joel Heath more than I do Watkins. He doesn’t his gap against double blocks and does not add much to the blitz game. The Texans had all three of Dunn, Heath, and Watkins out there on the field to start the game against the Niners. Watkins is really only a two-down defensive lineman; Christian Covington comes in for Watkins on third down. Watkins’ single pass break-up does not make up for an average game otherwise. The numbers game may work against Watkins if there are any non-defensive linemen Bill O’Brien wants to keep.
I thought Fuller played a less consistent game against the Niners than he did against the Chiefs, but I also thought he was better in run blocking this past week. His ideal size and length make him hard to let go of, but the offensive line room is probably the hardest to predict. Fuller may be the best backup interior offensive lineman we have.
Quessenberry has come a long way. I was surprised by his aggressiveness at the point of attack last week and was glad to see that he did not lose that tenacity. In pass blocking, he is a quality surveyor of the blitz and helped out the center and tackle when he was not covered. DQ is definitely a favorite of Bill O’Brien and the fanbase; depending on how he looks against the Rams, we will see if the Texans are serious about keeping Quessenberry around.
Last Four In
A commanding performance from Drummond against the 49ers moves him up the chart. He played all over the field on Saturday night and is a locker room favorite. The thinness of this secondary is actually starting to scare me more than the offensive line. Drummond can play in the box in dime situations fairly well; he also has been with the team for several years now and knows the playbook. I say Drummond makes the 53-man roster as of now.
Blue is like milk that is one day expired; you don’t like it, but you have nothing else to pour in your cereal. He runs without any anticipation of him breaking loose for a long run. If Troymaine Pope continues to play with the agility and pass-catching ability that he has shown and D’Onta Foreman comes back fully healthy, Blue could fall way down the depth chart. The Texans know what they have in Blue, but complacency is a sin in football.
Even though he messed up on the goal line on third down, Pope looks NFL ready and provides dynamic speed to Houston’s offense. He can catch the ball better than any other running back on the roster, and he’s probably the fastest as well. Pope needs to work on his blocking, as he has a tendency to lock his feet into the ground right before he makes contact instead of keeping them active. I think he makes the team, but you never know who can get snubbed.
Coates left Saturday’s game with a concussion, but before his injury he made several excellent catches on the sideline, hauling in three catches for 36 yards for another solid performance. As a natural outside receiver, he is becoming a potential substitute for Will Fuller in terms of routes run. The depth and special teams play that Coates can provide keep him on the roster as the sixth receiver. It will be interesting to see if he misses any exhibition time with his concussion and loses valuable reps to other hungry receivers.
First Four Out
His play is not better than Brennan Scarlett, and that is a concern. He played the fifth most snaps in the game last week, but I really cannot point to anything that he did that was deserving of a roster spot. If Kalambayi continues to play hesitantly, he will continue to be a candidate for the practice squad. LaTroy Lewis is also a reason for concern when it comes to the rookie’s standing on the 53-man roster, as Lewis has also been a good player in the preseason.
The Texans know what they have in Slade, but they need to decide if his value is worth having him on the 53-man roster. With Martinas Rankin back at practice, it will be vital for Slade to continue to polish his game. Only 26 years old, Slade is battling to be the final offensive guard on the team. In the first two preseason games, I don’t think Senio Kelemente has proven to be a dependable guard, while Slade showed that he can come in and put together a couple good series. It’s difficult to tell who this coaching staff likes more on the interior of the offensive line - Kyle Fuller, David Quessenberry, or Chad Slade.
I thought Virgin was getting picked on by Jimmy Garoppolo and the backup QBs. His off coverage allowed too many to receivers to gain easy yards on quick inside routes. On the play where Aaron Colvin let Trent Taylor score a TD, Virgin was wrapped around his wide receiver and would have easily been called for pass interference if the ball was thrown his way. Depending on the extent of Kevin Johnson’s injury, Virgin is now basically the fourth corner. I do not trust him enough for him to hold onto this spot without the Texans bringing in someone else.
Even if there is not a roster spot initially available, Keyes is making his case. He got fooled by Kyle Shanahan’s offense on a third down and short play-action rollout in which he allowed the tight end to get free in the flat. Keyes is a hard hitting linebacker who is improving on special teams, but he needs to work on his overall speed and play recognition. He played with aggression in the past two games, and he is definitely putting pressure on the team to keep him over Brian Peters.
Injuries have derailed his career. Who knows what Ervin could have turned into, and maybe another team can take him in free agency and turn him into a useful option out of the backfield. Troymaine Pope has more athleticism at his disposal at this point than Ervin does. I was a big fan of Ervin and think there was a spot on this roster for him, but the first two preseason games prove he is not ready.
Player to Watch
The most improved player from Preseason Week 1 to Week 2, the young cornerback made several great plays against San Francisco. He forced a fourth down on a good tackle and had a great pass breakup later in the game. He may not make the team, but a candidate for the practice squad he definitely is. Chachere had a ton of plays in the second half of the game, and with Kevin Johnson out, the back half of the cornerback group is completely up for grabs.
LDE: J.J. Watt, Carlos Watkins
NT: D.J Reader, Brandon Dunn
RDE: Christian Covington, Joel Heath
LOLB: Whitney Mercilus, Brennan Scarlett
ILB: Benardrick McKinney, Brian Peters
ILB: Zach Cunningham, Dylan Cole
ROLB: Jadeveon Clowney, Duke Ejiofor
CB: Aaron Colvin, Kevin Johnson,
CB: Jonathan Joseph, Johnson Bademosi
FS: Justin Reid, Kareem Jackson
SS: Tyrann Mathieu, Corey Moore, Kurtis Drummond
QB: Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden, Joe Webb III
FB: Jay Prosch
RB: Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman, Alfred Blue, Troymaine Pope
TE: Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Keke Coutee, Braxton Miller
WR: Will Fuller, Bruce Ellington, Sammie Coates
LT: Julie’n Davenport, Kendall Lamm
LG: Zach Fulton, Kyle Fuller
C: Nick Martin, Greg Mancz
RG: Senio Kelemete, David Quessenberry
RT: Seantrel Henderson, Martinas Rankin
LS: Jon Weeks
K: Ka’imi Fairbairn
P: Shane Lechler