Playing catch-up, especially for a rookie, is a very difficult task in the NFL. Competing at the highest level requires a player to make major leaps in their knowledge of the new system and play recognition. For rookie Treston Decoud, the Collective Bargaining Agreement put him behind the eight ball from the start. The CBA does not allow players from schools on the quarter system to practice with their new teams until after rookie mini-camp. Coming from Oregon State, Decoud was therefore held out from activities with the team longer than he might have been had he attended another school, putting Decoud behind in his development and training before his rookie season began.
Preparing for the NFL Combine and the Oregon State Pro Day are a lot different than gearing up for the NFL season. Bill O’Brien constantly mentions that the teams and the coaches do not get enough time with the rookies before training camp, and it did not help Decoud’s stock that he was even further behind than the rest of his class.
At 6’2”, Treston Decoud was a honorable mention All-Pac-12 selection at Oregon State and had a prolific season on an underwhelming team in 2016. Playing at Division II Chadron State (Nebraska) and Northwest Mississippi Community College before landing at Oregon State, Decoud used his athletic gifts to better his life. Aaron Wilson wrote a great story on Decoud when he was drafted that puts into perspective his arduous journey to the NFL.
His size and tackling ability were paired with a physical playing style coming out of college. Between him, Zach Cunningham, and Julie’n Davenport, former GM Rick Smith definitely considered length in evaluating this group of draft prospects. Decoud’s highlight film below demonstrates his skills and ability to finish off plays.
He strides well in deep coverage when guarding a receiver and does a good job attacking the ball at its highest point. At 1:55 in the video, he breaks hard on the screen pass and gets his pad level down low; that’s impressive for such a tall player.
He had an average rookie preseason that made it a bit more difficult for Decoud to work his way up the Texans’ depth chart. Undrafted players challenged him for a role as the fourth CB in Houston. It became evident that he had a tendency to get beaten relatively easily when guarding faster receivers.
Once the season began, he was buried on the depth chart. Even though he was never expected to start and was purely a depth player at this point, it was hoped that he would be able to contribute in special teams as a rookie. There was some hope Decoud could step in and hold his own if any of Kareem Jackson, Johnathan Joseph, or Kevin Johnson went down.
For the first third of the season, Decoud was almost exclusively on special teams duty and rarely saw the field on defense. Even when things were getting out of hand, Decoud mainly was a special teams guy.
Then, the Texans claimed Marcus Williams off waivers. That meant Decoud was inactive on game day for the next four weeks. He next played in Week 10 against the Cardinals and had his best play of the season.
In a crucial 3rd and 7 with 12:38 left in the game, Decoud was man-to-man with WR John Brown. Playing ten yards off the line of scrimmage, Decoud knew that this type of play was going to be designed to get the first down. So when Brown did not make his break after seven or ten yards, Decoud was very prepared for an out-route at twelve yards.
At the top of the route, Decoud did a great job putting his hands on Brown and disrupting a quick player’s movement. His inside hand placement is textbook coverage technique. When Brown turns his shoulders to the sideline, Decoud drives his feet and breaks on the route.
Sorry for the blurriness; it’s the best screenshot I can get. It does, however, demonstrate Decoud’s ability to extend and break up a well thrown pass on a crucial play.
With all of the injuries and issues the Texans had in the secondary at the end of the season, Treston started to see the field more. In the last two games of the season, he played 23% and 20% of the defensive snaps, respectively. He did not do anything astonishing in these games, but then again, neither did any of the Texans playing. To keep playing in a Texans uniform, Decoud will need to capitalize on more than just injuries to other DBs. He ended the season with seven tackles and one pass defended.
Where he can improve: You cannot teach speed, but you can improve a person’s quickness breaking down and acceleration. Decoud is not a cornerback who is going to lock down an entire side of the field, but if he works on his route timing and recognition, it can balance out some of his speed deficit. Combine that with his length, and he should be able to make up ground faster in the coming seasons. A 6’2” corner can be an asset against a team that utilizes tight ends or has a large wide receiver. I am excited to see what a full and healthy offseason will have in store for Decoud. Considering he had an abbreviated offseason due to NFL rules last year, more coaching and training should really benefit him as he prepares for his second year.
What the future has in store: With an aging secondary, there should be opportunities available to find a role on this team. Kevin Johnson’s ceiling is slowly being lowered by all the injuries, and the Texans did not keep a good thing when they had it (A.J. Bouye). Treston Decoud can potentially develop into a starting corner if he grows this offseason. The Texans are expected to focus on the secondary in the draft and in free agency, so fighting off any newcomers will be vital to his future success.
I could even see Decoud moving over to safety like Andre Hal did and helping to fill that black hole as well. Since speed is an issue and he is a fierce tackler, it may not be the worst idea to see how the youngblood does switching positions.
Regardless, special teams will need to be where he excels if he wants to remain on the roster. Good, cheap secondary players are in short supply in the NFL. I may be a bit more bullish on Decoud than most, but seeing that our secondary is in a state of transition, it is not unthinkable that Decoud will see the field much more in his sophomore season.