Making the 53 man roster for any NFL team is tough work. The uphill battle begins when you walk in the building during OTAs and minicamp; it does not end until September 1st, when the league mandates roster cuts. There are some important dates ahead in the football season, but roster cuts are always part of the more interesting narratives in the offseason.
Last year started a new era in the NFL, one where there is only one roster cut - from 90 to 53 - instead of a preliminary cut to 75 after Week 3 of the preseason. This change allows every player on the roster to get a better look by the franchise they signed with, but it consequently blurs the line for us to see who has separated themselves from the pack at training camp.
As a result, every Monday and Friday until the first 53-man roster is released I will deliver to you updates on the players at training camp who are battling for the final spots on the team. The last spots on the roster are always up for grabs, and as the Texans found out (and the Eagles demonstrated) last year, having depth can make or break your season.
The Texans have 90 men on the roster as of now. The battle for the last 8-10 spots on the team will be a vigorous competition between unproven veterans looking to prolong their career in the NFL and newcomers looking to begin their career in the NFL. For more clarification, I’ll list out the supposed depth chart as the roster would stand today at the end of this article each week.
Safe, But In Position Battles
Anderson was good for about one or two catches every game this past season. Will that workload be increased now that C.J. Fiedorowicz is gone? Will Anderson’s targets get gobbled up by the many other mouths to feed? The Texans have four tight ends with legitimate claims to roster spots, but there may be only three spots to be had. Anderson in his third season must make leaps in route running and blocking to see more time on the field.
This past season was a streaky one for Corey. He started the season as a major contributor in the secondary, playing 68.8% and 85.9% of the defensive snaps in the Texans’ first two games. After that, he played less and less until he was placed on IR during the last week of the season. Moore is used to battling for a roster spot; his entire career since being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Texans in 2015 hasn’t given him any reason to feel like he’s a lock for the roster. He is now up against Kevin Johnson, Kurtis Drummond, and a flurry of rookie defensive backs looking to start their careers.
The Love Ya (Alfred) Blue days are still rolling along as the Texans re-signed Blue to a one-year contract about three months ago, With D’Onta Foreman’s injury last season, Blue stepped up and was a relatively productive backup running back. His return to Houston for another season is due to the trepidation behind both Foreman and Tyler Ervin’s injury recovery and potential availability for the start of the season. Blue could easily seal his spot on the roster with a quality preseason of good reps, or he could be the first to fall off the 53-man roster when the younger, more agile running backs get back to health.
Another running back on this list shows that there is not much confidence in this entire group. I said earlier in the offseason that Ervin would make this team over Braxton Miller, and I have not seen anything that changes my mind about that. The injury-prone running back really must flash his talents in the coming weeks, because the Texans have given him a ton of slack after putting him on IR for the past two years. I am definitely an Ervin fan, but the Texans cannot waste their time on a third-year project.
Last Four In
The move from corner to safety should fit Decoud’s skill set better, but may not increase his playing time by much. Although Decoud was a renowned tackler at Oregon State, he must prove that he can be a long-term option for this team. Young safeties take time to develop - and given the circumstances and having seen his play last season - Decoud should be on the roster come September 1st, but he needs to show out during training camp.
Fuller was a sufficient guard late in the season when everyone was injured. He is a massive figure and is a prototypical guard in this offense. The biggest need for the Texans is on the offensive line; if Fuller could develop into even a rotational guard piece, it would take a giant load off. Coming from Baylor, Fuller’s technique was definitely in need of reconstruction. I wrote previously that I believe he will become a long lasting part of the Texans’ offense with some time to develop.
Probably the best match-up of the offseason will be Braxton vs. Keke Coutee. We have been waiting awhile for Braxton to turn the corner in his NFL career. Watch any highlight video of Miller in college and you will immediately start dreaming of that athleticism on the same field with Deshaun Watson. The slot receiver battle for Houston will definitely be one to watch. As of now, Miller is in, but one slip up and he is a free agent.
Joe Webb III
Webb’s here because the Texans do not like to keep more than two quarterbacks on the active roster at a time - I do not know why since we have such a GREAT history of healthy QBs. Webb can contribute on special teams as well, which makes him a unique option to have in Houston. If Watson stays healthy and the team has other needs, Webb could be placed on the practice squad or jettisoned fairly quickly.
First Four Out
The Texans made the secondary a priority this past offseason. Adding Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Reid, combined with Kareem Jackson switching to safety, immediately swipes roster spots away from other defensive backs. Drummond played only 7.23% of the plays on defense and was primarily a special teams asset last year. Although Drummond has been with the Texans for a couple years now, he will be in a dogfight to make the roster.
There are a lot of factors that could affect Coates’ future with the Texans, like the tight end battle, injury, and changes in the offense, just to name a few. All of those will be deemed insignificant if Coates can resurrect his career during training camp by demonstrating his top-level speed and decent hands. He needs to be more than a Will Fuller backup plan - he has to be a deep ball threat as well as a red zone target. Don't sleep on Coates, but as of now, it is an uphill battle for him.
Jermaine Kelly Jr.
Rookie seventh round draft picks have a hard time making this, or nearly any, roster. The Texans have a history of drafting defensive backs late in the draft, so it will be interesting to see if Kelly Jr. is a playmaker or not. We could desperately use him on special teams and in nickel packages. He’s a tall corner, but he does not have the athleticism to keep up with top level receivers. Due to depth and unknown talent, I have Kelly on the outside looking in.
I like what Chris Thompson has to offer: a speedy receiver who runs good routes in the middle of the field. The numbers game has Thompson on the free agent market after camp, but you can tell the Texans see him as a weapon and do not want to give up too quickly on his career.
I have been high on Swanson since the Texans signed him as an UDFA. Even Swanson’s former teammate Kareem Hunt has voiced his own excitement about Swanson when he told “Good Morning Football” that “this young cat has got some skills”. It won’t take long for a running back to shine in this system, and Swanson could quickly make a move up the depth chart in the coming weeks.
See above. The Texans have acquired talent that will leapfrog Drummond on the depth chart, but his reliability on special teams makes him hard to move on from.
With that, here is the current projected Texans’ 53-man roster:
LDE: J.J. Watt, Carlos Watkins
NT: D.J Reader, Brandon Dunn,
RDE: Christian Covington, Joel Heath
LOLB: Whitney Mercilus, Brennan Scarlett, Peter Kalambayi
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, Treston Decoud
SS: Tyrann Mathieu, Corey Moore
QB: Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden, Joe Webb III
FB: Jay Prosch
RB: Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin
TE: Stephen Anderson, Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Keke Coutee, Braxton Miller
WR: Will Fuller, Bruce Ellington
LT: Julie’n Davenport, Kendall Lamm
LG: Zach Fulton, Kyle Fuller
C: Nick Martin, Greg Mancz
RG: Senio Kelemete
RT: Seantrel Henderson, Martinas Rankin
LS: Jon Weeks
K: Ka’imi Fairbairn
P: Shane Lechler