Football is here. It may be preseason, but it is here. The battle for the 53-man roster is underway, and from all the training camp reports at The Greenbrier, there is fierce competition for spots on the back half of the Texans’ roster.
Practicing well in training camp is important, but for players on the bubble, what they demonstrate in the four preseason games could define their career.
Troymaine Pope, RB, #33
Pope is your guy if you re looking for a surprise name on the offensive depth chart when the first game of the regular season arrives. He has the opportunity to get a lot of action this week with D’Onta Foreman on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Lamar Miller not needing many preseason reps, and the Texans already knowing what they have in Alfred Blue. Pope is in his second season in the NFL. He played for the Seahawks and Jets last year. He possesses a low center of gravity that’s combined with agility and patience. Check out his 2016 highlight tape.
There has been a ton of excitement in training camp about the young running back, but injuries have set Pope back thus far in the NFL. He was listed on IR at the end of the 2016 season. He figures to battle Tyler Ervin for the last RB spot on the roster. He’ll have a good game if he stays patient and runs behind his pads instead of bouncing the run to the outside at the first sign of trouble.
LeTroy Lewis, OLB, #52
Lewis suited up for the Texans late last season and was not half bad as an edge-setting OLB. His biggest challenge will be rotating with rookie OLBs Peter Kalambayi and Duke Ejiofor. He had an amazing pick-six last year against the Cowboys in the preseason, back when he was playing for the Raiders.
With Whitney Mercilus out for this preseason game, there will be many opportunities for the young linebackers to shine. Lewis can secure a role on this roster with excellent special teams play and stalwart run defense.
Matt Lengel, TE, #82
The tight end position is a scrapheap of players. It’s the job of Brian Gaine and Bill O’Brien to find the right mix of talent to go into the season. Lengel is the best blocking TE on the roster; the two TEs Houston drafted are better receivers than blockers. With how atrocious Houston’s offensive line can be, having a reliable tight end to help delay the pass rush could be a key asset. The Texans may already be contemplating keeping four tight ends ( Ryan Griffin, Stephen Anderson, Jordan Akins, and Jordan Thomas), so will they entertain the idea of a fifth? Could Lengel knock one of these four to the waiver wire?
DeAndrew White, WR, #11
The former Crimson Tide wide receiver and North Shore High School product is facing a deep depth chart ahead of him. There will be plenty of reps for him to try and climb into roster contention, but White must be flawless when he gets those opportunities. Right now, the Texans are looking for an X-factor third option receiver. That position is wide open for the taking. White excels when he is in short yardage situations when he can use his agility to outmatch his defender, and he is a good route runner. To make the roster, he’ll have to be more consistent than Braxton Miller and more dynamic than Bruce Ellington.
Dee Virgin, CB, #34
Virgin definitely has a chance to make the roster as a special teams ace. His play as a corner will come down to maybe one or two big plays this preseason. There are a ton of young corners each year who compete for the last spot on rosters across the NFL, and Virgin will definitely be in the mix in Houston. What he lacks in elite speed he makes up for with good tackling and play recognition. His tape from West Alabama shows he’s a better outside corner than nickel corner, and he prefers to play with outside leverage on the wide receiver.
Kyle Fuller, OG/C, #61
I know offensive linemen aren’t fun to watch, but the Texans need someone to step up and Fuller may be the man to do it. Drafted by the Texans in the seventh round in 2017, Fuller is a developmental offensive lineman who physically is an NFL-caliber player. His technique at Baylor was less than optimal, which has been something the team has been constantly reworking in an effort to prepare him for a larger role. It will be interesting to see if he can pick up where he left off last season.
Any unsung players you’ll be focused on tomorrow night?