Did you notice something missing from Monday night’s game in New Orleans?
The 2019 rookie draft class maybe?
Well, if you didn't notice, only two rookies took the field against New Orleans, and they were second round CB Lonnie Johnson and seventh round fullback Cullen Gillaspia. On top of that, neither player actually recorded a single snap on offense or defense. They only played on special teams.
Here’s a quick breakdown the Texans 2019 draft class’ “performance” Week One of the season.
- Tytus Howard - inactive; suffered broken finger in third preseason game.
- Lonnie Johnson - active; played 13 snaps on special teams.
- Max Scharping - active; sat behind Zach Fulton at right guard.
- Kahale Warring - inactive; on injured reserve due to hamstring injury and concussion.
- Charles Omenihu - inactive; healthy scratch.
- Xavier Crawford - inactive; healthy scratch.
- Cullen Gillaspia - active; played 17 snaps on special teams.
Football is a young man’s game. If your youngest men are not playing, you are going to lose a lot of games. This is a less-than-spectacular start for a draft class that featured three of the first 55 picks in last April’s draft. Injuries this early into a player’s career not only hold them back from taking the field; they stunt their growth at their position. Nothing is more valuable to these athletes than film as they study how opponents will attack them at the next level.
Tytus Howard injuring his finger was the last thing Houston’s offensive line needed. There’s zero cohesion on the unit, and it showed during the game against the Saints. Not saying that Howard would have stood a better chance against the onslaught of pass rush the Saints brought than current starting left guard Senio Kelemete did, but the Texans need their first round pick to get on the dang field.
Howard was a full-go in yesterday’s practice, so we may finally get to see what Houston’s first round pick (and the last for quite a while) has got in store for the franchise.
Max Scharping was touted to be the more NFL-ready of the two offensive line rookies, but he found himself on the bench behind Fulton to start the season. Fulton has looked good throughout the preseason, which pushes Scharping out of a clear starting role. With how poorly Seantrel Henderson played, I wouldn't be surprised if the team rolled out Scharping against the Jaguars this Sunday. Yet as his preseason film will show you, Scharping certainly has a long way to go before earning a consistent starting role on any offensive line.
Rookie TE Kahale Warring is on the IR with hamstring and concussion issues. Hot take: He may never suit up for the Texans. Tough luck for a kid with a lot of potential.
The one absence that surprised me the most was Lonnie Johnson. Drew Brees carved up the Texans’ secondary in the second half, but Johnson was nowhere to be found. The Texans recently released Aaron Colvin, so expect Johnson to emerge as a potential replacement for Colvin in the slot.
It’s one thing to be injured. It’s another to be healthy but not good enough. When the Texans traded Jadeveon Clowney, part of me wanted to believe that they loved what they’ve seen in Charles Omenihu and are willing to move on. However, with Omenihu sitting out of the season opener, that dream is nothing more than a whisper in the wind at this point. Omenihu is a raw prospect - just like the rest of the guys we drafted, come to think of it - but he does have the talent to at least make the 46-man roster who suits up for games. For now, he’ll sit on the sidelines while Brennan Scarlett gets all the reps.
With so much turnover at the cornerback position, rookie Xavier Crawford should be able to find a participatory role on this defense. He plays, looks, and feels like a slot corner. With Colvin gone and Lonnie Johnson more of an outside corner, Crawford may be called into action relatively soon.
It’s obvious this coaching staff loves Gillaspia and his demeanor. He’s going to play almost every special teams snap for the next four years. What will be interesting is if the Texans, depending on the opponent, start giving him reps at fullback. He’s not built like Vonta Leach, but Gillaspia can do things that Leach wasn’t athletic enough to do.
Don’t close the book on this rookie class just yet. There’s a lot of games left to be played. Former GM Brian Gaine’s second (and last) draft class has a ton of developing to do on the field, but Sunday’s game against the Jaguars does present several of those players with a good opportunity to step up and contribute.