Freshly placed turf, helmets without decals, and Hard Knocks.... it must be training camp season! Sporting their second-rate jerseys and athletic shorts, 90 Houston Texans took the practice field on Thursday for their first team workouts and drills. Each one of them are vying for a spot on the 53 man roster come September 1. Whether they’re an undrafted rookie free agent from a small college, or a Pro Bowler looking to earn that second contract, everyone has something to gain from Training Camp.
For the Texans, this training camp will be a local one. The team is staying put in Houston and battling the heat after two years of remote practices in West Virginia. Fans can watch the team practice for four days in August while the players compete on the field for a job.
The only job we have as fans is to project, and dissect the Texans and the players who wish to make up their roster. Just like last year, I will have a weekly post breaking down the movers and shakers on the roster. Similar to NCAA’s Bracketology for the college basketball tournament, we will have a Safe but in Position Battles, Last Four In, First Four Out, Biggest Riser, and Biggest Faller. At the bottom will live the full projected 53 man roster.
Shall we begin?
Safe, But in Position Battles
Smith has been identified as the fourth wide receiver in the position group behind Hopkins, Fuller, and Coutee. A superb catch Week 15 against the Eagles validates Smith’s NFL-level talent, but the question is if he can string those types of plays together more consistently. The 6’3” speedster has an elite size:speed ratio and can sub in for Fuller for a deep threat if necessary. The Texans did bring in a ton of UDFA WRs to challenge Smith. Watch out for Johnnie Dixon and Steven Mitchell Jr. to threaten Smith’s position on the team if there’s an injury or they kill it in training camp.
The ex-Browns CB is on a one-year deal in a similar “prove-it” scenario that Tyrann Mathieu experienced a year ago. Boddy-Calhoun can play all over the secondary and is a pure defensive back. Romeo Crennel is going to use Boddy-Calhoun in the same role that Kareem Jackson played the last two years. Since he only started half of last season, its tough to project and expect him to come in and instantly bolster the defense. Preseason will be important for him to understand what his role has to be.
Nothing screams “Scout Team” like a Texans late-round corner. Crawford will compete for nickel corner in a wide open race that depends upon Aaron Colvin’s ability to win back the trust of the team. Not a big run support player, but Crawford is solid in man coverage in the center of the field. He’ll glide through practice and wow the coaches but when the pads come on there hopefully he can bolster this secondary.
Kalambayi stood out last year as an asset in the special teams. The Stanford outside linebacker has moved inside due to speed issues and an inability to set the edge, but it may match his play style more than even he expects. Behind Cunningham, McKinney, and Cole, a fourth ILB is necessary in a 3-4 defense, and Kalambayi is slated to fill that position. Kalambayi is safe more due to the fact that there isn’t a legitimate contender for him. With the talent above him at the position, Kalambayi can work to mold into the position and continue to excel at special teams.
Last Four In
Joe Webb III
It’s a numbers game when considering a third QB on the roster. Webb III athleticism and versatility made him a must-play in 2018. He led a revitalize special teams and truly could play all over the field. From big hits to big throws, Webb III can do it all. Its always tough to rely on special team for a roster spot, but with the injury history of Watson and AJ McCarron being brought into the system, the grass is pretty green for Webb III at the start of training camp.
This whole secondary is up for grabs man... With so many new faces, the defensive back room will need name tags just to know who’s who. When you saw Moore last year, you probably thought it was ex-Texans DB Corey Moore. This Moore was an undrafted rookie last year and made the team over some veteran talent that was fighting for a roster spot. Moore was almost exclusively a special teams player. A thin safety group works in his favor, but the second another defensive back gets props from the Texans he could be the first to drop off this list.
Your first goal of training camp is to learn who Albert Huggins is. The rookie from Clemson is my one projected UDFA to make the team in 2019. He played behind possibly the best defensive line in college football history, so he is coming in fresh and hungry to prove his place in the league. The defensive line position is relatively set with Angelo Blackson and Joel Heath getting new contracts and Charles Omenihu added for depth. However, Huggins may be a talent the Texans want to keep in the building. He’ll get a ton of time in the preseason to soak in all the reps he can.
The Texas A&M prospect has an uphill climb to reintroduce the fullback position to the offense after a two year hiatus. As a rookie fullback, he will be a swiss army knife for the offense and the special teams. Every Texans fan saw how the team ebbed and flowed with the run game, and having a fullback to pave the way for Miller and Foreman could provide a boost.
First Four Out
Did Bademosi play last year? I honestly couldn't tell you. One of the free agents added last year, the veteran corner was brought in as a special teams ace and corner depth. At this point, there are enough young, semi-talented defensive backs the team has brought in to knock Bademosi off the roster.
Jermaine Kelly Jr.
There’s a trend here: no one knows what the [KITTEN] is happening in the secondary. The San Jose State prospect was the last pick in the draft last year. He is a tall and lanky corner who was on the practice squad for the entire season. Apparently he’s one of the fastest DBs the Texans have, but pen has to be put to paper for Kelly Jr. if he doesn't want to join the scrap heap of other late-round Texans defensive backs under BOB.
If the Texans are keeping a fullback, they can’t also have four tight ends. That leaves Fells out of the picture. He might literally be the 54th player on the team one roster-cuts go down. He describes himself as a left-left tackle, conveying that his blocking prowess match that of a left tackle. With Warring and the Jordan Twins being closer to wide receivers than tight ends, Fells does have a unique skill set that the Texans may have trouble departing from. Don’t know how many teams run with four tight ends, but the Texans may have to if they fall in love with the veteran tight end.
The running back with zero carries last season. That doesn't inspire confidence whatsoever, but a thin running back room gives Howell a chance of staying with the Texans. A special teams asset, Howell was more of a reserve player for the team than anything else. The radio silence about his offseason doesn’t help. Expect him to receive the bulk of carries in the preseason to demonstrate his ability to contribute on offense. But for now, Howell is on the outside looking in.
We’ll do risers and fallers once there’s a little more info coming from Texans camp. Here is the current 53-man roster projection:
Lonnie Johnson Jr.
Tashaun Gipson Sr.
Will Fuller V
Joe Webb III