Finally, some hard-hitting football to back up this hard-hitting journalism. Even the lack-luster performance by the Texans in their preseason opener can’t quell the excitement that football is officially back.
The Texans are back in H-Town awaiting the arrival of Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions for the second round of joint practices this training camp. The Lions are one of the deeper rosters in the league, but do not feature as much star-studded talent as they once had. This will test the Texans depth and truly shine light on which Texans deserve to make the roster. Man I wish I was at training camp...
After Thursday’s game, a tier of roster-busters (players vying for the last couple spots upsetting more predictable players) began to separate themselves on the field. Damarea Crockett and Taiwan Jones looked the most capable running backs, while surprise front runner Josh Ferguson waited behind for his turn. Tyron Johnson and Steven Mitchell Jr. are in a dead heat for one of the remaining WR spots that’s slowly opening up while DeAndre Carter sat out on Thursday due to injury.
The secondary is more up for grabs than a bouquet at a wedding, but no one seems to want to grab it. Predicting who is around in that position room after the 53-man cut is going to be a difficult task.
But don’t fret, that’s what we’re here to do. Here is the updated roster (at the bottom) and the players who’s stock rose and fell in the aftermath of the first preseason game.
A few notes in this current scenario (NOTE: these are not actual):
Kahale Warring will start the season on the PUP list
AJ McCarron will start the season on the PUP list
Safe, But in Position Battles
Last round: Vyncint Smith, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Xavier Crawford, & Peter Kalambayi
They tell you “don’t look down” for a reason. Not playing in Thursday’s preseason game allowed other WRs to play, earn valuable reps, and put quality film on their resume for the coaches to look at. Carter, an exciting weapon in the pass game, can restore order by locking down punt and kick returner duties along with possessing a better knowledge of the offense. Another Keke Coutee injury aids Carter’s position as the team can’t trust if Coutee will be ready to go Week One. Carter will be active for the second preseason game, and you know his speed will be on full display for the coaches.
Congrats Darren Fells, you are now on the roster! Fells is known for his blocking prowess, but showed off his soft hands with two clean catches in the preseason game. With Matt Kalil looking ominous, Jordan Thomas and Kahale Warring still unable to practice, and his own solid performance against the Packers, Fells moves onto the 53-man roster at this point in training camp. It also helps that his main competition are first and second-year players, so being the veteran and a mentor to Warring, Akins, and Thomas works in his favor.
Gillaspia seems like the next Texan who will be on the team two seasons too long because the coaching staff loves him too much. He played all over the field and paved some decent holes in his first game in the NFL. With O’Brien’s focus on the run game and the uncertainty at the tight end position, Gillaspia’s job has become more certain than before. He’s in an odd paradox where if he does well he makes the RBs look good. However, he doesn't want one of them to look too good so they pick them over him. When it comes down to it, Gillaspia will be a product of special teams and a numbers game.
I didn't find his film awe-inspiring nor unbearable, but I am hard-pressed to see the Texans cut ties on Boddy-Calhoun before the season. Yes his one year contract makes him purposefully expendable, but it is not like the players behind him looked any better. I pray for Matthew Stafford to play against the Texans this week. We need to see this secondary group get tested before they walk into the regular season. Looks like he is still behind Aaron Colvin for the nickel corner position, but given Colvin’s lack of contribution last year, that position is anything but closed. John Harris of the Houston Texans was singing his praises today after a good practice, so maybe things are looking up for BBC.
Last Four In
Last round: Joe Webb III, Cullen Gillaspia, A.J. Moore, & Albert Huggins
Johnson had himself a game on Thursday. The 48 yards he accumulated over two catches led the team, and that doesn't include his sideline grab at the start of the fourth quarter that was negated due to a block in the back penalty. Johnson has the versatility that makes this organization salivate and the ball skills that are NFL-worthy. The undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma State sneaks into the roster to contribute on special teams and provide support if Keke Coutee gets re-injured.
If Dylan Cole wasn't injury prone, Kalambayi may be on the “First Four Out” portion of this article instead. The Texans drafted the Stanford product late in last year’s draft as an OLB and quickly moved him inside due to speed issues. From Thursday’s game, it looks like that transition process is taking longer than expected as he didn't seem to trust his reads as the main ILB for the team. The Packers were able to run the ball inside and throw over his head in zone coverage. A core special teams player, Kalambayi needs to show weekly improvement to make the cut.
He didn’t produce any pass rush, but the reason the Packers were held under 100 yards rushing is mainly due to Bellamy’s excellent edge protection. I couldn't find a single time he let the running back turn the corner on him. He threatens Brennan Scarlett for a job if he can keep this up. As of now he’ll make the team as one of the biggest benefactors of the first preseason game. If he can create some pass rush this next week, he will be doing himself an immeasurable service as no one sacked the QB this past week.
It’s natural to have cognitive dissonance about a recently drafted player and their chances to make the roster. There may be a hint of it here as it’s tough to allow a player who was just drafted to hit the open market, as surely he’ll get swooped up by another team. If that thought is in play in the Texans front office, Crawford may be the last one on the roster, but going absolutely no where. He left the field in the third quarter after suffering an injury, which only allowed the rest of his competition to get more playing time. If he’s a no-go for the rest of the preseason, he would certainly end up on the practice squad.
First Four Out
Steven Mitchell Jr.
Sometimes you have to change your senses to get a better picture. All we’ve heard from training camp is the coaching staff’s affection for him and his skill set, more than the play itself. Personally, he was out-played by Tyron Johnson last Thursday and didn't take full advantage of the snaps he was given. Sure, he is mentioned here when he was not before, but he is the third pony in a three horse raise against Carter Jr. and Johnson for that last or final two WR spots. Look for #11 in the slot and see how he compares against his fellow teammates.
Jones got the starting nod over all other running backs to begin the game, but may have just as quickly lost it. The best play of his game, a strong 10 yard run up the middle, resulted in him getting the ball popped out and fumbling. He did come back the next series with a good catch and run, but it’s hard to create excuses for a nine-year veteran turning the ball over. The Texans should ideally use the last RB spot on a younger player they can develop, but it seems like the Texans are looking for the punt return capabilities and supposed dependability of Jones to round out the RB room.
Bademosi most likely will make this roster. Heck, he may be on the 46-man roster that suits up for game day... but his coverage skills leave a ton to be desired. Bademosi doesn’t grade well in deep coverage, and usually forces the defense to play zone on his side to compensate. Many of the other players in this article will be forced to contribute on special teams, so there’s no further reason to deny him of a roster spot than that. With the abundance of new faces in the secondary room, the Texans coaching staff may be more focused on finding new corners and safeties than keeping a veteran special teams guy.
Although not yet on the roster nor in the first four out, Exford had a wail of a preseason game. He was mentioned in my article last Friday after the game for his style of play and fearlessness in tackling. The rookie out of Appalachian State would be a great practice squad guy where he can learn the system and develop internally. A roster spot is still in the cards, honestly anything is still on the table when considering this secondary’s depth, but Exford more than anyone has to build upon his performance on Thursday. He’ll be one you should root for on Saturday if you’re at the game.
Jermaine Kelly Jr.
AKA, Lonnie Ballentine 2.0. A guy with the height-weight-speed to play at this level, yet can never take the field due to injury. He sat out again on Saturday with an injury. No practice = no play. The NFL is a simple place made complicated by big dollars. There just isn’t enough film on Kelly Jr. to keep him over another guy who is able to practice. If Kelly Jr. doesn’t suit up this offseason, consider him another late round secondary bust in a growing list of players.
Here’s the projected 53-man roster as of August 12:
Lonnie Johnson Jr.
Tashaun Gipson Sr.
Joe Webb III
Will Fuller V