In the words of Stephen A. Smith, “This is bad. This is very, very bad”.
Rumors of a canceled NCAA season swirl like a soft serve ice cream, and unfortunately we all may have to eat this collective desert together. In a standard offseason, we would have already played the Hall of Fame Game and would be gearing up for the Texans’ preseason matchup again the Minnesota Vikings. By this point, I would have written around three roster prediction posts with another on the way soon. With little information from training camp, it’s been difficult to keep roster predictions credible.
Alas, we’re in this strange reality. But don’t mind that. Let’s continue to frolic in our meadow of escapism that is the 2020 NFL football season. A season where 55 players will be a part of the Texans’ roster heading into the 2020 season.
Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron, Alex McGough
I know, you’re as optimistic about seeing good ol’ McGough on the active roster as I am. Or you are actually like me and had zero idea who this QB was before this article began. Teams will be compelled to keep a third QB on the roster as a emergency break glass option if a starting QB tests positive for COVID and he and his backup have to quarantine. A third quarterback will be mandatory in 2020, with one assigned to essentially quarantine throughout the season. Alex McGough was drafted in the seventh round in 2017 by the Seattle Seahawks and spent time on Jacksonville’s roster last year.
Running Back/Fullback (4)
An update here as well. Karan Higdon Jr. replaces Buddy Howell as the RB3 for his speed and special teams potential. Running back coach Danny Barrett said, “Those two guys right now figure to go head-to-head at it. Again, it obviously comes down to their role on special teams as being as who that guy will be.” Howell won the role last year, and there does not appear to be anything to say that he won’t win it again, but something tells me that Higdon is too athletic a fit to pass up. Higdon spent the past season on the practice squad; this next season should be a make-or-break opportunity for the Michigan running back.
Wide Receiver (6)
Will Fuller V, Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, Randall Cobb, Isaiah Coulter, DeAndre Carter
I want Keke Coutee to crack this group in a bad way. There’s an alternate reality where Coutee is a household name after two seasons, but injuries and mistakes have destroyed his stock. Carter gets the nod over Coutee as the kick and punt returner.
For some reason, I’m seeing Tyler Simmons’ name popping up all over my Texans radar. He’s an undrafted rookie out of Georgia who will challenge for a roster spot purely on special teams prowess.
Tight End (3)
Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, Darren Fells
I’ll put Kahale Warring on this active roster when I see him suit up in a Texans uniform. Until then, he’s always going to be off unless proven otherwise. With no preseason and limited media coverage, there’s going to be little-to-no scent if Warring is going to make the roster or not. If he does, consider it a positive outcome unless there’s a training camp injury to be aware of.
Between the Jordan twins and Fells, the Texans are pretty set at tight end. They are looking for one player to distinguish himself out of the group.
Nick Martin, Greg Mancz
No movement here. There isn’t even a third center on the roster to compete with Mancz. Though Mancz had a down year in 2019, there isn’t much to complain out of this group. Martin’s job is to take a major step in the run blocking game. Finally surrounded by decent talent, he can excel and grow instead of covering up for other’s mishaps.
Max Scharping, Zach Fulton, Senio Kelemete
Names stay the same at the guard position as well. If you’re upset by the lack of drama, take a good, long look at yourself and the film the past three years where Watson was getting pummeled left and right. Senio will challenge Scharping for the starting left guard role, but ultimately there’s nothing to worry about unless there’s an injury.
Laremy Tunsil, Tytus Howard, Charlie Heck, Roderick Johnson, Jerald Hawkins
A new name! Jerald Hawkins was signed this week. He’s been on IR two of his first three seasons. A right tackle signing may be a bad sign as Howard rehabs from an ACL tear. More backup options are good to have, but if Howard isn’t ready for the start of the season, it could be a huge blow for the team.
Defensive End (5)
J.J. Watt, Angelo Blackson, Charles Omenihu, Carlos Watkins, Jonathan Greenard
Greenard may have been seen at the hype house with all of the praise he’s gotten. I too was an early Greenard guy, so I’m excited to see what he can do.
Watkins is squarely on the bubble. He could be a starter, or he could be cut and there may not be much in between. He’s more of an interior defensive lineman than anything else. What I'm most concerned about is the lack of pass rush skill.
Defensive Tackles (2)
Ross Blacklock, Brandon Dunn
With D.J. Reader moving on to Cincinnati and Blacklock arriving to seemingly replace him, this group should be fairly open and shut.
Outside Linebackers (4)
Whitney Mercilus, Jacob Martin, Brennan Scarlett, Duke Ejiofor,
As a result of the additional QB on the roster, OLB Davin Bellamy is cut and not signed to the practice squad. I do not believe he’s eligible for the practice squad under the new CBA; either way, the Texans don’t have a desperate need at OLB and can find a replaceable talent if necessary.
Look for Ejiofor to make a run at playing time. Early injuries have derailed his career, but there is a ton of optimism for his pass rushing abilities off the edge. He’d be a great complimentary third down pass rusher.
Inside Linebackers (5)
Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, Peter Kalambayi, Dylan Cole, Tyrell Adams
This group is well suited to head into the 2020 season, but it could certainly use some certainty from good news from Dylan Cole. He’s active but with no training camp news, we don’t know how active he is.
Adams has surpassed expectations in the past by playing in several games for the Texans over the past two seasons. He’s still directly on the bubble in case the Texans need to flex another person or two.
Bradley Roby, Lonnie Johnson Jr., Vernon Hargreaves III, Gareon Conley, John Reid, Keion Crossen
The Texans ranked 29th against the pass last season, so it truly could be a surprise who makes it out of this group.
Both John McClain and John Harris have sung the praise of rookie John Reid. He’s a natural slot corner who should be a special teams gunner.
Gareon Conley passed his physical this week and is ready to return. This is huge news for the secondary, as Conley had a good second half of the season in 2019. He’ll be a factor in a muddled cornerback room that should be fraught with surprise.
Crossen also makes this roster. He’s a veteran of the special teams squad and came in for all 16 games.
Justin Reid, Eric Murray, A.J. Moore Jr., Jaylen Watkins,
Oh, boy. When starting this section, I wrote, “This group gives me the heebee-geebees”, which is EXACTLY what I wrote last time. There are still a ton of free agents out there, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this group adds a new name in the future.
To make room for additional offensive linemen, Michael Thomas has been cut from the Texans roster in this scenario. The seven-year safety does not provide much in secondary talent that is not already present in this group. The Nimitz High School product was a strong contributor on a weak New York Giants defense, but he may not find a foothold on his hometown roster. His competition, Jaylen Watkins, is a cornerback-safety type that can provide greater first-to-third down support that Thomas would be able to give.
Special Teams (3)
Jon Weeks, Ka’imi Fairbairn, Bryan Anger
No challenges here. The Texans will stick to Weeks until Weeks is done playing. Fairbairn finally made several clutch kicks last year and remains a loyal Texan.
So no major changes to the roster as we approach what would be the first week of the preseason. Let me ask you this - where are you getting your training camp rumors and gossip?