For as much as we celebrate, welcome, and spread conjecture about draft picks, the NFL certainly doesn’t give them much leeway in terms of time to develop. In the NFL, it’s either produce now or get lost. Even with a roster expanded to 55 players, there isn’t much room for players without a specific reason to be on the roster. Every year, there are hundreds of new players desperate for a job, so there’s minimal margin for error or injury for an athlete.
Today’s article calls out former Texans draft picks who are in jeopardy of losing their roster spot or not making the cut. From injury histories to being submerged on the depth chart, these players enter training camp with their jobs on the line.
If Coutee could perfect three routes, he’d be good for 600 yards a season. The slant, the option route, and post route. That’s all he’ll ever need. Coutee caught the imagination of this fan base his rookie season with two 11 catch, 100-yard games against the Colts. A twitchy, tough-nosed slot, Coutee gave the Texans something they rarely had. The only problem is that he was rarely on the field, and when he was, there were issues with him running the right play.
Randall Cobb is a straight shot at Coutee’s growth and potential in Houston. Cobb is the top-tier slot receiver we’ve never had. He will be a perfect safety valve for Deshaun Watson and should have a remarkable season. Coutee shouldn’t be as pleased with the arrival of Cobb, as it takes away his chance at a starting role and maybe even a place on this roster. Coutee won’t play special teams, which is a sin under the Bill O’Brien regime. Just ask D.J. Swearinger or Jaelen Strong.
On several occasions, Coutee appears to have run the wrong route and caused confusion down the field for Watson. If you can’t be trusted to run the right play during the game, you won’t be kept around. This camp will be important for Coutee; he better have memorized the playbook, gotten in the best condition possible, and be ready to fight for a roster spot.
Probably a name you didn’t expect to be on this list. Thomas was set to have a stellar 2019 season after recording four touchdowns as a rookie. A rib injury in the preseason sidelined him for ten games. When he got back, he struggled to get open down the field. At a staggering 6’5”, Thomas is an ideal red zone option for Watson. He lacks the blocking prowess to be a full-time right end, but he does have the pass catching capability to get significant playing time.
He’s on the inside-looking-out at the moment, but if Kahale Warring starts putting things together, it could put Thomas in a desperate situation. Thomas would be at risk due to his recent injury history and a relative lack of blocking ability compared to Jordan Akins and Darren Fells.
By now, loyal BRB readers should know that I don’t believe Warring will ever play for the Texans. I’m convinced they wanted Jaylon Ferguson, who was taken the pick before by the Ravens (and went on to have a wonderful rookie season) in the third round; Brian Gaine panicked and took Warring in the aftermath.
All of that is speculation, but I do know that players who miss their rookie season have a tough time finding a permanent role on their team. Warring suffered a concussion in the preseason and ended up on IR before his rookie campaign could even occur. Heading into this offseason, the Texans hedged their bet by keeping Darren Fells on the roster.
Warring is probably most negatively affected by the loss of a preseason this summer. He needs to get film on tape of him playing to show the Texans should keep him on as anything more than a lottery ticket. I know that Weston sees more in him than I do, but I was not impressed with Warring’s film against below-average opponents. I’ll have more on Warring next week, but for now he’s on the outside looking in for a roster. O’Brien handles a roster like a poker player looks at cards; he doesn’t have time for anything he can’t work with.
A fourth round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Watkins has quietly been a contributor on Houston’s defense for several years. Now, the yellow brick road has been laid for Watkins to emerge as a starter. D.J. Reader, Christian Covington, and Joel Heath have all parted ways with the Texans in recent years. The defensive end who can move inside to play defensive tackle will be challenged by sophomore Charles Omenihu and several rookie defensive linemen for playing time. Rookie OLB/DE Jonathan Greenard should directly challenge Watkins for playing time.
The Clemson product has yet to define his role on this defense. He’s not one to rush the passer, and he has yet to distinguish himself as a legitimate run defender. This could be Watkins’ breakout year, or it could see another wave of players pushing him back down the depth chart and out of town entirely.
As the only fullback on the roster, Gillaspia has player-specificity to his resume. None of the tight ends are qualified to block linebackers, so Gillaspia offers a skill set that should keep him around. He also is a stud on the special teams, and from my knowledge, played on every coverage unit. Versatility like that is highly valued by O’Brien.
The main concern with Gillaspia is the wide receiver competition. Based on offseason moves, O’Brien will be running an offense predicated on distributing the ball to as many options as possible. The Texans may keep seven receivers on the 55-man roster, which could put Gillaspia off the roster. If it comes down to keeping rookie WR Isaiah Coulter or Gillaspia, I don't think the Texans hesitate to go with the promise of a rookie receiver.
After moving to inside from outside linebacker due to his size and speed, Kalambayi has found a home as the reserve middle linebacker on this roster. Comfortably behind starters Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney and with Dylan Cole as the rotational linebacker, the 2018 sixth round pick made special teams as his calling. Teams get tired of players who can only provide special teams help if there’s no confidence they can step in on offense or defense. In Kalambayi’s case, three years as a backup with minimal time on defense doesn’t bode well for his long-term tenure on the team. The Texans haven’t brought in any other players to challenge his position, so Kalambayi could remain on the roster unopposed. But that doesn’t mean that if there’s a competition in another position, the Texans wouldn’t settle it by getting rid of Kalambayi.
Which current Texans do you believe find themselves firmly on the bubble as training camp gets underway?