Houston Texans: 8 Backups Who Would Start for Other Teams
To be a contending team in the NFL, capable backups are an essential ingredient. Backups who are good enough are able to fill the void when inevitable injuries arise.
But good enough to be a first-string player on another team? Even the best roster is a patchwork of a handful of excellent players, a few more mid-level performers and the balance filled by league-minimum journeymen.
The guys who play above their pay grade will be highlighted in the following list. No one would swap them for Aaron Rodgers or DeMarcus Ware, but they would represent an upgrade from the current occupant of that same position.
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As the backup to Arian Foster, the best all-around rusher/receiver (according to Football Database) in the league, Tate should get few chances to showcase his skills on most squads. Three missed games by Foster and a RB-by-committee approach put Tate within reach of 1,000 yards at a pace of five yards per carry, according to Pro Football Reference.
Tate has the size and speed to handle the role of first-string running back for any team in need. He may not be the ideal pass-catcher or blocker. If you are looking for a bundle of yards on the ground, this is your man.
There was a faction of fans who believed Tate to Cleveland for a draft pick could have gotten the Texans a better receiver in the draft. The Houston offense is “run first” by design. Once Foster wears you down, here comes Tate.
Someday, he will become too expensive to keep. Then, we can see how well he runs as the featured ball-carrier. For now, he's an integral part of one of the top backfields in the game.
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
A six-game trial in 2011 that produced a 3-3 record does not seem like much of an endorsement for this list.
Proper coaching, combined with his arm strength and mobility, could correct his deficiencies. And in the process, reveal an above-average field general with a very high ceiling.
Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
Named as the starting fullback, Casey also doubles as a backup tight end. His talents would be better served if he could concentrate on one position.
Former Pro Bowler Owen Daniels is the starter at TE, and the only other experienced FB on the roster is 34-year-old Moran Norris. “Thor,” his nickname due to his god-like physique, has been asked to sacrifice his athletic skills to be the lead blocker for Arian Foster.
In another situation with a different organization, Casey would a pass-catching demon vying for his own Pro Bowl spot. Just ask the Saints after their Week 3 contest last season, when their defense had no answer for him.
Has the time come for Thor to create a new position? Maybe “full end” or “tight back?” No matter, though, as Texans fans would settle for “that big, fast guy with great hands no one can cover.”
This makes him welcome on any team who loves throwing to a 250-lb bulldozer with 4.65 speed.
Shaun Cody and Mitchell split time on a nearly equal basis at nose tackle in Houston’s version of the 3-4. His roster weight was a mere 289 lbs last year, but word is the scale at the upcoming 2012 training camp will register 308 when he steps on.
Mitchell prefers to line up in the “A” gap, on either shoulder of the center. In some ways, this makes his role closer to a defensive tackle in a 4-3 alignment. Houston, like most NFL teams, runs a hybrid defense so the offensive line never gets comfortable with who is coming from where.
Bottom line, video from 2011 shows he was capable of consistently tying up two blockers—a valuable skill that guarantees he remains anonymous to all but the trained eye.
Those trained eyes in charge of a 4-3 NFL defense would not mind seeing him playing DT at his 2011 poundage. More muscle can make recovery between plays, and even between games, more difficult. Should the bigger version of Mitchell not turn out better, he might find playing in another scheme more productive.
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Jamison may get fewer snaps than the better-known Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt. He has yet to embarrass himself when given the opportunity.
Pro Football Focus, in fact, ranks him in the top half of defensive ends that play in the 3-4—ahead of bigger names such as Glenn Dorsey, Marcus Spears and Corey Liuget.
At 6'2" and 263 lbs, he uses his quickness and relentless pursuit to make the play. Unlike defensive ends with more time on the field, he refuses to take plays off.
He may not run the sub-5.00 40-yard dash that would make him a speed rusher. He may not have the bulk to bull rush 330-lb offensive tackles.
He's just a football player who knows how to make the other team pay for not taking him seriously.
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Every year when the NFL draft rolls around Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock or some self-ordained expert is bound to state, “You can’t have enough pass-rushers.” In the 2012 selection process, 10 teams followed this philosophy in the first two rounds.
Once Mario Williams signed with Buffalo, the Texans' primary need in the draft shifted from wide receiver to outside linebacker. Mercilus led the NCAA in sacks with 16 and forced fumbles with nine in 2011.
Teams with fewer than 32 sacks ranked in the bottom 25 percent of the league, and only one made the playoffs. That team was the Packers, and we know how well their dead-last defense served them in their loss to the Giants.
The lesson is clear and widely understood—get to the passer, win the game. And who wouldn’t want a long-armed, 6'4", 260-pound rookie with 4.6 speed and a nose for the QB?
You can’t have this one, but by midseason of 2012. most will wish they did.
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
The nickelback has become more than a third-down substitute. The ball is getting passed around with such frequency, offenses are running three- and four-wide receivers sets, and now, even the tight ends are getting into the mix (witness New England last year).
This lucky soul has to be ready to come in on any down if the formation demands it. The Houston Texan with this critical job title is McCain.
His assignment is often the slot receiver. However, if the play calls for a pick or drag route that takes another defender out of position, McCain may be the only help on that side of the field.
In their drive to the AFC South title, McCain was money when it came to keeping the receiver in front of him. His ball skills are remarkable considering he gives up five inches or more to the average NFL wideout.
By the end of 2011, he was on the field almost as much as starting CB Kareem Jackson. That was how vital his role had become.
He will be a free agent in 2013 and could be in much demand at either his present position or even as a first-string CB.
Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
Funny thing happened with the Texans defense last year. All of a sudden, everybody seemed to get better. Nolan may have had three interceptions in 2010, but he could not cover a bowl of potato salad.
When Wade Phillips arrived, the pass rush improved. Johnathan Joseph could lock down at least one WR, and all of a sudden, passing on the Texans became a questionable proposition.
The progress was evident given Houston went from 32nd in passing yards allowed to third. Nolan deserves at least some of the credit, even though he failed to pick off a single pass.
In Phillips' scheme, the free- and strong-safety roles are not rigidly defined. It’s more of a “see ball, get ball” strategy. But someone has to cover deep just in case, and Troy was the extra man on third and long. Which occurred more often in 2011 for the Texans than ever before.
Another free agent after this season, he might be tempted by those greener pastures where the Benjamins plentifully grow.