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Houston Texans 2012: Latest News, Roster Cuts, Preseason Predictions

Jeffery RoyContributor IIIJanuary 10, 2017

Houston Texans 2012: Latest News, Roster Cuts, Preseason Predictions

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    Since the free agent era began in the mid-90’s, the NFL has become the league of the one-year turnaround. Last season, the Houston Texans were a beneficiary of this trend. 

    Unrestricted free agent Johnathan Joseph came over from the Cincinnati Bengals and joined newly appointed Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips. And both helped transform the Houston defense from one of the worst in 2010 to one of the best in 2011. 

    But this trend can go both ways. In the offseason, salary cap considerations led to the release of RT Eric Winston and the departures of RG Mike Brisiel and TE Joel Dreesen. The failure of No. 3 receiver Jacoby Jones to reach his potential and hold onto the ball in the Baltimore playoff loss led to his exit from the team. 

    Now that training camp has arrived, an abundance of unanswered questions hover over the proceedings. What takes place over the six weeks of practices, meetings, and preseason games will determine how the defending AFC South champs respond. 

    This will include coaching decisions, roster moves, injuries, and developments both on the field and off. Here at Bleacher Report, we will keep you updated on everything affecting the Texans’ preparations for the upcoming campaign. 

Houston Texans 2012: Aug 28 Cuts

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    The Texans have reduced their roster to the required 75 by releasing 13 players, according to the Houston Chronicle website. Rookie kicker Randy Bullock was placed on injured reserve due to a torn groin muscle

    This means Bullock, a fifth round draft pick, is lost to the Texans for the entire 2012 season. Veteran Shayne Graham has been awarded the job for the foreseeable future. 

     

    Roster members to hit the waiver wire are:

     

    OT Nick Mondek could have been a contender for left tackle. When Andrew Gardner received all the snaps in the second half of the Saints game, it was no surprise to find Mondek on the cut list. The draftee from Purdue looked confused facing the second team DL of the Niners the previous week. 

    C Thomas Austin, who was already injured coming into training camp, eventually was healthy enough to work out with the team. But Austin never progressed sufficiently to make it into a game.  

    ILB Omar Gaither was signed as a street free agent to replace Keyaron Fox, who is also on injured reserve. Gaither was briefly seen against the Saints on both defense and special teams. If you are a free agent brought in for such situations, the LIFO principle (last in, first out) usually applies. 

    P Brett Hartmann is nursing a torn ACL suffered late in 2011. His net punting average was ranked 24th in his only season. His kickoff leg is truly powerful, as he was fifth in starting position. It is possible the Texans hope no one else picks him up so Hartmann can come back and compete next year. 

    Andre is staying, thus WR Bryant Johnson had to go. Johnson & Johnson is great health products company, but there is only room for one Johnson now at wide receiver on the Texans. A single target in two preseason games showed the lack of interest in seeing what the veteran had left in the tank. 

    WR Mario Louis had some great stats at Grambling, but it just did not work out for him in Houston. A single special teams tackle was not enough to distinguish himself from the other receivers. 

    RB Davin Meggett did everything that was asked of him, including eight carries for 40 yards against Carolina and San Francisco. By the New Orleans game, Jonathan Grimes had shown a quicker burst through the hole. Meggett lacks the size for special teams, but could find work as a fourth running back. 

    When J.J Watt was lost to a dislocated elbow, DE Jimmy Saddler-McQueen was signed to fill his spot if not his shoes. He did play in a goal-line stand against the Saints late in the game. Like Omar Gaither, LIFO also led to his exit. 

    FB Derrell Smith was trying to make the move from linebacker to blocking back. The players ahead of him, James Casey and Moran Norris, both have more talent and experience at the position. 

    OG Kasey Studdard made a nostalgic return to the team that was his home from 2007-11. He spent all of 2011 on IR, and was in training camp as another warm but familiar body. 

    CB Torri Williams has had an injury-plagued career stretching back to his time at Purdue. The Texans already have a bevy of backup cornerbacks, including Brandon Harris, Sherrick McManis, and Roc Carmichael. 

    NT Ra’Shon “Sonny” Harris had a shot at making the practice squad until he injured his triceps just before the Saints game. His status as “waived/injured” will earn him some sort of injury settlement. The rules for a settlement are somewhat involved, but could earn Harris up to a year’s salary during his recovery. 

    ILB Greg Williams was hurt for almost the entirety of training camp and also released as “waived/injured.” He is qualified for a settlement under the same rules as Ra’Shon Harris. 

Houston Texans 2012: Aug 31 Cuts

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    The 53-man roster limit was met by the Houston Texans by releasing 22 players, listed at the roster tracker at Pro Football Talk. The team went a step further by cutting OG Shelley Smith in order to make room for another right tackle. Rashad Butler suffered a torn triceps muscle in the 28-24 victory against the Vikings on August 30th. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports Butler has been placed on injured reserve and is lost for the 2012 season.

    TE Logan Brock

    On another team, with fewer established players at his position, Brock might have stuck. He made it into three of the four preseason games, and caught just about everything thrown at him. 

    Even three catches for 53 yards and some good blocks were not adequate for the job. His talents seemed like a good fit for the practice squad, but another tight end got the nod.

     

    DE Keith Browner

    The “undraftees” of this training camp contained a slew of defensive ends, but none had a heritage to match that of Browner. Having a father and three uncles who played in the NFL might have given him an edge. 

    But a year off from football in 2011 put him too far behind the curve. A single tackle in two games did not help his case either.

     

    OLB D.J. Bryant

    For Bryant, it first looked as if the difference from James Madison to the pros was just getting paid to play. Until the final preseason tilt against Minnesota, he showed a little something every time he entered the lineup. 

    Then he gave the Vikings all they could handle with three tackles, two sacks, and a tackle for a loss.  The problem of too much freelancing and not enough coordination led to 562 yards of total offense given up by the second and third string of the Texans defense. 

    Combine that with not enough openings at OLB, and Bryant was let go. At the same time, he has all the makings of a practice squad project. But just as with Brock, another player was chosen in his stead.

     

    NT Hebron Fangupo

    The back injury to Shaun Cody was the best thing that could have happened to “Loni” Fangupo. He got to split time at NT with Earl Mitchell, then played most of the snaps versus Minnesota. 

    Strength was his calling card, but his efforts were often undone by poor footwork and “heavy” legs. Well, your legs might be heavy too if you were a little over six feet and weighed 320 pounds. 

    If you attend BYU, missionary work might delay your entry into everyday life. At 27 Fangupo may be late to the NFL, but could find work elsewhere due to his body type.

     

    RB Jonathan Grimes

    With 114 yards rushing and 2 TDs in the last preseason game, Justin Forsett cemented his place as the third running back. This unfortunately meant Grimes would not be the 48th William & Mary employee of the NFL. 

    Grimes racked up a total of 21 carries for 89 yards and six receptions for 58 yards. He looked like he was ready in all respects, but experience won out over youth. 

    Luckily for him and the Texans, it was eventually decided he was just what the practice squad needed.

     

    NT David Hunter

    Next to Case Keenum, Hunter was known as the other Houston Cougar. He saw only spot duty until the Vikings contest, then garnered five tackles and showed good lateral mobility. 

    When it came to engaging blockers he was less consistent and seemed more off-balance than on. He will get the time to learn to better use his hands and maintain his base now that he has made it to the Texans’ practice squad.

     

    WR Juaquin Iglesias

    The former Sooner appeared in every preseason game for the Texans. An opportunity no other fringe receiver in camp received, along with nine targets that led to 4 catches for 43 yards. 

    Iglesias was a third round draft choice for the Bears in 2009. His perceived talent has kept him bouncing around the league but has resulted in just one regular season appearance. It is hard to imagine what the next step is for him.

     

    WR Jerrell Jackson

    Jackson was injured throughout the preseason and was deprived of any training camp reps. Still hurting when released, it may take him considerable time to get back into playing shape.

     

    OLB Delano Johnson

    Another trainee who went crazy once he was given enough snaps. Check this stat line from the Vikings game: seven tackles, five solo, and 1.5 sacks. 

    Size, speed, and instincts are all part of his makeup. The depth chart just did not contain enough room for Johnson at the present time. Now that he has been added to the Texans’ practice squad, a more than adequate fill-in will be available if necessary. 

     

    QB Case Keenum

    Keenum took advantage of being an NCAA record-setting member of the Houston Cougars. His playing time was limited, as was his performance. 

    Completing 50 percent of your attempts for a 68.8 rating will not place you on the active roster even if the fans are familiar with your college exploits. But if Gary Kubiak truly sees himself in Keenum, Case will find the time to reach his NFL potential on the practice squad.

     

    DE Mitch King

    King is one of those players with just enough ability to remain in the Contacts file for most every GM in the league. This explains why he was brought in when Tracy Robertson was cut early in camp. 

    He was up against Jared Crick for the final DE slot, and the fourth-round pick showed enough upside to make King expendable.

     

    ILB Shawn Loiseau

    Loiseau arrived from tiny Merrimack College with a reputation as tackling demon. With a total of 12 tackles in limited play, he did not disappoint whether on the field or special teams. 

    All his intensity could not overcome his lack of size and speed when compared with Mister Alexander or the recovering Darryl Sharpton. If Loiseau’s only responsibility was to play special teams, he might still be a Texan.

     

    WR Jeff Maehl

    Maehl was a resident of the 2011 practice squad for the Texans. He even dressed for three regular season games when Andre Johnson was out. 

    Come this season, the situation had changed. Lestar Jean was off IR, DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin were drafted, and return wizard Trindon Holliday claimed the sixth and final receiver spot. 

    Somebody up there in the front office must like him. There was enough promise shown by his four receptions in the preseason to catch on with the practice squad for the Texans.

     

    LT Nate Menkin 

    Every time I trained my eyes on Menkin, the only player from Baylor-Mary Hardin to ever attend an NFL training camp, seemed to get beaten inside or outside by whomever he faced.

    But Lance Zierlein, who eyes are more educated than mine when it comes to OL technique tweeted this:

     

    Texans cut LT Nathan Menkin (#77) & they better hope that a team looking to stash a young talent doesn't pick him up. Outstanding quickness

    — Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) August 31, 2012

     

    While the Texans decided not to retain him, he could get the call when injuries start to take their toll in the regular season.

     

    DE Rennie Moore

    Moore made his mark in college as a defensive tackle at Clemson. His size (6’3’, 271) dictated a move to defensive end in the pros. 

    His few appearances in the preseason indicated how far down the depth chart he was. When given more reps in the fourth and final preseason game, one lonely tackle was his only stat. 

     

    FS Troy Nolan

    This release is the No.1 head-scratcher in the final cutdown.  The Texans chose to keep Quintin Demps and Shiloh Keo over a safety ranked as well above average by Pro Football Focus.  

    One reason could be the $1.44 million in dead money Keo had coming. This means if Keo is cut instead of Nolan, that money would be lost with nothing to show for it. Ultimately, a good all-around player may have been cut for special teams expert due to a deferred salary hit. 

    Another case where the salary cap turns around and bites the wrong guy. Right, Eric Winston? 

     

    FB Moran Norris

    Experience only counts for so much, as do pure blocking skills. Norris was capable of leading the way for the ballcarrier, as evident in the block that sprung Justin Forsett for his first TD against the Vikings. 

    Norris was targeted twice in the same game and dropped both passes. Another James Casey he is not, and at 34 may need to consider life after football. 

     

    OG Shelley Smith

    If RT Rashad Butler had not gone to IR, Smith could still be a Texan. According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Houston needed to create a roster opening to pick up another offensive tackle

    Smith played sparingly in the preseason, but as time went on looked to be set for the active roster. After spending last season on injured reserve he must have thought he escaped “The Turk” this time. 

     

    SS Eddie Pleasant

    A strong safety that does not even break six feet (5’10”, 211) would seem to have some built-in limitations. When you are nicknamed  “The Missile” upon being signed as a UDFA, the scouts must see something special. 

    Pleasant made the most of his time on the field with an interception in the final preseason game and 11 tackles overall. The cliché “ a nose for the ball” definitely applies to this promising prospect who is headed for the practice squad.

     

    TE Phillip Supernaw

    Here is a cut that makes for another head-scratcher. Great name and some good special team plays for three tackles, but nothing that stood out in particular. 

    Then how does he end up on the practice squad? The Texans love to throw to their tight ends, but one catch for five yards does not show much faith in his receiving abilities. 

    Logan Brock has more receptions and targets, and then he is cut loose completely? Someone knows something I don’t. 

     

    C Cody Wallace

    Rookie Ben Jones had most of the reps at center when Chris Myers was out. Wallace was not utilized at the position until it was too late, i.e., the last tuneup vs. Minnesota.

    If Wallace is not picked up elsewhere, he might get called up if there are any serious losses in the interior OL.

     

    OG Cody White

    Basically in the same circumstances as Wallace, but the offensive line would have to be decimated and the waiver wire deserted before White would be asked to return.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Latest Roster Moves

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    Sept. 3, 2012: The practice squad of the Texans is fully manned now that its eighth member, OG Cody White, has been signed. White's return was unexpected since he had played so little in the preseason.

    Sept. 2, 2012: OT Ryan Harris has been signed according to the Houston Texans.

    Harris was released by the Denver Broncos on the final cutdown day, August 31st. OG Shelley Smith was let go to create a roster opening for an offensive tackle. The signing was made necessary by a season-ending triceps injury  to backup RT Rashad Butler.

    August 31st, 2012: CB Sherrick McManis has been traded to the Chicago Bears for FB Tyler Clutts, according to Mark Berman of Fox26 in Houston.

    Moran Norris was one of the first cuts announced today, which left James Casey as the only fullback on the team. Replacing the 34 year-old Norris with someone with the worst rank at his position according to Pro Football Focus does not seem like an upgrade. 

    August 22, 2012: NT Ra'Shon "Sonny" Harris will miss the entire season due to a torn triceps. Harris was looking good enough in training camp to get some practice time against the Texans' first string offense. This further reduces the depth at this position with Shaun Cody missing time with a back injury. 

    August 9, 2012: Signed veteran ILB Omar Gaither. Gaither played with Philadelphia for five years starting in 2006. Started 26 games in his second and third seasons with the Eagles. He replaced Keyaron Fox on the roster, whose injured left knee will need surgery and likely place him on injured reserved for the rest of the year. 

    August 4, 2012: Signed free agent DE Jimmy Saddler-McQueen. Saddler-Queen was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2010 and was a training camp cut. Played one game with the Dallas Cowboys that same year. Also spent time with the St. Louis Rams, and played with the Tampa Storm of the Arena League in 2012.

    July 30, 2012: Former All-American Mitch King of Iowa was signed to replace released DE Tracy Robertson, an UDFA rookie from Baylor. King has spent most of his short career as a practice squad player.

    July 26, 2012: Even before Andre Johnson tweaked his groin muscle, the lack of experience at WR was a concern. Bryant Johnson returned to the Texans after dressing for 15 games for them in 2011.  He was signed after being released by Detroit on July 25th. Also joining the team was ILB Keyaron Fox, special teams captain for the Steelers during their 2008 title run.

    July 26, 2012: Texans released FB Jason Ford and CB Desmond Marrow. Both players were not likely to make the squad. Ford was being asked to make a change from the tailback position he played at Illinois to NFL fullback. The arrival of veteran FB Moran Norris made him expendable. UDFA rookie Marrow had the size (6’-2”) and speed (4.5 in the 40) but probably not the agility to switch from safety to cornerback.

    July 24, 2012: UDFA Dwight Jones left the team before the completion of OTA’s. Now classified as “Reserve/ Did Not Report” at NFL.com as of this date.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart

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    Roster as of the start of the 2012 regular season from HoustonTexans.com

    Ben Jones

    C

    Chris Myers

    C

    Alan Ball

    CB

    Roc Carmichael

    CB

    Brandon Harris

    CB

    Kareem Jackson

    CB

    Johnathon Joseph

    CB

    Brice McCain

    CB

    Jared Crick

    DE

    Tim Jamison

    DE

    Antonio Smith

    DE

    J.J. Watt

    DE

    James Casey

    FB

    Tyler Cutts

    RB

    Brandon Brooks

    G

    Antoine Caldwell

    G

    Andrew Gardner

    G

    Wade Smith

    G

    Mister Alexander

    ILB

    Brian Cushing

    ILB

    Tim Dobbins

    ILB

    Bradie James

    ILB

    Shayne Graham

    K

    Shaun Cody

    NT

    Earl Mitchell

    NT

    Connor Barwin

    OLB

    Bryan Braman

    OLB

    Whitney Mercilus

    OLB

    Jesse Nading

    OLB

    Brooks Reed

    OLB

    Jon Weeks

    LS

    Duane Brown

    OT

    Ryan Harris

    OT

    Derek Newton

    OT

    Donnie Jones

    P

    John Beck

    QB

    Matt Schaub

    QB

    T.J. Yates

    QB

    Justin Forsett

    RB

    Arian Foster

    RB

    Ben Tate

    RB

    Shiloh Keo

    FS

    Danieal Manning

    FS

    Quintin Demps

    SS

    Glover Quin

    SS

    Owen Daniels

    TE

    Garrett Graham

    TE

    Trindon Holliday

    WR

    Lestar Jean

    WR

    Andre Johnson

    WR

    Keshawn Martin

    WR

    DeVier Posey

    WR

    Kevin Walter

    WR

     

    Revised depth chart as of August 9, 2012 from HoustonTexans.com. Does not reflect signings of Jimmie Saddler-McQueen and Omar Gaither.  

    Offense 

    QB (4): Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, John Beck, Case Keenum 

    RB (5): Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Justin Forsett, Jonathan Grimes, Davin Meggett 

    FB (3): James Casey, Derrell Smith, Moran Norris 

    WR (11): Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Bryant Johnson, Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey, Jeff Maehl, Juaquin Iglesias, Jerrell Jackson, Mario Louis, Trindon Holliday 

    TE (4): Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham, Logan Brock, Phillip Supernaw 

    OT (6): Duane Brown, Rashad Butler, Derek Newton, Andrew Gardner, Nick Mondek, Nate Menkin 

    OG (6): Wade Smith, Antoine Caldwell, Kasey Studdard, Brandon Brooks, Shelley Smith, Cody White 

    C (4): Chris Myers, Ben Jones, Cody Wallace, Thomas Austin 

     

    Defense 

    DE (7): Antonio Smith, J.J. Watt, Tim Jamison, Jared Crick, Mitch King, Keith Browner, David Hunter 

    NT (4): Shaun Cody, Earl Mitchell, Hebron Fangupo, Ra'Shon Harris 

    OLB (8): Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Jesse Nading, Bryan Braman, Rennie Moore, D.J. Bryant, Delano Johnson 

    ILB (7): Brian Cushing, Bradie James, Tim Dobbins, Mister Alexander, Shawn Loiseau, Darryl Sharpton, Greg Williams 

    CB (8): Johnathon Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Brice McCain, Alan Ball, Sherrick McManis, Roc Carmichael, Brandon Harris, Torri Williams 

    S (6): Danieal Manning, Glover Quin, Troy Nolan, Quintin Demps, Shiloh Keo, Eddie Pleasant 

     

    Specialists 

    P (2): Donnie Jones, Brett Hartmann

    K (2): Shayne Graham, Randy Bullock

    LS (2): Jonathan Weeks, James Casey

    KR (4): Trindon Holliday, Keshawn Martin, Justin Forsett, Shiloh Keo

    PR (4): Trindon Holliday, Keshawn Martin, Justin Forsett, Shiloh Keo

    H (1): Donnie Jones

     

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Last 5 in

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    OG Shelley Smith

    The signing of Brandon Brooks means Smith’s days as a Texan are numbered. Brook’s size (6'-5”, 330 lbs.), which needs to be reduced somewhat to handle the demands of the zone blocking system, still makes him a more intriguing prospect.

    OLB Jesse Nading

    Bryan Braman has added some extra weight to go with his hell-with-the-helmet tackling intensity. Nading has been a steady fill-in over the years, but lacks Braman’s “it” factor. 

    WR/KR Trindon Holliday

    The diminutive (5’-5”) dual threat is back again to see if his 4.34 speed can be harnessed for kick returns. But Coach Kubiak likes his returners to also double as receivers, a skill Holliday has yet to master.

    ILB Tim Dobbins

    Once Bradie James arrived, Dobbins doubtless put Allied Van Lines on speed dial. James’ experience and success with Wade Phillips 3-4 in Dallas put Dobbins’ career with Houston in jeopardy. As long as Daryl Sharpton is in the Physically Unable to Perform list, Tim has time to prepare for his next NFL stop.

    CB Alan Ball

    Ball is being asked to become a cornerback after playing mostly free safety as a professional. The Texans’ roster is already crowded with cornerbacks and Ball will get lost in this numbers game.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Last 5 out

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    Prediction: UDFA rookie DE Keith Browner, undrafted in 2011 out of California, will be the next cut. There is a logjam at the position, and he was signed mainly because of his NFL family tree: Ross Browner, Joey Browner, Keith Browner Sr

    July 29, 2012: UDFA rookie DE Tracy Robertson released, an UDFA rookie from Baylor. Barely had time to get his jersey sweaty, there are just too many other candidates for the position. 

    July 26, 2012: UDFA rookie FB Jason Ford released. Ford was being asked to make a change from the tailback position he played at Illinois to NFL fullback. The arrival of veteran FB Moran Norris made him expendable. 

    July 26, 2012: UDFA rookie CB Desmond Marrow released. Marrow had the size (6’-2”) and speed (4.5 in the 40) but probably not the agility to switch from safety to cornerback. 

    Prior to start of training camp C/G Thomas Austin is out, classified as non-football injury.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Quarterbacks

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    QBs on roster: Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, John Beck, Case Keenum

    Projected starter: Matt Schaub

    Offseason additions: John Beck, Case Keenum

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, John Beck

     

    Matt Schaub was on the way to his usual 4,000 yard season before the bones in his right foot were separated in Week 10. The team could have collapsed, but the performance of T.J. Yates in the final six games defines him and his 5th round draft selection as underrated. 

    Schaub has recovered, but finds himself throwing to a lot of new faces. Andre Johnson is out for an unknown period with a groin pull, leaving Kevin Walter as the most familiar target on the outside. 

    Yates is building upon his shot at the big time and getting every opportunity to sew up the No. 2 spot behind Schaub. Much of his evolution will be based on how well works through his progressions and avoid locking in on his primary target. 

    Fox Sports ranked Yates as the No. 7 NFL backup overall, favoring him over Vince Young, Tim Tebow, and the man whose downfall got him off the bench, Matt Leinart. Not a bad endorsement for a second-year signal caller. 

    Beck has the advantage over Keenum for the No. 3 spot simply based on his experience. But the BYU alum has been winless over his seven NFL starts, a less than thrilling track record. 

    Keenum, on the other hand, comes bearing a NCAA record setting career with the hometown UH Cougars. His main knock is a lack of size and moderate arm strength. But Kubiak liked what they saw in OTA’s, and Keenum’s transition to playing under center seems to be going more smoothly than expected.

     

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Running Backs

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    RBs on roster: Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Justin Forsett, Jonathan Grimes, Davin Meggett, James Casey, Moran Norris, Derrell Smith

    Projected starters: Arian Foster (RB),  James Casey (FB)

    Offseason additions: Justin Forsett, Jonathan Grimes, Davin Meggett, Moran Norris, Derrell Smith

    Roster cuts: Jason Ford (FB)

    Projected final roster: Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Justin Forsett, James Casey, Moran Norris

     

    Arian Foster and Ben Tate are on the short list of best running back tandems. Foster is the top all-around weapon out of the backfield and a joy to watch in the open field. 

    Ben Tate lacks Foster’s vision and one-cut explosion, but has faster straight ahead speed. No other back in the league matches Arian’s hands when it comes to catching the ball. But Tate can snag a third down pass when necessary. 

    The nagging question going into training camp is who will be the lead blocker for this duo? The Texans have gone from the best fullback in the business, Vonta Leach, in Foster’s league leading 2010 debut as a premier RB. Lawrence Vickers did a decent Leach impersonation last season, but was let go even though his price tag was a paltry $1 million. 

    As of now, James Casey is the FB of record. He has never had to consistently block against NFL-level talent his entire professional career. 

    Casey is so good at catching the ball, he would be competing for the starting TE job on any other team. This mismatch of skills will be a story unto itself when the hitting starts for real.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Wide Receivers

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    WRs on roster: Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Lestar Jean, Bryant Johnson, Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey, Jeff Maehl, Juaquin Iglesias, Jerrell Jackson, Mario Louis, Trindon Holliday

    Projected starters: Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter

    Offseason additions: Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey, Juaquin Iglesias, Jerrell Jackson, Mario Louis, Bryant Johnson

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Lestar Jean, Bryant Johnson, Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey

     

    If this position were a book title, it would read “Andre Johnson and the Ten Dwarves.” 

    This is presented with no disrespect to Kevin Walter, a fine receiver and excellent all-around football player. Put him in an earlier era with a jar of Stickum, and he could play Fred Biletnikoff in docu-drama of the old school Oakland Raiders

    But he cannot provide what the Texans’ desperately need: someone to complement or possibly replace the best WR of the last decade. 

    With Johnson nursing a groin pull for now, the draft choices and free agents have the opening to showcase their stuff. Lestar Jean has been teaming up with Walter when the No.1 offense operates, and word is he’s learned a few tricks from Andre on using his size to get open. 

    Keshawn Martin has shown he is in game ready shape with good hands and the quickness to create space downfield. DeVier Posey is still trying to shake off the rust of his shortened senior season. 

    To gain a measure of experience among all this youth, the Texans even worked out Roy Williams. Instead they decided to bring back Bryant Johnson, who was on the active roster most of last season. This time around, both Johnsons may be required for this corps to prosper in 2012. 

    The rest of this cast of characters could yield a surprise. The most surprising outcome would be for any of them to flash something close to NFL-caliber gifts.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Tight Ends

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    TEs on roster: Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham, Logan Brock, Phillip Supernaw

    Projected starters: Owen Daniels

    Offseason additions: Logan Brock, Phillip Supernaw

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham

     

    Daniels proved he had finally recovered from his 2009 ACL tear during the march to the Texans’ first AFC South title. But Joel Dreesen took advantage of his contract year to double Daniels TD tally and sign for big bucks with the Broncos

    That makes Garrett Graham next man up for the tight end spot. A single reception in his two years with the team means there is nowhere to go but up. 

    But what about Thor, thou wonders? The moniker given to James Casey for his chiseled physique who has, at times, shown some godlike abilities. Only to then disappear almost entirely from the game plan. 

    Casey had only 24 targets the entire year, with 14 of them in just two games. He is listed on the roster as a fullback and is penciled in as the starter. But in two TE sets, he is just as likely to come out of the backfield and line up next to Duane Brown. 

    This means the best hope for Brock or Supernaw is a spot on the practice squad.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Offensive Tackles

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    OTs on roster: Duane Brown, Rashad Butler, Derek Newton, Andrew Gardner, Nick Mondek, Nate Menkin

    Projected starters: Duane Brown, Rashad Butler

    Offseason additions: Nick Mondek, Nate Menkin

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Duane Brown, Rashad Butler, Derek Newton

     

    Depending on who does the ratings, Duane Brown is consistently listed as on of the top LT’s in the game. And one of only three OT’s not to allow a single sack in 2011

    Playing offensive tackle requires a blend of strength and footwork, and Brown possesses both qualities in the proper proportions. The same has been said of Rashad Butler. 

    When former Texans RT Eric Winston suddenly found himself without a team, fans and pundits were confounded. Shaving $5 million off the salary cap was the reason given by management. 

    They felt the four games Butler filled in for Brown in 2010, while serving his PED suspension, was an adequate sample size to justify Winston’s release. Insiders have noted Butler may lack ideal size, but his footwork is well above average. 

    When Brown had his ankle injured on August 1, Derek Newton found himself in uncharted waters. But he relished putting to use everything he had learned from Winston and Brown during his rookie year. 

    Mondek is an interesting prospect who switched from defensive end his senior year at Purdue. Hopefully this endowed him with the nasty streak coaches like to see in their linemen where the key word is “offensive.”

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Offensive Guards

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    OGs on roster: Wade Smith, Antoine Caldwell, Kasey Studdard, Brandon Brooks, Shelley Smith, Cody White

    Projected starters: Wade Smith, Antoine Caldwell

    Offseason additions: Kasey Studdard, Brandon Brooks, Cody White

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Wade Smith, Antoine Caldwell, Brandon Brooks

     

    Wade Smith has been the starting LG for the Texans since coming over from Kansas City in 2010. By now, Smith is completely familiar with the zone blocking two-step. Which is actually more like a five-step.  

    Mike Brisiel followed Eric Winston out of town, but was signed by Oakland to a sweet deal. Now Antoine Caldwell has to show he can coordinate with the rest of the interior line as Brisiel’s replacement. 

    Caldwell has had a reputation for having the talent but being a bit brittle. A succession of minor injuries has caused him to miss 20 games in his three-year career. 

    Brandon Brooks was drafted to be certain Caldwell understands someone is ready to take his job should he stumble. Then Brooks showed up at OTA’s several buffet trips over his ideal weight. He needs to be closer to 320 lbs. before he can be nimble enough to contribute. 

    Kasey Studdard suffered from the same injury bug as Caldwell over his years with the Texans. Was he brought in to be just another warm body like Shelley Smith, Andrew Gardner, or the rest of this crew? Or can he help this team in some appreciable way?

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Centers

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    OCs on roster: Chris Myers, Ben Jones, Cody Wallace, Thomas Austin

    Projected starter: Chris Myers

    Offseason additions: Ben Jones

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Chris Myers, Ben Jones

     

    Chris Myers topped our own Bleacher Report’s ranking of the Top 32 NFL Centers. He’s certainly not the biggest, nor is he the strongest, but he is clearly the best fit for the system run by the Texans. 

    He excels at getting rid of the ball quickly and into his stance. Staying at his ideal weight instead of trying to “go big” allows him to make effective second level blocks up the field. 

    Antoine Caldwell was considered the backup to Myers before circumstances turned him into the starting RG. GM Rick Smith decided to use the draft to find a second string center. 

    Ben Jones ranked as the second best center after an exemplary career at Georgia and a good showing at the combine. His job now, as with all OL draftees, is to absorb all the intricacies of the Texans’ line play. Footwork will need to be his main area of improvement. 

    There is only room for two centers on the active roster. Cody Wallace will likely find himself odd man out.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Defensive Ends

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    Houston Texans Training Camp: Defensive Ends 

    DEs on roster: Antonio Smith, J.J. Watt, Tim Jamison, Jared Crick, Mitch King, Keith Browner, Jimmie Saddler-Queen, David Hunter

    Projected starters: Antonio Smith, J.J. Watt

    Offseason additions: Jared Crick, Keith Browner, Rennie Moore, Tracy Robertson

    Roster cuts: Tracy Robertson

    Projected final roster: Antonio Smith, J.J. Watt, Tim Jamison

     

    In 2011, Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt were as productive as any pair of DE’s in the NFL.  Smith specialized in rushing the passer, while Watt handled the run and pass with equal effectiveness. 

    In the 3-4 defense, the ends must often sacrifice themselves so the outside linebackers can shine. Mario Williams was averaging a sack per game at OLB , at a new position, before a torn pectoral set him down. 

    Smith and Watt managed to get noticed and still keep the opposing linemen busy and confused. So well the Texans set a team record of 44.0 sacks. 

    When the two starters needed some downtime, there was no dropoff when Tim Jamison came in. Since Watt will miss an undetermined amount of time while his elbow mends, Jamison will get extra reps with the first team defense

    Jared Crick was thought to have a shot at making the roster. His camp issues have included adjusting to the Texas heat and a lingering problem with his neck. This according to the Texans’ Nick Scurfield, who appeared on the KILT-610’s “In The Loop” show Friday, August 3rd.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Nose Tackles

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    NTs on roster: Shaun Cody, Earl Mitchell, Hebron Fangupo, Ra'Shon Harris

    Projected starters: Shaun Cody, Earl Mitchell

    Offseason additions: Hebron Fangupo, Ra'Shon Harris, David Hunter (moved to DE)

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Shaun Cody, Earl Mitchell

     

    If the defensive ends are expected to give up the glory so others can achieve, the nose tackle is even lower on the totem pole. 

    Unless you have the concentration to watch this position play after play, their role can seem downright invisible. This anonymity is strictly by design. 

    The NT is supposed to keep the center and hopefully one of the offensive guards occupied so at least one of the DE’s can go one-on-one with the opposing tackle. And create a gap for one of the linebackers to shoot through. 

    Cody and Mitchell are steady but not spectacular. Neither will be confused for Vince Wilfork or B.J Raji, they just get the job done. 

    Fangupo is the free agent causing the most curiosity. He has the classic “road grader” nose tackle build (6’-0”, 325 lbs.), but like many BYU players is a bit older (27) due to foreign missionary commitments.  

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Outside Linebackers

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    OLBs on roster: Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Jesse Nading, Bryan Braman, Rennie Moore, D.J. Bryant, Delano Johnson

    Projected starters: Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed

    Offseason additions: Whitney Mercilus, D.J. Bryant, Delano Johnson

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Bryan Braman

    Wade Phillips has a singular goal for his defense: create enough confusion so the offense is unable to predict where the pressure is coming from. Ideally, the most pressure should come from the OLB’s. 

    The Dallas Cowboy’s DeMarcus Ware did not become the most feared linebacker in the league by accident. The guidance of Phillips was critical in reaching this pinnacle. The same holds true for Connor Barwin, sack leader for both the team and division with 11.5 collars. 

    The progress of Brooks Reed helped soften the departure of Mario Williams. Another year playing from a two-point stance and getting comfortable with pass coverage should make him and Barwin a even more potent tandem. 

    Whitney Mercilus has all the physical tangibles but must make the same transition as Barwin and Reed. Rushing from a three-point stance with no goal other than getting upfield works fine in college. The pros demand more attention to the details. 

    Mercilus will start out as a situational pass rusher. At this level, you have to play both the rush and pass with equal awareness. Then be able to recognize when you’re free to get into the opponent’s backfield. 

    If Mercilus can hit one-third of his senior stat line, 5.5 sacks along with three forced fumbles and seven tackles for loss, he will be considered well worth the 26th pick in the draft. 

    Braman showed a willingness to play with reckless abandon when inserted in the lineup. His “just crazy enough to do anything” persona gives him the edge over the reliable Jesse Nading for the final OLB slot. 

    The UDFA rookies Bryant and Johnson will unfortunately learn just how hard it is to make an NFL roster.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Inside Linebackers

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    ILBs on roster: Brian Cushing, Bradie James, Tim Dobbins, Mister Alexander, Shawn Loiseau, Darryl Sharpton, Greg Williams, Keyaron Fox (injured) 

    Projected starters: Brian Cushing, Bradie James

    Offseason additions: Shawn Loiseau, Greg Williams

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Brian Cushing, Bradie James, Darryl Sharpton, Mister Alexander

     

    Brian Cushing just doesn’t care. 

    Ask him to move from the OLB position that earned him Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009 to sub for the injured DeMeco Ryans in 2010. He doesn’t care. When the Texans switched to the 3-4 in 2011, he is asked to remain at the inside position. He doesn’t care. 

    All he does care about is having an impact on the game unmatched by any other ILB. Some may get more tackles, and other may get more sacks. But no one disrupts the offense and their strategy better than he. 

    The best evidence is his combination of QB hits, pressures, and sacks. Pro Football Focus puts his total at 35, tops in the league.  

    Bradie James had his best seasons as a Cowboy under Wade Phillip’s leadership. His track record, along with Daryl Sharpton being placed on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list due to a hip injury, makes him the default starter next to Cushing. 

    Tim Dobbins has been a capable backup most of his career. Mister Alexander was moved from the practice squad to the active roster late last season, and did not disappoint in limited action. Alexander’s youth could make him Mister Backup over Dobbins.  

    Veteran Keyaron Fox is the kind of known quantity that could be stashed on the practice squad for emergency situations. Shawn Loiseau and Greg Williams will have to do something exceptional to avoid the waiver wire.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Cornerbacks

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    CBs on roster: Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Brice McCain, Alan Ball, Sherrick McManis, Roc Carmichael, Brandon Harris, Torri Williams

    Projected starters: Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson

    Offseason additions: Alan Ball

    Roster cuts: Desmond Marrow

    Projected final roster: Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Brice McCain, Brandon Harris, Sherrick McManis

     

    Johnathan Joseph is more than just the biggest free agent signing in Texans’ history. He is the cornerstone of the transformation that turned the Houston defense from frightful to feared. 

    His presence, in turn, improved the play of Kareem Jackson from terrible to tolerable. Together, the passing yards allowed by the Texans went from worst in the league to third place. As best my research could conclude, no team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger ever made such a turnaround. 

    It was no coincidence that Brice McCain turned into one of the best nickelbacks around.  When the pass rush makes impressive advancements along with your run defense, third and long situations become the rule. When the percentage of passes completed against you falls below 50%, as noted by Pro Football Focus, your offense is grateful it can retake the field with such ease.  

    The Texans need to pull at least two competent backups from the remaining cast. Brandon Harris was second round draft choice in 2010, so he has a built-in advantage. McManis can return kickoffs, the sort of versatility that never hurts your chances.  

    Roc Carmichael spent the 2011 season on IR, and Alan Ball is making a position change from safety to cornerback. One may go to the practice squad and wait for a roster spot to open up when P Brett Hartmann returns from his suspension. The other will be heading on down the line.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Safeties

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    Safeties on roster: Danieal Manning, Glover Quin, Troy Nolan, Shiloh Keo, Quintin Demps, Eddie Pleasant

    Projected starters: Danieal Manning, Glover Quin

    Offseason additions: Eddie Pleasant

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Danieal Manning, Glover Quin, Troy Nolan, Shiloh Keo, Quintin Demps

     

    The arrival of Danieal Manning was not accompanied by the same fanfare as Johnathan Joseph. This can be explained by comparing their relative talents. 

    Manning is good, but Joseph is great. Manning goes out for three games, Troy Nolan comes in and the defense does not miss a beat. Joseph goes out, and all of a sudden Kareem Jackson is your lockdown corner? Methinks not. 

    Glover Quin took the hint from DB Coach Vance Joseph and went from cornerback to safety. Quin played like he was learning a new position, but only gave up two TD’s overall.  

    Shiloh Keo excelled on special teams and even saw a little field time. Unless he develops an extra gear in acceleration and quickness, he will not have the pass defense skills to play regularly. 

    Demps, on the other hand, can fill in at strong safety when needed and even return the occasional kickoff. Williams has not shown what he can do besides be a practice squad regular over his two seasons with the team.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Kicking Specialists

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    Kicking specialists on roster: Brett Hartmann, Donnie Jones, Randy Bullock, Shayne Graham

    Projected starters: Randy Bullock (K) , Donnie Jones (P)

    Offseason additions: Donnie Jones, Randy Bullock, Shayne Graham

    Roster cuts: Donnie Jones, Randy Bullock, Shayne Graham

    Projected final roster: Brett Hartmann, Donnie Jones, Randy Bullock

     

    As of the start of training camp on July 27, punter Brett Hartmann is classified as Active/Non-Football Illness. Special Teams Coach Joe Marciano talks as if he is still part of the team

    Bottom lime, Hartmann is still trying to make it back from the torn ACL he suffered last season. On top of that, he still has a suspension to serve that was appealed and reduced from four games to three

    All this makes Donnie Jones the punter for the time being. Marciano has said of Hartmann, “He’s the best kickoff guy I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been around doing this a long time – 1986 was my first year in the NFL.” 

    I would interpret this as serving notice to Jones that he is punting on borrowed time. An active roster spot will be taken up by Hartmann until he is ready to return to action. Thus the Texans will have two punters, on paper at least, for the regular season opener against Miami

    Randy Bullock is that rare rookie kicker: on the squad by virtue of being a draft choice. Chosen in the 5th round, his Groza Award would seem to make him worthy of the selection. But kicking for your school versus kicking in the pros are two entirely different experiences. 

    Veteran Shayne Graham was signed to both tutor Bullock and remind him someone is there to take his place should he falter. Texans’ fans hope this personnel gambit turns out better than the Kareem Jackson debacle of 2010.

Houston Texans Roster Tracking: Return Specialists

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    Returners on roster: Danieal Manning (KR), Keshawn Martin (KR, PR), Trindon Holliday (KR, PR), Justin Forsett (KR, PR), Shiloh Keo (KR,PR)

    Projected starters: Danieal Manning (KR), Keshawn Martin (PR)

    Offseason additions: Keshawn Martin (KR, PR), Justin Forsett (KR, PR)

    Roster cuts: none

    Projected final roster: Danieal Manning (KR), Keshawn Martin (PR)

     

    Manning and McManis split the kickoff return job in 2011, with Manning having the edge in return average (27.4 to 20.5). 

    But conventional wisdom questions whether your starting safety is the wisest choice for this task. McManis is more expendable, but that is dependent upon his placement in the cornerback depth chart. 

    It would be great if Holliday would finally step up and show some world-class hands to go with his incomparable speed. That would mean showing some pass catching ability that has so far failed to materialize. Houston does not employ return specialists that cannot also be receivers.

    The departed Jacoby Jones returned punts during the Texans’ title season, even bringing one back for a TD. Martin scored every way possible but kicking during his Michigan State career. Punt returning is already part of his repertoire, as are kickoff returns. 

    The ideal solution is for Martin to handle both assignments, but so far punt returns seem to be his only responsibility. Manning is game enough to handle kickoff returns once more, but his three game absence due to a broken leg during last season could change Coach Marciano’s mind.

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