Houston Texans' Sleepers to Watch in Training Camp
For fans, training camp may seem to be the tedious precursor to the real action of the regular season, but for the players fighting with every last ounce of strength in their bodies to either earn a starting job or just make the team, training camp can be the most exciting and heated time of the year.
Opportunities are ripe in the season of training camp, and most players on the roster all share the common goal of proving themselves.
Some will rise. Some will fall. Some will appear out of nowhere to show that they do indeed have what it takes to make it in the harsh and unforgiving league that is the NFL.
Here are the biggest sleepers to watch in Texans' training camp.
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Keshawn Martin: WR
Though not the biggest sleeper on this list, Keshawn Martin has been placed in the backseat of the wide receiver competition since the day he was drafted.
Lestar "Big Play" Jean, the fan favorite, and DeVier Posey, the team's third-round pick, were the two receivers who were expected to battle it out for the No. 3 receiving job. Keshawn Martin, on the other hand, was thought of by many, including myself, as just a return specialist.
Now, however, it is Martin who is making the most out of his opportunity and proving his doubters wrong. After the first week of training camp, Martin is listed ahead of both Jean and Posey on the first edition of the Texans' depth chart.
According to head coach Gary Kubiak, the young speedster has big-play potential.
“He’s got great speed,” said Kubiak. “He can catch some little ones and turn them into real big ones. That’s what you look for in the pass game. You don’t have time to sit back there and wait on things to get way down the field, but you can throw a slam, a guy can make somebody miss and go to the house; that’s what you want.”
Matt Schaub, also, has been impressed with Martin in training camp so far, and offers these words of commendation.
“As a quarterback, the best thing you can do is throw a five-yard route and turn it into a 30-yard gain,” said quarterback Matt Schaub. “The change in direction and the wiggle that he has in his routes really gives you that opportunity.”
Martin has shown excellent route running ability so far in camp, and his hands have been extremely dependable so far, an important trait for a young receiver.
The play-making potential that initially caused the Texans to notice Martin as a possible replacement punt returner for Jacoby Jones may just end up the reason for Martin's victory over Jean and Posey for the No. 3 receiving slot.
Mister Alexander: ILB
Other than having a world-class name, Mister Alexander can emerge as one of the biggest sleepers and winners of the Texans' training camp.
With Darryl Sharpton recovering from multiple injuries that may hold him out for quite a while, the competition for the primary inside linebacker backup job is wide open.
Alexander has everything going for him. Not only are there not any linebackers left on the roster who can plausibly challenge him for the backup job, perhaps with the exception of Keyaron Fox, Alexander has all the necessary physical gifts.
He's strong, fast, and he can hit just as hard as any linebacker out there.
Standing at 6'3" and weighing in at 252 pounds, Alexander has all the size he needs to be an effective inside linebacker in Wade Phillips' 3-4 defensive system. He has to, however, master the ins and outs of his position and improve his skills before he can make any serious contributions to the team.
With Reggie Herring as his linebackers coach, who has had great success with teaching and assisting linebackers in excelling in Phillips' defense, the sky is the limit for Mister Alexander.
Brandon Harris: CB
Brandon Harris is finally doing what so many fans expected of him after the Texans traded up to select him in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft: turning heads.
Although it is still unsure whether Harris is a slot or outside corner, he is certainly impressing everyone at camp so far. He has been effective in both zone and man coverage, and he has also been solid in the tackling department, something that is critical for an undersized player.
“Brandon’s made a lot of great progress,” Kubiak said. “He struggled in OTAs. He struggled a little last year, then about the last four days of OTAs, a light went on. He practiced better.
“He’s been the same guy since he came back, so that’s impressive. He made a big play (interception) today in the red zone. He’s acting like a second-year guy.”
If Harris can continue his surprising performance for the rest of training camp, he may just find himself higher up in the depth chart than was expected of him.
Justin Forsett: HB
Justin Forsett has shown in training camp why the Texans gave him the opportunity to come in and replace Derrick Ward as the team's third-string running back.
Forsett seems to have been made for the Texans' zone blocking system. He has the necessary vision that is required to quickly locate the open hole, and he has the one-cut ability that Arian Foster so often employs to gain huge amounts of yardage.
As reported by Steph Stradley of the Houston Chronicle:
He looks like he belongs with this offensive scheme. Doesn’t need much of a hole and then he goes. Doesn’t look like his first Texans camp. Foster, Tate, Forsett-works for me.
Forsett also has the speed and craftiness that can allow him to succeed as a third-down back. He has excellent hands coming out of the backfield, and no one can argue the fact that he can make any defender miss on any given play.
Forsett is emerging as not just a reliable replacement for Derrick Ward, he is emerging as a player who, along with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, can make the Texans' rushing attack even more of a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Hebron Fangupo: NT
This mass of a man has the body that every Texans' fan has been salivating for to see playing in the middle of the defensive line.
Hebron Fangupo, who weighs 324 pounds, stands in stark contrast to Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell, the team's two primary nose tackles.
Although Cody and Mitchell have the speed and quickness to disrupt the passer, they do not have the size to be a space-filling body that can open up pass-rushing lanes for the Texans' dangerous pass-rushers.
Furthermore, Cody and Mitchell also endanger the Texans' rush defense, which quite possibly be the weakest of the Texans' 3-4 scheme, as they cannot occupy enough space to allow for the likes of Brian Cushing and J.J. Watt to get easy shots at the ball carrier.
Fangupo, on the other hand, can do the exact opposite for the Texans. If he can take advantage of his superior size—Cody and Mitchell both weigh under 310 pounds—he can become the gap-eater nose tackle that can possibly lead the Texans' defense to new heights.
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