Houston Texans: Predicting the Final 53-Man Roster
With the first game of the preseason just one day away, the Texans players competing for starting jobs or roster spots are hoping their training camp performances have been enough to shed a favorable light on them in the eyes of the Texans' coaching staff.
This predicted roster for the Texans is based solely on past performances of each individual player, with a heavy emphasis on how they have fared so far in training camp.
Without further ado, here is my pre-preseason final 53-man predicted roster.
The first two slots on the Texans' quarterback depth chart are set in stone, as Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates control the starting and backup jobs, respectively.
However, the competition for the third-string quarterback role is up in the air with the fan- favorite, Case Keenum, trying to overtake the veteran, John Beck.
While Keenum has broken virtually every single NCAAF passing record, this does not mean his success in college will translate to the NFL.
Keenum is undersized—but don't let anyone tell Drew Brees that being a smaller NFL quarterback is undesirable—and he lacks a full understanding of the pro-style offense that the Texans employ, as the Houston Cougars love and embrace the spread offense.
Although Kubiak has been pleased with the progress of the young college star (via Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle), it is more likely that he will go with experience, and anoint Beck as the team's third-string quarterback.
Though this is clearly not the best future Keenum could imagine, he would get much more practice and reps with the practice squad. For Keenum, the best thing for him would be to be sent down to the practice squad and polish up his game.
The halfback competition is most likely already over, barring any injuries or incredible preseason performances by one of the undrafted backs.
The biggest story among the Texans halfbacks will be if Justin Forsett can continue his amazing training camp feats, and be able to hold off both Jonathan Grimes and Davin Meggett for the third-string running back job.
The fullback position is where it gets tricky.
James Casey seems to be the clear starter; he will also be expected to contribute as a pass-catching tight end (according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle), therefore leaving the Texans with a need for another solid fullback with the ability to fill in for Casey whenever necessary.
This job is being battled out between veteran Moran Norris and Derrell Smith, who is a converted linebacker. Norris has been having an excellent training camp so far, showing that he still has enough left in the tank to blow up holes for any of Houston's talented halfbacks. Smith, on the other hand, has proven to be more versatile in the passing game, but displays less of an understanding of the Texans complicated play-action offense.
Therefore, it is probable that Gary Kubiak and Co. will go with the vet, who is more of a sure thing for the Texans in short yardage and goal line situations.
The wide receiver battles during the preseason will be one of the most fun, entertaining and important competitions to watch.
Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean and DeVier Posey will all be primarily battling it out for the team's third receiving job.
While Lestar Jean is the fan favorite, with his great size and last year's breakout performance in training camp, he is not favored currently to stand victorious before opening day. Nor is DeVier Posey, the Texans' highest wide receiver selection in the 2012 NFL draft.
That honor would belong to Keshawn Martin, a crafty and speedy receiver who is extremely capable of playing in the slot right away. He has been impressing everyone during training camp (according to Paul Gallant of the Houston branch of CBS.com), and right now is the favorite to own the third-string receiver job at the end of the day, due to his noticeable playmaking ability.
After that, it is believed that Gary Kubiak will only be taking five receivers on the roster this season, so Bryant Johnson, Jerrell Jackson, Trindon Holliday, Juaquin Iglesias and Jeff Maehl will be competing to not be cut.
Each receiver has flashed in training camp, but three stand out above the rest.
Bryant Johnson is a veteran who has shown that he could produce for the Texans when called upon in the past. Jerrell Jackson, an undrafted rookie, has been extremely consistent so far in training camp, and Trindon Holliday brings world-class speed to the table.
The only chance Holliday has of making the roster would be due to his return ability, but the Texans like to have returners who can be serviceable at other positions as well.
This fact most likely eliminates Holliday from the conversation, as he has been anything but "serviceable" as a consistent wide receiver for the Texans. If he wants to make the team, he needs to prove that he can play.
Receiver No. 1:
Receiver No. 2:
Slot Receiver: Keshawn Martin
Tight end is a pretty easy position to break down for the Texans. Due to the fact that James Casey will essentially be a tight end for the Texans this season, it is likely that they will choose to keep one roster spot for either Logan Brock or Phillip Supernaw, and instead use that other roster spot for defensive depth.
While both of the two undrafted tight ends can offer valuable talents, Brock is the more experienced blocker, which is what the coaching staff probably wants out of their third-string tight end.
The competition on the right side of the offensive line will produce some serious battles throughout the preseason.
While Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Butler have been the proclaimed starters ever since Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel departed in free agency, Gary Kubiak has revealed that the competition on the right side of the line is much closer than one would think. He told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:
They’re doing a good job...They’re being pushed really hard. Brooks and Smith are pushing Caldwell. Newton’s pushing the heck out of Butler. It’s going to be a tough call. I couldn’t make that call today.
Unless Brandon Brooks and Derek Newton manage to perform exceptionally in the preseason, Kubiak will likely go with starting experience and name Butler and Caldwell the official starters.
Duane Brown (LT)
Wade Smith (LG)
Chris Myers (C)
Antoine Caldwell (RG)
Rashad Butler (RT)
Brandon Brooks (G)
Derek Newton (T)
Ben Jones (C)
Shelly Smith (G/C)
Nathan Menkin (T)
There are several questions hanging over the defensive linemen, and much of them concern the nose tackles.
Let's start at defensive end first. Although J.J. Watt is currently nursing a dislocated elbow, the injury has been defined as mild (luckily), and Watt will likely be healthy before Week 1. While Watt has been out, Tim Jamison has been getting much more notice, especially with Jared Crick sitting out with a neck injury.
At nose tackle, many believe that Earl Mitchell will overtake Shaun Cody as the starter, as Mitchell bulked up in the offseason (according to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com), growing from 287 to 308 pounds. Although Cody was the starter on paper last season, he essentially split minutes with Mitchell at the nose.
Also, while Hebron Fangupo offers much potential with his incredibly large size, it may be unlikely for him to make the roster with so many other talented defensive linemen surrounding him. Fangupo must step up his play in the preseason if he does not wish to be cut.
Antonio Smith (DE)
Earl Mitchell (NT)
J.J. Watt (DE)
Tim Jamison (DE)
Shaun Cody (NT)
Jared Crick (DE)
While the linebacker corps has been shaken up for the Texans this offseason with the losses of Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans to free agency, and also with the injury issues of Darryl Sharpton, the Texans still find themselves with a solid and dependable crew of linebackers.
Brian Cushing, Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed all had exceptional seasons last year, and they hope to return better than ever. Bradie James, the Texans' final starter, will look to continue the excellence that he displayed in Dallas while playing under Wade Phillips.
Whitney Mercilus has the potential to bring extreme pressure off the bench, and Mister Alexander is looking to prove that he can be a producer as a backup while Sharpton remains injured.
Connor Barwin (OLB)
Brian Cushing (ILB)
Bradie James (ILB)
Brooks Reed (OLB)
Whitney Mercilus (OLB)
Mister Alexander (ILB)
Tim Dobbins (ILB)
Bryan Braman (OLB)
The cornerback position is one of the most volatile on the Texans roster. Behind Johnathan Joseph and slot corner Brice McCain, the Texans' depth is dismal.
Kareem Jackson, Roc Carmichael, Sherrick McManis and Brandon Harris all remain unproven in the NFL, and Alan Ball is a veteran who has not had the most successful past few seasons. However, Ball did play well under Wade Phillips for a time, and the Texans are certainly hoping he can replicate that success in Houston.
If Joseph suffers an injury, then it is possible that we may see an extreme drop-off in production from the remaining cornerbacks. The Texans' young cornerbacks must step up in the preseason and prove to the coaching staff that they can be depended on if worst comes to worst.
While some do not have faith in the team's safety depth, the Texans safeties can actually be much more trusted than most of their corners.
After Danieal Manning suffered an injury that kept him out for a prolonged amount of time last season, the Texans' other safeties proved that they did not need their star defensive back to continue being successful.
Both Troy Nolan and Quintin Demps turned in strong performances, and Glover Quin Jr. was able to prove that his conversion from cornerback to safety was indeed a positive one.
One thing to note is that Quin and Manning have switched safety positions for the upcoming season. Manning will now play strong safety, and Quin will be placed at free safety. It will be interesting to see how this switch plays out on the field.
Danieal Manning (SS)
Glover Quin (FS)
Troy Nolan (SS/FS)
Quintin Demps (SS/FS)
The kicking battle will be a huge one in the preseason. It will be experience versus potential, as the vet Shayne Graham will be competing with Randy Bullock, the rookie kicker who was picked in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL draft.
So far in training camp, the two kickers have been about equal, and their performance in the preseason games will be the determining factor in who wins the battle.
So, I'm going to go with my gut feeling on this one and say that Bullock will come out ahead of Graham when it's all said and done.
Also, Donnie Jones, the punter who the Texans brought in to temporarily replace the suspended Brett Hartmann, has been punting incredibly so far in training camp.
Houston's special teams coach, John Marciano, told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that Jones is "having a great camp...And he’s a great holder, too. Not good, great.”
Also, according to Jones himself:
“They [the Rams] chose not to re-sign me, and I’m not concerned about their turnaround. This has worked out great for me. Ever since I got here, everything has been first class."
From these reports, it seems as if Hartmann will not return to the Texans' active roster after his suspension expires. Donnie Jones looks like the face of Texans punting for 2012.
Now, on to the returners. If Trindon Holliday does not make the team, expect Keshawn Martin, Justin Forsett and Shiloh Keo to be the team's primary returners.
Follow me on twitter! https://twitter.com/MattGoldstein5