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Rookie, Undrafted Free-Agent Watch for Houston Texans Training Camp

Matt GoldsteinContributor IIAugust 27, 2016

Rookie, Undrafted Free-Agent Watch for Houston Texans Training Camp

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    By far the most interesting part of training camp is being able to watch the progress of rookies. And there are plenty of them currently on the Houston Texans' roster. 

    In addition to the Texans' nine draft picks, the team also signed well over 20 undrafted free agents, so training camp should be exciting to observe.

    Many of the Texans' rookies will play a major role on the team this season, as the Texans need them to produce for the team to make a run for a Super Bowl.

    Here's a look at all of the Texans' rookies heading into training camp.

    (All stats courtesy of profootballreference.com.)

DeAndre Hopkins: Wide Receiver

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    • College: Clemson
    • Draft Status: Round 1
    • Height: 6'1"
    • Weight: 214 pounds
    • College Production: During his three-year career, 206 receptions, 3,020 yards, 27 touchdowns. In 2012, 82 receptions, 1,405 yards, 18 touchdowns.

    Analysis: After putting together two solid seasons, DeAndre Hopkins broke out for Clemson in his junior year. His stat line in his final season is dizzying; he virtually dominated his competition.

    While not the most gifted athlete, Hopkins makes up for it with an incredibly developed skill set. His route-running ability is beyond his years, and he can catch anything thrown his way.

    During the 2013 season, Hopkins' main job will be to take pressure off of Andre Johnson. 

    Johnson is continually faced with double-teams. If Hopkins can consistently take advantage of single-man coverage, opposing defenses will be forced to take some of the pressure off Johnson, which would make the Texans' passing attack much more successful.

    Hopkins was classified as an NFL-ready receiver on draft, and it looks like he'll be able to contribute from Day 1.

D.J. Swearinger: Safety

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    • College: South Carolina
    • Draft Status: Round 2
    • Height: 5'10"
    • Weight: 208 pounds
    • College Production: During his four-year career, 244 total tackles, six interceptions, 22 passes defended. In 2012, 79 tackles, two interceptions, nine passes defended.

    Analysis: A vicious hitter, D.J. Swearinger always makes his presence felt on defense, whether it's by crushing receivers who dare to catch the ball in his territory or by rushing into the backfield and annihilating running backs.

    Swearinger, whose skill set is eerily similar to departed free-agent Glover Quin'sexcept with more flairwill not immediately start on the Texans' defense.

    Unless Ed Reed doesn't get healthy in time to start the regular season, of course. But despite being relegated to the No. 3 safety spot, Swearinger will receive many opportunities to make impact plays on defense.

    The Texans often run defensive sub sets, which require a third safety on the field. Swearinger is that third safety, and since the Texans are almost always in sub sets, Swearinger will be a virtual starter for the defense.

    Expect to hear Swearinger's name called early and often in 2013.

Brennan Williams: Tackle

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    • College: North Carolina
    • Draft Status: Round 3
    • Height: 6'6"
    • Weight: 318 pounds
    • College Production: During his four-year career, played in 35 total games. In 2012, started eight games.

    Analysis: Long, strong and athletic, Brennan Williams was the perfect college offensive lineman. He dominated defensive linemen with his physicality at North Carolina, and his physical superiority to his opponents was easy to discern.

    Williams' natural athleticism perfectly fits the Texans' zone-blocking scheme. He's strong enough to fight off pass-rushers, and his quickness will allow him to easily reach the second level on running plays.

    Williams, however, is not quite ready to become a starting NFL tackle. His hands game is not yet nearly developed enough to warrant a starting job, and veteran defensive linemen will easily handle him. 

    Williams is expected to contribute heavily in 2013, so he will need to use training camp to his advantage and quickly work on developing his skills. 


Sam Montgomery: Outside Linebacker

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    • College: Louisiana State University
    • Draft Status: Round 3
    • Height: 6'3"
    • Weight: 263 pounds
    • College Production: During his three-year career, 104 total tackles, 19 sacks, three forced fumbles. In 2012, 37 tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles.

    Analysis: "Sonic" Sam Montgomery was one of the most exciting players to watch on a dominant LSU defense. His post-big-play celebrations, depicted in the picture above, were truly awesome to watch.

    And he often made big plays. An excellent pass-rusher, Montgomery was able to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks. He influenced multitudes of passing plays, even when he wasn't able to sack the quarterback.

    Montgomery was also a solid run defender, as he understood positioning and was able to get set up in the right position at the right time.

    Montgomery will likely become the Texans' primary backup outside linebacker. If he proves that he is capable of starting right away, however, then the Texans may become tempted to start him and move Brooks Reed to inside linebacker.

Trevardo Williams: Outside Linebacker

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    • College: Connecticut
    • Draft Status: Round 4
    • Height: 6'1"
    • Weight: 241 pounds
    • College Production: In his four-year career, 133 total tackles, 30.5 sacks, five forced fumbles. In 2012, 42 tackles, 11.5 sacks, one forced fumble.

    Analysis: At the University of Connecticut, Trevardo Williams used his athleticism to his advantage whenever he could. And that was often.

    Unfortunately, that prevented Williams from ever developing much of a skill set.

    In college, Williams was noticeably faster than nearly every offensive linemen he faced. In turn, he primarily attempted to get to the quarterback by running as fast as he possibly could around the offensive tackle. 

    He developed nearly no signature pass-rushing moves. Literally, the only thing he did in college was run around offensive linemen.

    While this strategy worked in college, it would never even have a chance of succeeding in the NFL. In order for Williams to contribute for the Texans on defense, he will need to supplement his extraordinary athleticism with a developed pass-rushing skill set and a hands game. 

    Until then, expect Williams to only be considered a special teams contributor. 

David Quessenberry: Guard/Tackle

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    • College: San Jose State
    • Draft Status: Round 6
    • Height: 6'5"
    • Weight: 302 pounds
    • College Production: During his four-year career, played in 49 total games. In 2012, started 13 games.

    Analysis: An extremely versatile offensive lineman, David Quessenberry can play either guard or tackle. But his versatility wasn't why he was such a valued player at San Jose State. 

    Quessenberry provided stability to a tumultuous offensive line; he was the rock that kept the offense steady. 

    For this reason—and many morethe Texans fell in love with him, and they traded up to select him in the sixth round.

    Quessenberry's skill set fits exactly what the Texans do on offense. His advanced footwork and natural athleticism make him an excellent zone-blocker, as he is capable of consistently reaching the second level and opening up holes for running backs.

    His size and strength also make him valuable as a pass-blocker, as pass-rushers cannot bully their way past him.

    Quessenberry will provide reliable depth for a Texans offensive line that desperately needs some.

Alan Bonner: Wide Receiver

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    • College: Jacksonville State
    • Draft Status: Round 6
    • Height: 5'11"
    • Weight: 193 pounds
    • College Production: During his four-year career, 114 receptions, 1,986 yards, 20 touchdowns. In 2012, 50 receptions, 859 yards, eight touchdowns.

    Analysis: A relative unknown, Alan Bonner was the most surprising selection for the Houston Texans in the draft.

    Bonner had a decent career at Jacksonville State, but he didn't truly break out until his senior year. For this reason, many fans—including mehad zero idea who Bonner was when the Texans picked him. In fact, many fans—including me again—immediately disliked the pick. 

    But that all changed when everyone saw how talented the small-school receiver was.

    Bonner was extremely impressive at rookie minicamp and OTAs; he managed to make big play after big play. It also became clear that his explosiveness might make a very dangerous returner on punts and kicks.

    While Bonner might not contribute much for the offense in 2013, it is now easy to see why the Texans picked him.

Chris Jones: Nose Tackle

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    • College: Bowling Green 
    • Draft Status: Round 6
    • Height: 6'2"
    • Weight: 302 pounds
    • College Production: During his four-year career, 157 tackles, 28 sacks. In 2012, 37 tackles, 12.5 sacks.

    Analysis: Chris Jones was a dominant defensive player in college; he did it all for Bowling Green. He consistently disrupted running plays in the backfield, and his stellar pass-rushing abilities were impressive for a player of his size.

    Jones' greatest trait, though, is his relentless, never-ending motor. He keeps his feet churning nonstop, and he never gives up on a play. He wears offensive linemen out, and he takes advantage of this late in games, when he somehow still has the same amount of energy that he started the game with.

    The Texans were in desperate need to acquire nose tackle depth, and that's exactly what they found in Jones. However, Jones' path to the NFL will not be easy. The Texans will likely only keep two nose tackles on the roster, and with Earl Mitchell already penciled in as the starter, Jones will have to beat out Terrell McClain and Ra'Shon Harris for the backup job, which will be no easy feat.

    It is very likely that Jones will start his career on the Texans' practice squad, if no other teams pick him up after the Texans cut him.


Ryan Griffin: Tight End

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    • College: Connecticut
    • Draft Status: Round 6
    • Height: 6'6"
    • Weight: 221 pounds
    • College Production: During his four-year career, 116 receptions, 1,500 yards, 10 touchdowns. In 2012, 29 receptions, 484 yards, six touchdowns.

    Analysis: Ryan Griffin is the definition of an average tight end. He can fill in whenever and play at an acceptable level, but he will never become one of the new-age super tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.

    Griffin is a dependable blocker, which is part of the reason of why the Texans liked him. They can play him during goal-line situations and be confident that he will block well.

    He also has reliable hands and can be an effective receiver on short- to medium-range routes. However, he is not an explosive athlete, and he will not make many plays after the catch.

    Overall, the Texans found themselves another Garrett Graham: a dependable player, but not another star. But that's fine, as dependable players are always needed to build Super Bowl rosters.

Undrafted Free Agents

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    List of the Texans' Undrafted Free Agents (Courtesy of houstontexans.com)

    • RB Ray Graham (Pittsburgh)
    • RB Dennis Johnson (Arkansas)
    • RB George Winn (Cincinnati)
    • RB Cierre Wood (Notre Dame)
    • FB Zach Boren (Ohio State)
    • WR Andy Cruse (Miami (Ohio))
    • WR Alec Lemon (Syracuse)
    • WR EZ Nwachukwu (Texas A&M)
    • WR Mike Smith (Connecticut)
    • T Dann O’Neill (Western Michigan)
    • G Alex Kupper (Louisville) 
    • G Bryan Collins (SMU)
    • DE Earl Okine (Florida)
    • OLB Willie Jefferson (Stephen F. Austin)
    • OLB Justin Tuggle (Kansas State)
    • ILB Ja’Gared Davis (SMU)
    • ILB Evan Frierson (Illinois State)
    • CB Johnny Adams (Michigan State)
    • CB A.J. Bouye (Central Florida)
    • CB Travis Howard (Ohio State)
    • S Orhian Johnson (Ohio State)
    • S Jawanza Starling (USC)
    • P Andrew Shapiro (Fresno State)

    Analysis: While most undrafted free agents rarely make an NFL roster, Texans fans know it is never wise to sleep on them. After all, Arian Foster went from being undrafted out of Tennessee to being the best running back in franchise history.

    Of the Texans' current group of undrafted free agents, several actually have an opportunity to make the roster. Zach Boren is a bruising fullback, and the Texans might crave his ability to produce on special teams.

    Ray Graham, Dennis Johnson and Cierre Wood will all be competing for the third-string running back job, and unless veteran Deji Karim wins the competition, one of them will be rewarded a roster spot.

    Cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Johnny Adams are also players to look out for.

    It should be interesting to watch how these players perform during training camp; their careers are currently depending on good performances. 

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