The Houston Texans are at the midpoint of the preseason schedule, and the majority of starting positions have been decided. Now is a suitable time to propose the numbers these players and their backups might post in the regular season.
The rash of injuries in the Texans’ camp make any determination of what certain individuals might record in terms of statistics a speculative exercise. Nevertheless, a three-peat as AFC South champion requires that a definitive set of goals is established before the Sept. 9 opener in San Diego.
In those cases where defensive players will split the duties, a snap count is included. An example would be safety, since the tendency for the defense to play in dime packages means the third safety will see a lot of action.
Schaub will have the reins taken off the offense for a variety of reasons. The most obvious reason is the collection of young receivers at his disposal.
There will be other factors at play, largely due to changes in the running attack. Schaub will have the kind of regular season that stifles many of his critics. They will not remain quiet for long if he comes up short in the postseason again.
4,958 yards passing, 418 completions, 620 attempts, 34 TDs, 14 INTs, 66.5 completion percentage
Somehow the calf injury Foster encountered during OTAs turned into a back problem. He took the field on Thursday, August 22 for the first time since the calf flared up on May 28. The problem with his lower leg was revealed by Nick Scurfield of the Houston Texans on the following day.
His return to action was preceded by a press conference where the mercurial running back was unusually combative. When questioned as to what caused the back problem, Will Grubb of Sports Radio 610 in Houston reported that Foster replied, “Just a lot of hard work.” Considering his 1,115 touches over the last three seasons, he could be getting a bit weary.
The right side of the Texans’ offensive line has been inconsistent over the first two preseason games. The running game has been just as unsteady, leading that tiger Gary Kubiak to change his stripes.
Houston leads the league in preseason passing yards per game (CBSSports.com). At first glance, the backup quarterback competition between T.J. Yates and Case Keenum is the most reasonable explanation for all that aerial yardage.
Once the regular season rolls around, Kubiak may revert to his reliance on the run. However, fantasy football fans should not be surprised if the preservation of Foster leads to a greatly reduced workload.
241 carries, 1,060 yards, 12 TDs rushing, 42 receptions, 407 yards, 2 TDs receiving
It may be a contract year for the No. 2 running back, but not the ideal time for Tate to maximize his potential earnings.
Should the Texans move closer to the league average of a 2-1 pass-to-run ratio, fewer carries for Foster may not translate to more for the upcoming free agent. A healthy Tate will certainly get more work than he did in 2012, but not enough to make him look like a feature back.
133 carries, 627 yards, 4 TDs rushing, 27 receptions, 202 yards
Karim is not the sort of one-cut runner that thrives in the Houston zone-blocking system. His style is to look for the hole and just go through it.
He is the veteran who is simply the best choice for the No. 3 job when compared to all the undrafted rookies in training camp. His skill at kickoff returns could come in handy if risking Danieal Manning in that role seems ill-advised.
51 carries, 247 yards, 1 TD rushing, 11 receptions, 83 yards, 1 TD receiving
If the NFL recorded pancake-blocks, then the fullback imported from the Jacksonville Jaguars might have a stat line to match his impressive physique. He will still get a few chances to lend a hand beyond clearing the way for the ball carriers.
5 carries, 16 yards, 9 receptions, 56 yards
The time has come to spread the wealth, No. 80. You had a remarkable season for a 31-year-old receiver, yet the payoff for 112 receptions was just four touchdowns.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required for Premium Stats) had you ranked as the top receiver in the league, even though the 27 passes thrown for 20 or more yards in your direction led to just nine receptions.
Your request for the team to draft another wide receiver was answered when DeAndre Hopkins joined the team. Matt Schaub’s favorite target in the short-to-medium range will still be your primary job description. Those days of 100-plus receptions are a thing of the past.
98 receptions, 1,342 yards, 7 TDs
His 34-yard touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason opener was a thing of beauty, a reception that would elude the majority of those who call themselves "receivers." Hopefully, it was just a preview of a 10-year highlight reel.
42 receptions, 512 yards, 6 TDs
As opposed to Hopkins, Martin’s hands were the downfall of his rookie campaign. He caught just 10 of his 28 targets according to Yahoo Situational Stats. His hands were not a problem at Michigan State, so the adjustment to the professional game messed with his ball skills.
His 4.4-second 40-yard speed represents the kind of quickness a slot receiver needs to make those quick cuts in traffic. The No. 3 spot is his to claim provided he holds on to the rock.
37 receptions, 418 yards, 3 TDs
The 6’3” Jean is easy to spot downfield, with good hands and a loping gate that eats up yardage. He has eight catches to go with two touchdowns in the preseason.
The numbers game at wide receiver will push him into the fourth spot. He has been targeted more than anyone else in the first two games, so the coaches are trying to find where he fits on this team.
19 receptions, 276 yards, 2 TDs
It took Posey just over seven months to recover from the torn Achilles tendon he damaged in the 2013 playoffs. He came off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on August 19 according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.
His status for this week’s game versus the New Orleans Saints has not been decided. It is clear he is still in the hunt for a spot on the active roster. Posey had jumped ahead of Martin and Jean on the depth chart towards the end of 2012, but is more likely to be battling Jean to be the first outside receiver off the bench.
21 receptions, 298 yards, 2 TDs
There was a time when the No. 2 receiver on every team was the wideout opposite the No. 1 guy. Nowadays, it is probably the tight end.
Tight ends have always been bigger than any defensive back. The contemporary edition is also quick enough to get into his pattern and cut sharp enough to leave the cover man in the dust.
This describes Daniels, who is both Matt Schaub’s security blanket and chief target in the red zone. This will also make him the second leading receiver on the Texans again this season.
70 receptions, 763 yards, 5 TDs
Graham is the same size as Daniels, also attended the University of Wisconsin and has that knack for operating over the midlands where tight ends make their living.
The only factor that distinguishes one Badger from another is that Graham has been known to attempt an NFL-caliber block at times. That makes him even more valuable in goal-to-go situations, but does nothing for his stat line.
33 receptions, 383 yards, 4 TDs
The rookie drafted out of Connecticut is not as good working in space as his cohorts at the position, nor is he particularly quick in the open field.
What he does bring is size (6’6”, 250 pounds), excellent hand-eye coordination that allows him to adjust to awkward throws and the potential to add more weight for goal-line packages. For a team that loves tight ends, Griffin is just different enough to be worth a roster spot and some real reps.
18 receptions, 165 yards, 1 TD
The nose tackle for the Houston Texans is not supposed to be noticed. He is expected to fully occupy an offensive lineman so that a defensive end is not double-teamed.
In that regard, Mitchell is more than up to the task. He is not as thick as Vince Wilfork or Haloti Ngata, but is stout enough to keep the center or a guard busy. One benefit of the position is that he rotates with his backup on a regular basis so his stamina does not fade.
510 snaps, 33 tackles
Coming into training camp, none of the candidates that would relieve Mitchell seemed worthy of the job. Assigning defensive end Jared Crick the job would free a roster spot for another outside linebacker or safety.
Then McClain tallied 2.5 sacks against the Vikings in the preseason and people started taking notice. He followed that up with a creditable outing in the Miami Dolphins game and now the job appears to be his to lose.
220 snaps, 10 tackles
How do you follow up what could be a once-in-a-lifetime season by a defensive lineman? You become the founding member of the 20-20-20 club.
In an interview with Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, Watt has set a goal of 20 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and 20 batted balls. An admirable ambition, but virtually impossible to achieve given the history of the NFL.
With all due respect to the late Deacon Jones, no player has ever had back-to-back 20-sack seasons. The closest anyone has come is Mark Gastineau, who had 22 and 19 in 1983 and 1984, respectively.
With all the attention Watt will receive from opposing linemen, the following stat line will still be a great follow-up season.
900 snaps, 71 tackles, 12 sacks, 14 passes defended
What Smith does at the other defensive end spot is essential to the success of Watt and the entire defense.
When there a two hotshot pass rushers coming after you, the offense has to account for both attackers on every passing down. The Ninja Assassin does not go about his business with the stealth of a true ninjutsu practitioner, and the Dolphins’ Richie Incognito knows it.
Thanks to Incognito’s provocation, Watt’s partner in crime will be doing some time. Luckily, his three-game suspension only includes the regular season opener in San Diego.
750 snaps, 40 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 passes defended
Jamison was on his way to outplaying the contract he signed in 2012 when his Achilles tendon was torn. But he is back and ready to build on the solid contributions he made as the top reserve at his position.
The Texans now have the most solid rotation at defensive line in the history of the team. Jamison made it all the way from being an undrafted free agent to securing a roster spot in 2009, and now is in his fifth season with the Texans.
250 snaps, 22 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 passes defended
Crick was considered a bargain in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. He dropped because it was believed that much of his stellar play at Nebraska was due to being on the same line as Ndamukong Suh.
It turns out that Crick is strong at the point of attack all on his own. What he needs to develop is something more than a power rush when it comes to getting after the quarterback.
210 snaps, 18 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended
Now that “Cush” is back, everything should be rosy with the defense. As great as he may be, his loss was not the downfall of the defense.
The run defense did suffer but still finished seventh in yardage allowed. The pass rush from the entire linebacker corps was the most affected factor in his absence.
Pressure from the interior helps free up the outside linebackers, and Cushing is one of the best at bringing the heat from the inside. His efforts are best measured in quarterback pressures and hits, which are not official statistics.
880 snaps, 88 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 passes defended
This cap casualty from the Denver Broncos could end up being a godsend for Houston. If he manages to stay on the field, that is.
He is expected to start in place of Darryl Sharpton, who has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons. The 2012 season was cut short for Mays by a broken ankle in Week 7. This occurred after being named the starter at middle linebacker for the first time in his career.
Mays may only be a two-down linebacker, but will have to be more durable or else the Texans will face the same shortage on the inside once more. The depth at this position is no better this year than last.
480 snaps, 67 tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defended
Dobbins is another inside linebacker who suffered a season-ending injury in 2012. His did not take place until Week 14, but his presence could have had an impact in the playoffs.
Special teams suffered in his absence and forced Barrett Ruud to play beyond his capacities. He needs to make it through the entire schedule or the Texans will be forced to scour the waiver wire for another experienced replacement. And the team could suffer the same consequences as last year.
150 snaps, 19 tackles
It sounds like an iPod stuck on replay, but Sharpton’s situation is the most unpredictable of the entire group.
He had a hip injury in 2012 that kept him on the PUP list until Week 14. Injured reserve was his next destination, where he remained through OTAs. His groin was injured while preparing for training camp, but he has been practicing with the team since August 4.
If Sharpton can just stay healthy, he is a fast and fierce hitter. Just give him a full season and his stat line would make him a worthwhile addition.
290 snaps, 33 tackles, 1 pass defended
Mercilus is replacing Connor Barwin, who last year failed to come close to his 11.5 sacks in the 2011 season. The new “Will” or weak side linebacker is expected to build upon the six sacks registered in his ledger while backing up Barwin.
This particular position is supposed to generate a significant portion of the pass rush. It will have to live up to that expectation in addition to sealing the edge against the run and supplying some acceptable pass coverage. All in all, this is one of the more demanding roles on the defense.
910 snaps, 32 tackles, 7 sacks, 2 passes defended
Reed and Barwin were two of a kind, each falling short of their efforts from the previous season. The “Sam” or strong side linebacker of 2012 is back in the same spot, hoping for bigger and better things.
Since his pass rush is what fell off the most, Reed was thought to be better off at inside linebacker. There may be some formations where he plays alongside Cushing so that one or both could shoot the “A” gaps.
600 snaps, 22 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 passes defended
Special teams were a disaster for the Texans in 2012, and that is where Braman’s speed and passion for contact are needed. He may be a little too lean for regular work at outside linebacker.
The NFL is a situational league now, and what Braman brings could be useful in the proper time and place. Whenever Wade Phillips feels like bringing more than five pass rushers is when this special teams demon would be asked to fill in.
120 snaps, 9 tackles, 1 sack
This undrafted free agent is another one of those rare long shots that just might make it. He has been trying to eat his way into a job, and has gotten his weight up to 250 pounds without losing any of his exceptional foot speed.
Jefferson has actually exceeded the progress of draftees Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams. An active roster spot would earn him some situational snaps just like Bryan Braman.
250 snaps, 12 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass defended
Williams has found playing in the chaos of the strong side outside linebacker a tough transition. In college, he could use his speed to get upfield and not worry about anything else.
Now he has certain responsibilities whether a run or pass is the call. Coverage is a tough chore for any linebacker, as is sorting through the trash to get to the runner. Special teams will be his primary task while he learns the tricks of his new trade.
130 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 sack
The LSU product is in the same boat as Williams, except on the left side of the defense. He has a little less coverage to deal with, and a little more pass rushing to do.
Montgomery has been accused of being out of shape upon his arrival in Houston, and was injured during the Texans’ first practice. He has two more preseason games to show he has at least learned something along the way.
160 snaps, 8 tackles
Jackson has come a long way since the days of 2010, when he was a 20-yard completion waiting to happen. His pairing with Johnathan Joseph could be the best pair of cornerbacks not playing their home games in Seattle.
At this rate, his learning curve could propel him into Pro Bowl consideration.
980 snaps, 68 tackles, 14 passes defended, 5 INTs
It took not one, but two sports hernia to turn Joseph into an average player. Assuming they are healed, he can now join Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman in the “Who is the best shutdown corner debate?”
Only Joseph will do it with a little more class.
1,030 snaps, 62 tackles, 17 passes defended, 2 INTs
While much was made about the injuries to Cushing and Joseph, little was said about the loss of McCain. It was not that the Texans’ slot cornerback was having such a great year, he was irreplaceable.
It was the fact that Brandon Harris, who had barely played a down in his brief career, was asked to step in. If McCain can regain his form of 2011, the middle of the field will no longer be a feeding ground for slot receivers.
520 snaps, 28 tackles, 11 passes defended, 1 INT
This team needs a No. 4 cornerback, and Harris is the man for now. He was thrown into the fire last season and it would be easy to say he got burned.
The question is whether he has the ability to flip his hips and keep up with the receiver. A slot cornerback has to wait until his man commits to a direction before he can decide to cover him. Harris needs to work on his flexibility and cut down on his reaction time.
140 snaps, 17 tackles, 3 passes defended
Reed is supposed to be in the final stages of his recovery from hip surgery, as per Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. The next step, according to Gary Kubiak, is for him to ”start working toward hopefully getting back on the field.”
The answer is about as muddy as the nature of the injury. The complete lack of any timetable for his return makes his stat line little more than guesswork.
680 snaps, 40 tackles, 10 passes defended, 3 INTs
Until Reed makes an appearance, Manning is the mainstay of this group. He played deep safety most of the time in 2012, but may spend more time in the box when teamed up with Shiloh Keo.
Manning will tell you 2012 was not his best season, and will be out to make amends no matter where he plays.
1,050 snaps, 70 tackles, 6 passes defended, 2 INTs
It only took until the second preseason game for Swearinger to make the “Most Wanted List.” His knee-high hit on Dustin Keller of the Miami Dolphins blew out every major ligament in the joint.
While a perfectly legal hit, tight end Tony Gonzalez laid into Swearinger by saying, "That was ridiculous on his part. It should be a fineable offense. That's just not part of football—hitting a defenseless player in his knee, that's something we all dread as players. That's my nightmare. Hit me in my head (instead)."
Will the criticism affect how the rookie plays the game? It will certainly be on his mind.
490 snaps, 38 tackles, 5 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 sack
Keo has gone from being the fourth safety last season to starting both preseason games. He has Ed Reed and Glover Quin to thank for that.
We all know Reed is hurt and Quin took the big deal in Detroit to be their starting strong safety. Whether Keo sees a lot of playing time while Reed gets up to speed is all part of this guessing game.
290 snaps, 31 tackles, 2 passes defended
Next to Ed Reed, Bullock is the biggest wild card in camp. He not only lacks experience, there is no veteran mentor in camp to help him through the rough spots.
Bullock has hit on three of his four field goals, but the 54-yard miss was woefully short. The leg strength needed to get his kickoffs into the end zone has been erratic.
Extra points 51 for 51, field goals 27 for 35, 132 total points
If Bullock amounts to an unknown quantity, at least Lechler is totally “known.”
Now that Ray Guy is under consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Lechler has another Oakland Raider paving the way for him. He should add to his credentials while here in Houston.
46.9 average, 40.2 net, 24 kicks inside the 20, 7 touchbacks