Pat Sullivan/Associated Press
At the moment, Brandon Harris is the presumed primary slot cornerback more by default than anything he's done on the field to earn the spot.
The Texans didn't draft a single corner during the 2013 draft, released Brice McCain and didn't select a corner until the seventh-round of this year's draft; you could say they have a few question marks at the position.
The biggest of all, of course, is who they will put on the field as their slot corner.
Coach O'Brien mentioned several times during the offseason that he believes 70 percent of the game on defense will be played in nickel, dime or some other form of a sub-package. If this holds true, the Texans third cornerback will have a vital role this season.
His statement rings true to me because many teams—especially successful teams—use different variations of a spread offense with three or four receivers on the field at any given time. If the offense isn't in a base package with either 12, 21 or 22 personnel, then the defense shouldn't be in their base formation either.
How well they can pull this off will come down to the production from their slot cornerback. The Texans have many options for the spot, but none of the players being considered have NFL experience as a tested and reliable player in the slot.
Most people seem to assume that Harris will be the guy because of his experience, but I'm not sure what experience they're referring to. He has been on the roster for three years, but he's never started a game and wasn't even active for half of the team's games over his first two seasons.
Andre Hal and A.J. Bouye are very much alive in the competition, and both have a legit chance to win the job if they outperform Harris during training camp and the preseason.
While Harris may be the likely starter, he's not entrenched at his position like some other veterans.
One wrench that might get tossed in could be if none of those listed options perform well, Kareem Jackson could slide over to the slot, with a reserve corner taking his spot on the outside where they might be better suited.
Jackson will still be one of the team's starters on the outside, but he did spend some time working in the slot during offseason practices.
Coach O'Brien spoke about the position and Jackson's possible hybrid role to Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com:
A slot corner has to have quickness, has to have strength, has to have awareness and has to be able to, relative to the strength, be able to tackle. Because they can be a force player verses certain formations. It is a position that is very tough to play. When you have a guy like Kareem (Jackson) that is doing that for us right now, who can play outside and inside, he's a guy that is playing inside for us too.
Unless Harris, Bouye or Hal—the latter two are likely a better fit on the outside—step up and blow everyone away during camp and the preseason, Jackson could receive a decent chunk of playing time in the slot this season.
The potential scenario could be that when they go to their nickel package with three cornerbacks, Johnathan Joseph would stay on the outside, Jackson would move inside to the slot and Bouye, Elbert Mack or Hal would take over Jackson's spot on the outside for that play or series.
From P.D. Starr of State of the Texans, Bouye could be a nice fit on the outside when Jackson moves to the slot:
The rangy corner has good instincts but was primarily a special teams player in 2013. However, this season he has the makings for a solid backup as a boundary cornerback. If Bouye can prove he can provide a difference in the secondary, it could move Jackson inside when the Texans go three cornerbacks.
While one player will eventually be named the primary slot corner, this battle won't end during training camp or the preseason.
With the options available, I would be surprised if one player out of the group was able to set himself apart as clearly the best. The battle will continue into the season with the gig up for grabs from week to week, depending on who plays better.
Predicted Winner: Brandon Harris—for now.