The Houston Texans are now a little over a week into training camp and another week away from their first preseason game. In preparation for this, the team has posted the first official depth chart since the end of the 2010 season.
There is a certain amount of turnover for NFL teams from year to year, but the Texans have experienced more than the average amount.
Even though Gary Kubiak kept his job despite a 6-10 record, the entire defensive coaching staff was overhauled to include defensive coordinator Wade Phillips who instituted his 3-4 defense.
With this transition, there is destined to be a certain amount of change to the personnel. Some personnel decisions on the depth chart are certainly intriguing though, for many different reasons.
Below are the ones that stuck out to me the most, complete with reasoning.
Kareem Jackson, LCB/first
Jackson might be the most unpopular sports figure in Houston. Jackson’s terrible play in his rookie year has made him the poster child for the historically bad pass defense of 2010.
Many Texans fans are ready after just one year to write the embattled first-rounder off.
I’m not ready to say that there is no hope for Jackson, but that doesn’t mean that he should be in the starting lineup. Jason Allen isn’t a great cover corner, but at this point, he is certainly better than Jackson.
A former first-rounder himself, Allen is inconsistent with his play. The long rangy corner relies on his athleticism rather than sound technique as evident in the fact that he can make a spectacular interception and get burnt in the same game.
Still, six interceptions last season show the ball skills that make him a better starting option.
Dorin Dickerson, WR1/second
The battle for the fourth wide receiver spot has been one of the best position battles in training camp thus far.
Dickerson has been locked into a tight race with undrafted rookies Terrence Tolliver and Lester Jean. It looks for the time being that Dickerson might come out on top.
Dickerson was practically an undrafted free agent himself taken in the seventh round, so it’s not as if the Texans are giving him the job because they have more invested in him.
Dickerson has so much physical upside, but being raw kept him off the field in 2010. After a redshirt year though, my bet is that Dorin keeps the fourth receiver spot.
Earl Mitchell, NT/second
Texans fans scoffed at the notion of not signing a nose tackle in the draft or free agency. They scoffed when Shaun Cody was re-signed to play the position. It appears as though Texans management is going to ride out the notion of Cody starting until the bitter end.
I don’t think that Cody is terrible, but I certainly don’t think he has any business starting at the defensive tackle position whether in the 3-4 or 4-3 in the NFL. Earl Mitchell is an unproven commodity at the position, but he certainly shows much more upside than Cody ever has.
The Texans coaching staff to include Gary Kubiak have been raving about Mitchell since camp started. I think that Mitchell is a favorite of Wade Phillips, and the only reason he is listed with second string is to get him more reps during preseason games or possibly to motivate him. Mitchell will most likely be the week one starter.
Ben Tate, RB/fourth
How bad is Ben Tate in Gary Kubiak’s doghouse? Bad enough that Steve Slaton and his chronic fumbling problems that are apparently ongoing are listed in front of him at a suddenly packed running back position.
Kubiak didn’t like a lot about the way that Tate practiced while in camp last year, and that has apparently carried over to this season. Tate’s hamstring has kept him from seeing meaningful reps this camp, and Kubiak has made his displeasure known.
The truth is that Tate is the second most talented back on the team. Given Arian Foster’s injury history and amount of touches that he had last year, I wouldn’t be shocked if Tate had a decent amount of playing time this season.
He needs to get healthy though and prove to Kubiak that he is willing to put in the work.
Sherrick McManis, RCB/third
McManis listed on the third string is just as surprising and disconcerting to me as seeing Brice McCain listed on the second squad as the dime corner. I’ve heard that McCain is having a decent camp this season, but I don’t care.
This might seem hypocritical given my earlier stance on Jackson, but the fact is that even though Kareem is the lightning rod for fans’ ire, McCain was much worse last season. At least Jackson has physical upside, whereas McCain has...the luck to get drafted?
McManis is a favorite of a lot of people that I trust. He is very valuable on special teams and has much more upside as a cover corner.
Given a little experience, I think McManis could be an infinitely better option as the dime corner.
Darius Morris, RG/first
When the depth chart was first posted this morning, there were several obvious glitches. Glover Quin, for example, was still listed as a corner back rather than safety.
Even though they fixed the other glitches, Morris is still listed at RG ahead of Mike Brisiel and Antoine Caldwell.
This has to be a mistake. Or a motivational tool.
I haven’t heard anything, positive or negative, about Morris in camp so I don’t think he’s played nearly well enough to claim that job. You just don’t replace two rotational linemen on a line that produced a league leading rusher the year before with an undrafted rookie.
Has to be a mistake.
Brett Hartman, P/1st
That’s right, there’s a punting battle brewing.
Maynard was signed from the Bears at the beginning of camp, but Hartman is young and apparently has been out-kicking the veteran. It’s not as if Maynard has the skills to make irreplaceable.
There’s my initial thoughts and surprises on the Texans depth chart, what are yours? Let me know either in the comments or on Twitter (@JakeBRB).