Predicting 53-Man Roster for the Houston Texans
Matt Schaub, if healthy, will be the clear starter for the Texans in the upcoming season. T.J. Yates also will have his job as the backup completely secure.
After the injuries to Schaub and Matt Leinart, Yates was given the chance to be an NFL quarterback. He went on to lead the Texans to their first ever playoff berth, as well as the franchise's first playoff victory. There will be absolutely no question over his role as the backup quarterback.
Now, after Yates, the drama starts to unfold. The Texans picked up Case Keenum, a local hero from the University of Houston, in the undrafted free-agent market. Keenum left the NCAA with multiple records, including the most yards thrown by a QB, but experts believe that he will not be able to translate his game to the higher level.
The Texans also signed John Beck, the veteran quarterback who competed for the Washington Redskins' starting job with Rex Grossman last year. Beck was brought in to compete with Keenum for the third quarterback job, and also provide a veteran presence for the young quarterbacks on the roster.
In the end, however, I believe the Texans will pick Keenum to be their third-string quarterback, as he has a much brighter NFL future than Beck, and he might be able to push Yates to improve even further.
Running Back (Five)
The roles for the No. 1 and No. 2 running backs are pretty much set in stone. Arian Foster, the winner of the NFL rushing title in 2010, is believed to be one of the best running backs in the NFL, and the starting job is clearly his. Ben Tate almost rushed for 1,000 yards last season as the backup to Foster, and he definitely has the talent to be a starting running back in the NFL.
Last season, Derrick Ward was a consistent and reliable third-string running back for the Texans, but he is now an unrestricted free agent with no telling what team he will sign with.
If Ward does not re-sign, which he will not if cannot find a backup job elsewhere, then the slot for the third-string back is wide open. The competition will most likely be between Javarris Williams, Jonathan Grimes and Davin Meggett.
In this situation, I believe Grimes will be the favorite for the last roster spot for a halfback. He was a workhorse who could do it all in the NCAA. He finished his career as the all-time leading rusher in FCS history, and he is also extremely effective out of the backfield. He is a north-south runner who can easily provide relief for Foster and Tate in blowout games.
When the Texans open up Week 1 versus the Miami Dolphins, James Casey will be the starting fullback. Casey, however, will be needed to contribute as a tight end as well, due to the loss of Joel Dreessen in free agency. Furthermore, Casey is smaller and less strong than a prototypical NFL fullback, and he is not the best in power-running situations.
Therefore, the Texans need to utilize a backup fullback who can play consistently when Casey is lining up as a tight end, and also be a force in short-yardage situations.
Jason Ford is that guy.
He is big, strong and has the potential to be an excellent run-blocker in the NFL. He will likely be Casey's backup come Week 1.
The race for the third-spot in the receiving corps will be the main position battle of the offseason for Houston.
Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter have the No. 1 and No. 2 spots locked up, but there are a multitude of young, aspiring receivers who will all have an equal opportunity to compete for the third and final starting job.
The two main candidates are Lestar Jean, the training-camp breakout player of 2011, and DeVier Posey, the receiver out of Ohio State that the Texans selected in the third round of the NFL draft.
In my opinion, Jean will claim the last starting role, due to his excellent performance in training camp last season before his injury. Furthermore, Houston Texans report that Gary Kubiak has said that he is contemplating a number of receivers for the starting job, but he believes that Jean is the top candidate.
Keshawn Martin, although not the most NFL-ready receiver, will earn a roster spot primarily because of his returning skills. He flashed play-making ability at Michigan State, and if he can translate that ability to the NFL, he will be an adequate replacement for Jacoby Jones as the team's punt returner.
Martin might also claim the role as the team's kick returner, as the Texans might not want to risk an injury to their starting free safety and current kick returner, Danieal Manning.
Dwight Jones, an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina, is a likely candidate for the last roster spot for a wide receiver. He is extremely tall and strong, and he has the potential to be a great red-zone target in the NFL. He also has chemistry with backup quarterback T.J. Yates, as they played together at UNC.
Tight End (Three)
With the loss of Joel Dreessen in free agency, there will be a tight end on the roster this year who was not on it last season.
Owen Daniels, the Pro Bowl tight end, will have the starting job, and last year's third-stringer, Garrett Graham, will probably win the backup role.
Since the tight end position is a main feature of the Texans' offense, there is an important need for a third-string tight end who can contribute in some way to the offense.
Two undrafted free agents, Logan Brock and Phillip Supernaw, will be the main competitors for the third-string slot. While Supernaw has the potential to be a dependable and also explosive pass-catching tight end in the NFL, Brock offers something much more immediate to the Texans: blocking.
Brock is a very hard-working blocker who fights constantly to gain positioning on his opponents. He shows great technique, and he has the athleticism to get to the second level in blocking situations. The Texans' offense runs through its rushing attack, and there is always a need to add talented blockers to the offense. Brock can provide just that.
Offensive Line (Nine)
—Derek Newton (G/T)
The Texans had one of the most efficient offensive lines in the NFL last season, and they believe that the losses of starters Mike Brisiel and Eric Winston in the offseason will not hurt the rushing attack. The coaching staff has reiterated the fact that Antoine Caldwell and Rashad Butler are more than capable of filling in for Brisiel and Winston.
Brandon Brooks, however, is a freak of nature who will certainly push Caldwell for the starting job at right guard. Brooks combines his incredible size and surprising athleticism to dominate his opponents at the point of attack and open up holes for the running back. The Texans believe that Brooks may turn out to be one of the biggest steals in the draft, and they are hopeful that he will be a valuable player for them in the upcoming season.
Derek Newton is a swing lineman who can play both guard and tackle. He is an effective backup who can contribute from anywhere on the offensive line.
Nick Mondek and Ben Jones were both drafted this year because they have the skill set to help them excel in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme. They are both not the most skilled or athletic linemen, but they will be able to take what skills they do have and utilize them to their full potential in the Texans' blocking scheme.
Defensive Line (Six)
Defensive End (Four)
Nose Tackle (Two)
Other than the addition of Jared Crick, a player who is considered to be one of the biggest steals in the later rounds of the 2012 NFL draft, the Texans' defensive line will not change at all from last season.
Crick will become part of a three-man rotation with current starting defensive ends J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith. He will be expected to bring fresh legs onto the field and use his energy to get after the quarterback.
Tim Jamison will receive decreased minutes from last season as a result of the addition of Crick, and he will not likely play in crucial parts of any game.
Although the Texans were expected to shore up their nose tackle position this offseason, it has remained unchanged from last season. Shaun Cody will be the starter, and Earl Mitchell will be his replacement off the bench.
Middle Linebacker (Four)
Outside Linebacker (Four)
There will be absolutely no drama over the starting jobs at any linebacker position. Brian Cushing and Bradie James will be the starters at middle linebacker, with Darryl Sharpton being a proven backup who will receive a good number of minutes off the bench. Mister Alexander, a surprising rookie for the Texans last season, will primarily be used on special teams.
The same philosophy that will most likely be applied to the middle linebacker group will also be applied to the outside linebacker group. Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed, the relentless pass-rushers for the Texans last season, will be guaranteed the starting jobs. Whitney Mercilus, the Texans' first-round pick this year, will be utilized in a three-man rotation with Barwin and Reed. Also, Bryan Braman, a special teams stud for the Texans last season, will be used in pretty much the same role that he was used in last season.
Behind Jonathan Joseph, the Texans have a bevy of young cornerbacks who have yet to prove themselves completely in their short NFL careers.
Kareem Jackson, the bane of the Texans' defense, will be the starter in the No. 2 slot at the beginning of the season. The Texans' coaching staff is hoping that the former first-round pick will be able to put his past problems behind him in a full offseason working with Vance Joseph and Wade Phillips.
Brandon Harris, the Texans' second-round pick from last season's draft, will be expected to play the same role that Jason Allen played before he left in free agency for the Cincinnati Bengals. Allen was a security blanket for Jackson last season, and if Jackson cannot improve his skills, Harris will have to step up his game after a disappointing rookie season.
Brice McCain is an undersized corner who is utilized mainly in nickel situations. He is excellent at guarding the opposing team's slot receiver, and he is an integral part of the Texans' defense.
Roc Carmichael and Sherrick McManis are both young corners who are hoping they can prove they have what it takes to succeed in the NFL. Carmichael showed potential is rookie year last season, and there is a very good possibility that he may claim the job as Jackson's backup, and maybe his eventual replacement.
Free Safety (Two)
—Troy Nolan (FS/SS)
Strong Safety (Two)
—Quintin Demps (FS/SS)
The Texans' personnel at their safety positions are sound and solid. At free safety, Danieal Manning is both a hard-hitter and a playmaker. He had three interceptions last season, and he was very effective in contributing to the Texans' rush defense. Manning is an important part of the Texans' defense, and he was a key pickup in free agency last offseason.
Glover Quin, at strong safety, was a converted cornerback for the Texans two seasons ago when they ranked dead last in the NFL versus the pass. With the addition of Jonathan Joseph in the offseason, Quin was given the opportunity to move back to his natural position of safety, and he had a very successful season playing strong safety. He was excellent in coverage, and he really helped to bolster the Texans' secondary.
Quintin Demps and Troy Nolan both received plenty of playing time last season when Danieal Manning missed several games due to injury. While the injury of Manning was expected to harm the Texans' defense, there actually appeared to be little to no adverse affects at all.
Demps and Nolan both jointly filled in for Manning, and they both played well enough to make sure the red-hot Texans' defense did not miss a step. Both Demps and Nolan have proven that they can be quality backups for an already strong position on the Texans' defense.
Special Teams (Three)
The Texans are hoping that Randy Bullock will not only adequately replace Neil Rackers, but also surpass Rackers' contribution to the Texans' offense in the near future.
Houston drafted Bullock in the fifth round, and he was one of the most accurate field-goal kickers in college football during his career. He definitely has the ability and the leg to earn the starting job and out-compete veteran Shayne Graham in the offseason.
Donnie Jones is a veteran punter whom the Texans signed to fill in for Brett Hartmann while he serves his four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Hartmann had a very successful rookie year last season, and he will most likely reclaim his role as the starting punter when he returns to the team.