With the Texans’ final preseason game canceled, head coach Bill O’Brien, general manager Rick Smith and their staffs have seen all that they can to make the final decisions on which players make the 2017 Houston Texans. The deadline is Saturday night.
These choices are extremely tough, and Hurricane Harvey complicates matters significantly. Players returned to their families today and now must wait to hear if they still have a job as they assess their homes and lives. The National Football League is a heartless business.
After following along during training camp and watching each preseason game, here’s who I think makes the team.
Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden
Savage is the starting quarterback, Watson is the quarterback heir-apparent, and Weeden is insurance. Despite the national hoopla, the Texans’ quarterback situation is far from a competition. We know O’Brien likes to carry three quarterbacks, but we also know that O’Brien doesn’t hesitate to yank a passer underperforming. Regardless, these three will be on the roster all season.
Running Back (5)
Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, Akeem Hunt
The back end of the running back rotation has been an interesting competition; Blue has been hurt, Foreman has shined, and Ervin and Hunt have showcased their speed and agility. In the end, Ervin’s versatility and Hunt’s playmaking ability keep both on the roster. Dare Ogumbowale has competed admirably and is a practice squad candidate but could easily be snatched up by another team.
The Texans are carrying a fullback. End of discussion. They also just gave Prosch a contract extension.
Wide Receiver (5)
DeAndre Hopkins, Braxton Miller, Jaelen Strong, Bruce Ellington, Dres Anderson
Will Fuller and Wendall Williams could both end up on Injured Reserve to make the numbers work. With Hopkins and Miller missing time with injuries this preseason, Ellington has stepped up and made enough plays to make this team. His speed fills a necessary void with Fuller hurt. Anderson rounds out the group with a standout training camp preceding a strong preseason.
Tight End (3)
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin, Stephen Anderson
No surprises here. The only question mark is Fiedorowicz’s health.
Offensive Line (9)
Duane Brown, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Nick Martin, Jeff Allen, Chris Clark, Greg Mancz, David Quessenberry, Julién Davenport, Kendall Lamm
The offensive line play this preseason has been far from satisfactory—the unit misses Duane Brown badly. For the Texans’ offense to have any success moving the ball, pass protection in particular needs to improve. The two best players this preseason on this line play the same position: center, with Martin and Mancz pushing each other to get the best out of each other.
Defensive Line (6)
J.J. Watt, D.J. Reader, Christian Covington, Carlos Watkins, Brandon Dunn, Joel Heath
In limited playing time this preseason, Watt has exceeded my expectations. Despite Reader’s questionable scientific beliefs, he’s a great run stuffer and should fill the retired Vince Wilfork’s shoes admirably.
Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing, Bernardrick McKinney, Whitney Mercilus, Brennan Scarlett, Zach Cunningham, Brian Peters, Dylan Cole, Ufomba Kamalu
Clowney’s role in this defense is flexible; he could line up standing and with his hand on the ground on consecutive plays. The Texans’ official roster lists him as an outside linebacker though, so he fits in here. Cole has been a tackling machine in the preseason, and Kamalu has consistently made enough plays to make this team.
Jonathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Kevin Johnson, Andre Hal, Corey Moore, Treston Decoud, K.J. Dillon, Eddie Pleasant, Kurtis Drummond
Hal received a contract extension Thursday and is an underrated sideline-to-sideline free safety. Moore must step up and fill the void of Quinton Demps, now with the Chicago Bears.
Nick Novak, Shane Lechler, Jon Weeks
Novak has his critics in Houston, but he was consistent this preseason and won the kicking job. Lechler is still one of the best punters in the game, and if you haven’t heard of Weeks, that’s a great sign that he belongs on this team.