11 Texans questions ahead of training camp

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There's plenty more questions around the Texans but this is about the almost 90 men scheduled to take the field this week with hopes of making that finale 53.

Who benefits from Clowney's absence?

Brennan Scarlett and Whitney Mercilus are the two main benefactors. They will each get opportunities to be Clowney in camp and the team has to prepare as if their franchise tagged defender isn't showing anytime soon.

For Scarlett, he has a chance to continue to elevate his game and become a key piece on this team. He has had a few big plays but adding some more the resume would go a very long way. He's shown a flash of being able to cover from the outside spot and if he can continue that success that is a weapon for the defense.

With Mercilus, he gets to be Whitney Mercilus. I can't explain how or why the Texans used him the way they did last season. It seemed like a waste of what he does best which is rush the passer. Letting Mercilus rush the passer is the best use of him.

What will Will look like?

​Will Fuller should be ready from day one. That is great news considering he had an injury that ended his 2018 campaign. I can make a solid argument he is one of the most important players on this team. He might not be a full participant for the whole camp, but showing signs of the game breaking talent he possess will be a fun watch.

Who is Johnathan Joseph's starting partner at corner?

Yet another season sees Joseph manning one side of the field. Who ends up across from him is your guess as good as mine. Aaron Colvin might be better suited for inside play. Bradley Roby is a big-ticket free agent. Lonnie Johnson Jr. is a player the Texans would love to see end up there. If I had to guess, Roby is the guy but let's see what camp delivers to us.

Tytus time?

Will the first round pick, the much criticsized first round pick, play left tackle? Will he play right tackle? Will he play tackle at all? Those are all sub questions of this big question. Where he lines up now might not be where he lines up week one.

Scharping enough to cut?

This isn't so much about Scharping as much as if the team will have enough faith in the second round pick. If he is serviceable from day one, it could spell doom for some veterans vying for a spot. His potential versatility across the line could mean Matt Kalil, Seantrell Henderson, or Senio Kelemete are on their way out.

Keke are you healthy? 

Training camp was almost wasted for Coutee last year due to injury. It is simple, if he is healthy he's one of the most dangerous players on the offense. If he isn't healthy he leaves one of the biggest holes on the offense. There isn't anyone close to being able to replicate his production.

Four and five who's alive?

The Texans did a poor job with the makeup of their wide receiver room coming out of camp. Coutee's injury put them in a bind but Sammie Coates never made it on the field and Bruce Ellington didn't work as intended. They have a chance to better themselves and I will say, they clearly saw something in Smith as he made the team. Smith looks worlds better than his rookie year. A totally different wideout. If it is as simple as DeAndre Carter here, then so be it. But, if not then Tyron Johnson and Johnnie Dixon could sneak onto the team.

Who will return?

I have no idea who will be the returners for this team. This will be one of the better battles but DeAndre Carter should be the favorite if he gets on the field fast enough. It wouldn't shock me to see a lot of different guys get a turn trying to win this job. Ultimately, if Carter could solidify the spot, it would help the Texans a lot.

I Don't Know is third

I don't believe the team's third running back is on this team right now. If he is, we could see treatment of the running back room a lot like last year where they lean primarily on just the top two backs. Buddy Howell doesn't seem like he is going to ever get a chance to carry the ball so he is barely considered a running back. If I had to pick before any action I would say Josh Ferguson.

Will he be a factor?

Cullen Gillaspia is on this team as a fullback and special teams ace. But will he matter? Will he get the chance to impress with his athleticism on offense? Can he learn the position further after playing it just one season in college? He's a new-age fullback so hopefully the Texans treat him as such.

Who is a long shot to roster spot?

Chris Johnson is a safety from North Alabama. He is 6'3" and ran some fast 40 times in the lead up to the draft. There is room for an athletic special team player who could learn the safety spot over the course of the season. Johnny Dwight played at Alabama. You don't play at Alabama unless there is something there. He didn't play a ton, but Nick Saban let him stick around.

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Life after Correa may not be the worst thing. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Carlos Correa is having a damn good year. The Astros shortstop is hitting .285 with 24 homers, 87 RBI, 72 walks, .862 OPS, a 7.2 WAR, and a .981 fielding percentage. In any other year, those would be numbers worthy of being in the mix for AL MVP (if it weren't for that dastardly Shohei Otani). Correa is also in a contract year. He and the Astros were far enough apart that the season started and he's held true to not wanting to negotiate midseason.

The offers of six years for $120 million and five years for $125 million were both rejected by he and his camp. They're seeking something much longer and for more money on the annual average. With the team unwilling to meet those demands, it seems as if the team and the player are headed for a split.

Lots of Astros fans are not happy with the prospect of Correa leaving via free agency. Some think the team isn't doing enough and should pony up to bring him back. Some feel Correa should take what they're offering because it's a fair deal that'll allow the team to sign other players. Then, there's that small band of us that are totally okay with him leaving.

One of the main reasons I'm okay with him leaving is the players the team still has under control that are potential replacements. Aledmys Diaz and Pedro Leon are the first two guys that come to mind. Diaz is a 31-year-old vet who's stepped up when he's called upon. He can slide over to third and allow Alex Bregman to play shortstop. Leon is the team's 23-year-old hot prospect who signed as an outfielder that the team has been trying to turn into a shortstop. If Correa were to leave, he could instantly plug the hole Carlos would leave behind. Either of those options lead to my next point of being okay with Correa leaving which is to...

...allocate that money elsewhere. Whether it's signing a replacement (at short or third), or boosting the pitching staff, I'll be fine as long as it's money well spent. Signing a shortstop or third baseman would determine where Bregman would be playing. If said player takes significantly less than Correa and fills 70-80% of his offensive shoes, it'll be worth it. Others will have to step it up. If they find a deal on a top of the rotation starting pitcher, that would be ideal as well. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, this team has employed a six-man rotation, but doesn't have a true ace. Spending anywhere from $20-30 million a year on a top-notch pitcher to add to the staff would bolster this staff in more ways than one. It'll finally give them the ace they lack, plus it'll bump all the young talent (still under team control) down a peg creating depth and perhaps even creating bullpen depth.

The only way any of this works is if Correa isn't back. Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander's money comes off the books also. Freeing up that much payroll and not re-appropriating those resources to ensure this team stays in contention would be a first degree felony in sports court. I don't think Jim Crane wants that for this team. I for sure don't think James Click wants that as his legacy. Let's sit back and watch how the organization maneuvers this offseason and pray they get it right.

Editor's note: If you want to read the other side of the argument, check out Ken Hoffman's piece from Tuesday.

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