PRESEASON PREVIEW

3 key Texans preseason competitions to watch

Wide Receivers Keke Coutee and Bruce Ellington will be competing, but that is not the biggest battle. Photo by Edward Clarke

The time has come for training camp to end and the preseason games to begin. All the practicing and studying will be used in a game situation; albeit against a simplified game plan. These games have no meaning other than player evaluation for coaches, but fringe players can earn a roster spot by giving it all they have and making a play when the opportunity arises.

With all that said, there are still a few positions where stiff competition is going to have a big impact on the team in the regular season. If you’re going to watch these preseason games, then the best way to enjoy them is to pay attention to how well the following players perform when the lights are on. It could go a long way toward helping the Texans stay competitive for the entire season.

1. Back-up running back

We all know Lamar Miller is going to be the starter, but with D’Onta Foreman’s return still a mystery the next man up is going to be important when the season begins. The obvious expectation is that Bill O’Brien will just use Alfred Blue because of his experience with the offense. But his four years haven’t really made him a shoo-in. Tyler Ervin is coming off an injury and Troymaine Pope didn’t light the world on fire in last year’s rookie season. That leaves the door wide open for this year’s rookies Lavon Coleman and Terry Swanson.

It’s those two that I think will have the best chance to win the back-up spot. Everyone else has game tape that isn’t very good. I will be fun to watch how they do, despite the likelihood they will be facing third and fourth string defenses. If they can stick to the fundamentals and break some plays open, they can push the veterans out the door.

2. Offensive tackle

A bone of contention last year, the offensive line is still not a reliable group heading into the preseason. Help was given to the interior, but it will be up to some lesser talents to protect Deshaun Watson on the edge. The expectation is for the left tackle position to be occupied by second-year pro Julie’n Davenport. At 6’7” 320, he’s a big athletic body who can occupy a lot of space. Free agent acquisition Seantrel Henderson will be competing on the right side against Kendall Lamm, with a chance for either one to seal the deal.

I can’t fully believe that Davenport is the clear choice at left tackle. If he struggles against a straight pass rush during the preseason there might be an opening for Henderson to slide to the left side while Davenport moves to the right. There’s also the possibility that a veteran gets cut from another team and shakes the whole thing up by signing in Houston.

3. Cornerback

This was another position in serious need of an overhaul in the offseason. The only significant addition was Aaron Colvin, a free agent signing from Jacksonville. He joins a position group led by aging veteran Jonathan Joseph and first round disappointment Kevin Johnson. The competition between these three guys for playing time is going to be intense. Joseph has lost a step, Johnson is often injured or getting beat, and Colvin has spent his career playing in the slot. The addition of safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Justin Reid will help the secondary overall, but the starting cornerback combination is going to define the pass defense when the season starts. Remember; they face Tom Brady, Odell Beckham Jr. and Andrew Luck early in the season. I would also be on the lookout for a veteran player on the market to join the team.

While these are the three biggest battles I will be watching, it will also be interesting to see what happens between Keke Coutee and Bruce Ellington for the No. 3 receiver. The other one to look out for is whether one of the two drafted tight ends, Jordan Akins or Jordan Thomas, earn some serious playing time over Ryan Griffin or Stephen Anderson.

Either way, there’s reason enough to watch Thursday night as Houston travels to Kansas City for the first preseason game and your first chance to see the players in action.

 

 

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It's all systems go for the Houston Texans! Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images.

It was 2002 and the city of Houston was rewarded with the NFL's 32nd franchise. I remember the newspaper special section with all the info points on the new team. There was even a full page graphic explaining how the grass plates were constructed. (Side Note: We should've known right then and there it was going to be disastrous!) There was a level of excitement unseen since the Rockets won a title, I'd assume. People were wearing “32, Houston” jerseys. There was more Battle Red, Deep Steel Blue, and Liberty White around town than a Fourth of July day parade.

The next time the city was excited about Texans football involved the Gary Kubiak days of making the playoffs. After that, Bill O'Brien hung a few division title banners as well. That's when the lull came. It all came crashing down, swiftly and mightily. The death of Bob McNair may have played a part in things deteriorating so quickly. Whether blame is placed here or there, changes needed to be made. Cal McNair was seen as incompetent. In comes Nick Caserio. He had a mess to clean up. The last two seasons were awful, but necessary. After back-to-back one-and-done coaches, Caserio has hired his guy.

Enter DeMeco Ryans. The former Texans great linebacker was the 49ers defensive coordinator the past two seasons. He took over a great defense and kept it going. From the moment he stepped on campus at Alabama, he commanded a different level of respect. Not only was he good, but he was a leader. Nicknamed “Cap” because he was a captain on and off the field. That followed him to Houston. His presence was felt everywhere he went. It was known before his career ended that he'd most likely be a coach one day.

This moment in time right now is giving 2002, Kubiak playoffs, and O'Brien playoff vibes but amplified. Why? Because one of this franchise's own has come home. Ryans was the most desired candidate this coaching cycle. Sean Payton may have had the bigger name, but Ryans was the one the Broncos tried to go back after, then settled on Payton. Teams he turned down had to move along and find other candidates to fill their vacancies. HE CHOSE HOUSTON! Nothing like feeling desired and being chosen!

I believe DeMeco will turn this franchise around and make them a contender. It's very rare that you have a star athlete turned sought after coach and NOBODY has a bad word to say about him! Social media has turned things into a 12-hour news cycle. Yet you've NEVER heard or seen DeMeco involved in any foolishness. He's been a model citizen, while also maintaining a high level of play and now coaching. When people respect you for your football acumen AND your character, that says a lot. Whoever said nice guys finish last obviously hasn't met DeMeco.

Armed with some cap space, draft capital, a capable GM, and ownership seeking a fresh start, DeMeco is set up to succeed. It's up to him, and Caserio, to finish what was started two years ago. Currently, the house on Kirby has a few more improvements to make. Some paint, redoing the floors, new landscaping, and new furniture. The kitchens and bathrooms are done. It needs the final touch. DeMeco is that final touch.

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