CAMP COUNTDOWN

Cody Stoots: A first, way-too-early look at the Texans' potential 53-man opening day roster

Kareem Jackson, Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin should see plenty of action. Photo by Edward Clarke

A summer tradition in the same vein of Nathan's hot dog eating contest and forgetting to reapply sunscreen, it is time for way-too- early roster projections. Taking into account the offseason and the circumstances surrounding the players I take a stab at what the 53-man roster should look like on Sept. 1. 

Quarterbacks - 2

Deshaun Watson

Brandon Weeden

Analysis: The options behind these two are not good. At all. Joe Webb had a red jersey in the offseason workouts so he is competing with Stephen Morris for the final roster spot. Neither are worthy of investment long-term. There doesn't seem to be a reason to keep a third quarterback beyond the worry of injury to Watson or Weeden. This team will live in the margins and using this roster spot on another position is more useful. 

Running Backs - 4

Lamar Miller

D'Onta Foreman

Alfred Blue

Troymaine Pope

Analysis: Tyler Ervin is gone because Ervin didn't establish himself last season at running back, pass catching or special teams. Brian Gaine isn't the man who drafted him but he could be the man who discovered the next undrafted helper for this team. Pope had some significant reps in minicamp and has some wiggle and burst to him. Just don't fall down on first touch and he's on his way to beating out Ervin. Foreman's injury is more concerning than most let on but if he is bouncing back like Watson is with his injury then the Texans will have an interesting rushing attack. 

Fullback - 1

Jay Prosch

Analysis: He played 13.2 percent of snaps last year. So, he's here, well, to do whatever fullbacks do in 2018. 

Wide Receiver - 5

DeAndre Hopkins

Will Fuller

Keke Coutee

Bruce Ellington

Chris Thompson

Analysis: Brian Gaine didn't draft Braxton Miller and so there is no attachment to him and Miller has shown little in his time with the Texans. Ellington did enough to be the other slot presence with Coutee and Thompson has special teams talent Miller and other wideouts haven't displayed. I wanted to put Sammie Coates but he's just a veteran name, not a presence to make the team. Though training camp could have the opportunity for him to earn a spot over the younger and smaller Thompson. Vyncint Smith is a key practice squad name. 

Tight Ends - 4

Ryan Griffin

Stephen Anderson

Jordan Akins

Jordan Thomas

Analysis: This position has been as affected by injuries in recent years as the quarterback position. Ryan Griffin has missed 16 regular season games in the past three seasons and C.J. Fiedorowicz is gone due to injury. Stephen Anderson got shaken up a few times last year. Akins and Thomas are Gaine selections so they're both making it in a spot where you can squeeze an extra skill player in. 

Tackles - 3

Julie'n Davenport

Seantrell Henderson

Martinas Rankin

Analysis: Versatility at guard means just three tackles make it. This is not a strong group at all with a second-year starter, an oft-injured starter, and a rookie. Rankin's injury could land someone else in the mix. Kendall Lamm could be that name. Oh boy. Jaryd Jones-Smith is a name to watch in the preseason but likely has the limitations that will land him on the practice squad for his first year in the NFL. 

Guards - 4

Zach Fulton

Senio Kelemete

Kyle Fuller

Chad Slade

Analysis: Fuller was an afterthought last year heading into cuts and made the team. Someone in the offensive meeting room likes him so he makes it here. Slade is a little versatile and has been around so he gets the veteran nod over David Quessenberry. Quessenberry has a great story but unless he outperforms Slade he will have his time with the Texans draw to close. The team promoted Slade last year before him when there was an open spot. Using that as an indication, Slade is the fourth man here. 

Center - 2

Nick Martin

Greg Mancz

Analysis: Martin and Mancz are the guys here and the only options unless somehow Fulton and Martin switch spots. Martin is recovering from injury but should be a full go. If the Texans are going to gel and solidify the offensive line he will need to start living up to the potential of a high second round pick. 

Offense (25)

Defensive End - 5

J.J. Watt

Christian Covington

Joel Heath

Brandon Dunn

Angelo Blackson

Analysis: Obviously Watt is the key to this unit impressing on any level this year. Familiarity is the priority here over talent. That isn't always a bad thing. Covington seemed like he had things clicking before he got hurt last year. Heath and Dunn have been around for a while. Blackson is around surely because they believe he can push Heath or Dunn. 

Defensive Tackle - 2

D.J. Reader

Carlos Watkins

Analysis: The only two options here that make any sense. Reader has a tough task, but if Watt and Mercilus are healthy he should end up showcasing a jump in production and flashes. Watkins may only be a rotation player but if he makes the most of his reps his value as a mid-to-late round pick will be displayed. 

Outside Linebacker - 4

Jadaveon Clowney

Whitney Mercilus

Duke Ejiofor

Brennan Scarlett

Analysis: We all know Clowney is a monster talent and this is just a way to list him in the programs. He is a do-it-all for the Texans. It will be interesting to see if Romeo Crennel uses him more like he was used last year or more from a couple of years ago when Crennel was calling the shots. Whitney Mercilus might be one of the most important players on this team as he is the most consistent pass rusher. Ejiofor has some catching up to do as he recovers from injury. Scarlett might be in danger if he doesn't have a good camp. Peter Kalambayi could push for the roster spot but if not he should see himself on the practice squad. 

Inside Linebacker - 4

Benardrick McKinney

Zach Cunningham

Dylan Cole

Josh Keyes

Analysis: McKinney and the two rookies were impressive last season in Brian Cushing's absence. They will be asked to impress the same this season. Brian Peters is a notable omission here. There is a new special teams sheriff in town and being the special teams ace on one of the worst units in football likely means it is time to move on from Peters for someone else. 

Cornerbacks - 6

Johnathan Joseph

Aaron Colvin

Kevin Johnson

Jermaine Kelly

Johnson Bademosi

Dee Virgin

Analysis: Joseph and Johnson are clearly the outside guys with Colvin moving around as the slot guy or matching up in certain situations outside. He isn't just a slot guy. Bademosi is the special teams ace so don't expect to see him here. Kelly and Virgin are the last two guys to make the roster. I put Virgin because he has been around the team and Kelly has physical tools to help on special teams. 

Safeties - 4

Tyrann Mathieu

Kareem Jackson

Justin Reid

Treston Decoud

Analysis: Kareem Jackson's move became official recently. Decoud moved earlier this offseason from corner to here. He is a former draft pick, but again not from Gaine. I believe him to have the best makeup between him, Cory Moore and Kurtis Drummond. The notable item from this group if they are it is it would be four totally new fulltime safeties for the Texans. 

Specialists - 3

Shane Lechler

Ka'imi Fairbairn

Jon Weeks

Analysis: No surprise here. 

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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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