CAMP COUNTDOWN

Texans training camp preview: Secondary

Kareem Jackson, Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin will be counted on in the secondary. Photo by Edward Clarke

At the end of last season, the Texans secondary was a nightmare. They were in the top 10 in passing yards allowed and tied for second in passing touchdowns allowed. They were the product of bad draft picks, lost free agents, and aging veterans. But each year is a chance to start over, remake the roster and fix what went wrong. Some teams throw a lot of money at the situation in free agency and those with the ability to do so use high draft picks. Brian Gaine chose to spend a reasonable amount on free agents and then use his highest draft pick to get more help.

NFL teams always need to keep quite a few defensive backs on the roster to match up with the high number of pass catchers they might face. Over the last several years the cornerbacks on the outside for Houston have been Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. Now a little long in the tooth, both players are going to see their roles change. Jackson has already been moved to safety and Joseph is probably going to be on a shorter leash than usual.

But the position is still light on pro bowl talent. The 2015 first round pick Kevin Johnson had his fifth-year option picked up, but injuries and poor performance have made this season make or break for him. He will get a real chance to earn a starting spot, but he won’t be alone. Aaron Colvin was a good free agency pick-up from the Jaguars where he was mostly a slot defender. Coming to this team will give him a real shot at playing time as a boundary cornerback.

The only other player in camp with game experience at the position is Johnson Bademosi, another free agent acquisition. He’s coming over from the Patriots where his biggest contributions in six years are on special teams. He can vie for playing time because there is a need for depth, and hopefully he is up to the challenge.

The remaining four cornerbacks on the team are without NFL playing time. The two rookies are Jermaine Kelly, Jr. who was taken in the seventh round and Andre Chachere, who was an undrafted free agent from San Jose State. The other two are Dee Virgin and Josh Thornton, players who have spent the early part of their careers on NFL practice squads.

It’s a thin group at the position and they may struggle over the course of the season, but they might be alright if the safeties playing behind them are equal to their expectations. The biggest star of that group was a surprise signing this offseason. Tyrann Mathieu was cut by the Cardinals in April and signed with the Texans on a one-year deal just a few days later.

Mathieu has a history of injuries but brings a lot of talent to the position. If he plays like he has at his best, the safety position will be in great shape. He will have help along the way in the form of Houston’s first draft pick, third round selection Justin Reid from Stanford University. He was a solid player in college and many were shocked that he fell far enough for Gaine to grab him. I’m not sure how camp will go but I have a feeling he will be the starter on opening day. If he isn’t then it won’t be too long before that changes.

Like I mentioned earlier, Kareem Jackson is making the move to safety after years at cornerback. It will take time to adjust but his veteran experience should help shorten the time it will take for him to be ready.

Returning to the group in camp are Treston Decoud, Kurtis Drummond, and Corey Moore. All three of them saw playing time last season and make for a crowded group. Additionally, Ibraheim Campbell will be there to make a run at a roster spot after playing in one game with the Texans in 2017.

The entire secondary will be a work in progress. The cornerbacks will have some obvious deficiencies when things get underway but veteran players and the talented safeties should help mask some of that early. As the season progresses the moving parts should come together and make for a decent position group. Hopefully things gel and the defense can get back into the top ten of the league rankings.

Sadly, Andre Hal will not be joining the team this season. He received a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma recently and will be taking time off to receive treatment. I hope he recovers and returns to a healthy and happy life with his friends and family.



 

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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