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 drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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