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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Zack Greinke earned his 10th win of the season in Sunday's finale agains the Rangers. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the first two wins of the series under their belt, the Astros entered Sunday looking to take care of business before heading on the road. Despite the Rangers taking the first lead of the day, the Astros responded on offense and defense to erase the deficit to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rangers 1

Astros' Record: 61-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (10-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dennis Santana (0-1)

Greinke, with some help, notches a quality start

Zack Greinke was doing well in the early goings of Sunday's finale. Despite allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, he stranded both runners to finish the top of the first. He followed that by erasing two more runners in the second, starting a stretch of eight straight batters which he would retire to make it through one out in the top of the fifth without allowing a run.

Texas finally added a blemish to his day at that point, getting a solo homer to grab their first lead in weeks. Greinke rebounded from it, sitting down the next two batters to finish the frame, then posted a 1-2-3 sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh, but would end his day with a struggle, loading the bases with no outs on a single, hit batter, and walk. That prompted Dusty Baker to bring in Cristian Javier, who saved Greinke's stat line by getting a strikeout and double play to keep the Rangers from scoring. Greinke's line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 86 P.

Houston grabs the lead

Houston's starter would leave in line for the win, thanks to the work of Cristian Javier, but also some timely offense in the two innings prior. With not much going for them in the first four innings, the Astros tried to take advantage of Chas McCormick being on base in the bottom of the fifth, sending him for a potential hit and run with Abraham Toro swinging.

That turned into two runs, with McCormick able to slow his run as Toro would launch a two-run go-ahead homer to erase the Rangers lead quickly. They extended the lead to two runs in the next inning, with Yordan Alvarez working a walk and then later scoring on an RBI single by Kyle Tucker, making it 3-1.

Astros finish the sweep

After cleaning up the inherited mess in the top of the seventh, Javier remained on the mound in the top of the eighth and made it through a 1-2-3 inning to give him six outs against five batters. With it still a two-run game in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save opportunity. He notched it, sitting down the Rangers 1-2-3 to finish the sweep, handing Texas their twelfth straight loss.

Up Next: The Astros will head out west for an eight-game road trip starting with a three-game set with the Mariners kicking off at 9:10 PM Central on Monday. In the opener, Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Houston is slated to go opposite Darren McCaughan (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who will make his second career appearance and first start for Seattle.

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