March 24, 2018

Texans Players to Watch: New Orleans Edition

The final real tune up for the Houston Texans’ starters will be this coming Saturday night, and they will encounter a good test with the New Orleans Saints. The accurate arm of Drew Brees will be a good test for the Texans’ secondary, who were torched in the 2011 regular season by the Saints’ passing attack.

A new season and new issues, the Texans have some kinks to work out on both offense and defense before decisions are made on personnel when the Miami Dolphins come to Reliant in week one. Despite a good showing against the San Francisco 49ers, there were a few issues with performance on the field, especially with some of the new Texan starters.

The main focus will be on starters and how they will impact the final roster heading towards the end of preseason. If anything, this game will give us insight into what personnel the Texans are looking to start with during the season, so keep an eye on anything out of the ordinary.


SOTT Players to Watch


Trindon Holliday (#16, Returner/Wide Receiver)

Once again, Holliday makes our list and the results have spoken for themselves. He has definitely put himself into the discussion for a roster spot but we still feel there might be something left for him to prove. Holliday has taken over as the camp story to follow and turned into a Texans’ fan favorite with two big returns. His speed is unmatched and, with the pressure mounting on him, just one more big return against the Saints could possibly solidify his spot. Protecting the ball has been a positive but he has to increase his vision on his returns to make him even more valuable to the Texans. The expectations are through the roof in his 3rd year in the NFL, and he has been accepting the challenge quite well. Being consistent is the key for Holliday and he will be on display once again to prove his doubters wrong.


Bradie James (#53, Inside Linebacker)

With some missed tackles, little run support, and at times looking slow during the game, James really raised some question if he can produce for 16 or more games. It seems like the Texans might be committed to James for the long haul, but with both Tim Dobbins and Mister Alexander looking good in their limited time this preseason, they both could be worth a look with the 1st team defense at some point. James might be pacing himself and trying to get a feel for what the Texans are doing defensively. It is time for him to show something on Saturday night and make the move of trading DeMeco Ryans seem like not a bad decision this season.


Whitney Mercilus (#59, Outside Linebacker)

Very quiet last week against the 49ers, the growth of Mercilus is very important for the success of Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. Mercilus will have to do what he was drafted for, rush the quarterback. He has to take snaps from the two in front of him to keep them fresh for the long haul, and provide some issues for offenses. It would be good to see Mercilus worked in with the 1st team defense to see him work with the group and get some relevant snaps against an opponent. Even if he is only involved in certain situations, it would be good to see Mercilus turn into a “real” contributor.


Derek Newton (#75, Offensive Tackle) and Rashad Butler (#78, Offensive Tackle)

This is probably the biggest story of camp and probably the last time we will see both with any real significant time in the preseason. Head Coach Gary Kubiak has made it clear that there is no clear-cut leader for the position. With both starting one game each through the first two games of preseason, this could prove big for who will be the starter for game one of the season.  If Newton can tie down the position, the Texans could be set up nice for the coming seasons at right tackle, but the veteran in Butler shows a better awareness especially in pass protection. It is all about production and both have been good in certain situations, but the feeling we get is there will be a tackle rotation during the season.


Hebron Fangupo #73, Pre Game vs. the 49ers.

Hebron Fangupo (#73, Nose Tackle)

With Sunny Harris landing on the injured reserve, it only leaves the Texans’ defense with only two healthy nose tackles for Saturday’s game, Earl Mitchell and Fangupo. It seems with reports coming out of Houston that Fangupo will get his shot with the defense and prove that he can handle the duties of being an NFL nose tackle. At 6-0 and 324 lbs., Fangupo is a stout player against the run when he plays low and with his hands. He has been limited during the preseason but now the rookie gets his chance to make his mark and possibly nail down a roster spot with the team.


James Casey (#86, Tight End, Fullback)

The reason we have put Casey on the watch list is we want to see how he is being used in the offense and how he affects snaps for other offensive players. Casey has played multiple spots for the Texans and has taken snaps away from Garrett Graham and even more from the fullback position affecting Moran Norris. We know Graham is going to make the team but Norris had only a handful of snaps against San Francisco.  If Casey can prove that he can handle the load at fullback, Norris could possibly be an odd man out. Casey’s versatility is something to watch and how he is being used is where the interest lies.


– Also another thing we will keep a close look at is special teams, who is on them and if they change at all during the game. Heading into the third preseason game, coaches are trying to get a feel for what personnel could be used for week one. The offensive and defensive groups are pretty much set.  The positions to be won are on special teams and are still up for grabs.

– The kicking competition is neck and neck between Shayne Graham and Randy Bullock and according to Gary Kubiak there is no real leader in the race. Both have been consistent during practice and games, with Bullock having the only miss. This will be fun to watch unfold and we are still thinking Bullock has the upper hand.

– Finally the Texans’ secondary will get another chance at Drew Brees after he lit the Texans up for 370 yards going 31 of 44 for three touchdowns. Kareem Jackson and Glover Quin had a tough day in New Orleans that day and, despite it being preseason, the Saints will be quick to air it out.


You can follow Patrick on Twitter.  He is the Editor of State of the Texans and is a draft analyst on Sideline Scouting.

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