Texans To Watch: Minnesota Edition
The Houston Texans are set for another season and it starts with their first preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. There are 19-20 Texans who are not scheduled to suit up for the game on Friday so there will be some first looks at some of the young talent the Texans have for this season.
With the first team offense and defense set to have maybe 10-15 plays, we are going to focus on some of the players who will get more looks than the others. Of course, DeAndre Hopkins should be on the list but we are going to leave him off for the moment, especially with the first team offense not scheduled to get that much playing time.
Who to Watch
One of the most talked about rookies for the Texans should get plenty of work against the Vikings. Swearinger will be the third safety in nickle situations but will be getting normal safety play when the 1st team sits. He has been solid in practice but more than anything he has been learning what the defense is asking from him. Rookie mistakes will be made but Swearinger has a nice mix of pass coverage skills and tackling in the box. His leadership will be evident and it will be good to see him finally put it together on the field for the first time.
Keenum is under a microscope these coming preseason games and it will be the time to see how much he has really learned during the offseason. There has been whispers of Keenum competing for the backup job, but more than anything he is competing to stay in Houston. Is he good enough to be the third quarterback or will it be another year on the practice squad for the second year quarterback? Keenum will have to show consistency like he did at the beginning of training camp and show the ability to make plays against better NFL competition.
Jeff Maehl and Lestar Jean
They are competing for the same job at the moment with DeVier Posey on the PUP list, and that is for the final wide receiver spot. Jean was looked at to provide a big spark in 2012 but that never happened for a wide receiver group that was not very good. The progression of Jean as a player for the Texans doesn’t look too much different from his rookie season from three years ago. He has average speed with average hands but his knowledge for the playbook is unmatched by any of the young wide recievers on the roster, expect for Maehl.
Maehl has been here the same amount of time as Jean and Maehl’s only true opportunity came as a rookie where he appeared in 3 games in 2011. He has been kept around for a reason and now is the time for Maehl to show what he can do for this team. Maehl has better intangibles than Jean and even offers more on the special teams part of the game. If he can put together a solid preseason, it could prove to be a good step for him to stay in Houston.
The Houston native has put together a solid camp and he has shown he has the size to be an effective nose tackle. He is pushing for the backup nose tackle position and he is coming back from a foot injury that landed him on the injured reserve last season. Hunter is stout against the run and really excels on making running backs look for other running lanes when he pushes the line of scrimmage. At 301 lbs., he actually plays bigger on the field and he will be a fun one to watch when the lights come on.
If there is one offensive lineman that looks the part and has the ability to be a key piece of this franchise for some years to come, it is Quessenberry. He has shown he can play at tackle or guard, but left guard looks to be his position of the future. At 6-5 and 307 lbs., “Q” is a load and is well put together for a rookie. He has held his own in training camp. His strength is impressive and he has improved his footwork since rookie minicamp, which has helped him improve on the inside. Despite being a 6th round pick, Quessenberry is looking like a steal for future years.
Justin Tuggle and Willie Jefferson
With the injuries at outside linebacker, the Texans will be relying on two undrafted rookies to fill some voids until the position group gets healthy. Justin Tuggle has already been named the preseason starter at outside linebacker and this has been happening the past week at training camp. He has climbed up the depth chart and actually has provided some punch as an edge defender. His pass rush ability has been a question mark but he will get his opportunity to prove he can do it against real NFL competition.
Despite the buzz that Jefferson has been generating, his pass rush ability is what sets him apart from his counterparts at the moment. The real issue with Jefferson is if he can hold up against the run, but the starting of Tuggle could be a motivational tool to see if Jefferson wants to be on the team in the long run. It is still early but Jefferson will have a big jump in competition when he steps on the field on Friday.
Dennis Johnson and Cierre Wood
The running back position not named Arian Foster or Ben Tate is one of the good stories of training camp. Despite the amount of noise Dennis Johnson has been making in camp with his shifty runs and nice catches out of the backfield, he still has to show he can pass protect according to Coach Kubiak’s standards. If there is one thing that runningbacks need to do in this offense, it is pass protect and at 5-7 he will have to show he can do it against competition twice his size.
As for Cierre Wood, he fits exactly what the Texans want in their runningbacks, a nice one cut runner that can get upfield in a hurry. The knock on Wood is his ability to play to contact, especially squaring in the hole and getting his pad level low to avoid big hits. Wood has been the recipient of some big hits because of this in camp so it is a concern when the hitting is a full go.
Johnson does have the intial lead but there is plenty of time for this position battle to play out.
Who do you want to see? Leave in the comments below
You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans.