Texans Training Camp Primer: The Rookies
This is Part One of our Training Camp Preview which will be released throughout the week.
The topics we will NOT hit on are the obvious ones, the Wide Receiver and Right side of the offensive line.
Every season, the Houston Texans bring in a crop of rookies to help reinforce the core of the team and this season there are some important rookies coming into camp. The 8 draft picks will still have to work hard to stake their claim in the Texans locker room but it is the undrafted rookies that fans should have their eyes on. There is a good chance that one of the draft picks and plenty of the UDFAs may not make the final cuts of the 53, but the practice squad is just as important for the upcoming season.
The practice squad provides a sense of insurance for the Texans and last season was no exception where there were plenty of roster moves involving the practice squad. The Texans signed 6 players from their practice squad during the season so this shows the necessity of having one that can help in the long run.
We are going to look at this year’s rookie class, drafted and undrafted, and look at the ones who have the chance to make the biggest impact and the roster for the 2012 season.
DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin- No matter the combination, and when Posey signs his rookie deal, the Texans already seem like a more athletic wide receiver group than the 2011 team. The spotlight will be on Posey and Martin to contribute from day one and how quick they can pick up the offense. No two rookies will be under the microscope more than the two young wide receivers during training camp and preseason games.
Randy Bullock- Right now he has the most pressure on him of any of the drafted rookies and being drafted as a kicker only makes me think that it is his kicking job to lose. The 2011 Lou Groza award winner will be on display and having the veteran Shayne Graham next to him is the insurance the Texans need, just in case Bullock doesn’t work out.
Whitney Mercilus- Not only is he taking the roster spot of the departed Mario Williams, Mercilus will be expected to provide much needed depth to a thin 2011 outside linebacker position. If he can take snaps away from Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed, to provide quality play when in the game, it will only make the Texans’ defense that much better. Mercilus’ ability to rush the passer will be key for the Texans’ defense heading into the 2012 season.
Loni Fangupo- Yes, we are partial to Fangupo here on the site but being a 335+ lb. nose tackle is what Texans fans have been looking for. At BYU, Fangupo also played the 5 technique when needed but if he can prove he can be a space eater as the nose tackle he will have a chance to make this team. The Texans showed some vulnerability up the middle on the run last season, and if Fangupo can take on double teams and keep offensive lineman off of Brian Cushing and Bradie James, he may be the piece the Texans have been missing.
Johnathan Grimes and Davin Meggett- The Texans have the running backs situated on the active roster with Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Justin Forsett. There is nothing to lead us to believe that the Texans will not keep a running back on the practice squad. Both Grimes and Meggett are one cut runners and look like they are suited for the Texans zone running scheme, and both returned kicks at their respective colleges which puts them equal heading into camp. This will be one of the camp battles to watch and both will be fun to watch.
Shawn Loiseau- Leaving Mini Camp, he was behind only Brian Cushing in the depth chart and it makes me think that the injury to Darryl Sharpton is the only reason why. A little age at the inside linebacker position with James, and the injury concerns of Sharpton, Loiseau could sneak onto the 53 man roster. A tackling machine at Merrimack College, Loiseau needs to fundamentally get better at the linebacker position but his want to and reckless abandon to the football is already there.
Nate Menkin- Not many people have heard of this Division III, offensive tackle from Mary Hardin Baylor (Belton, Texas) but this Lago Vista native is a player to watch. At 6-4 and 296 lbs., Menkin ran a 5.0 second 40-yard dash and had 39 reps at 225 lbs. at the NFL Super Regional Combine. He will have to make a huge jump from Division III football to the NFL level. His skill set for an offensive lineman is what offensive coaches dream of but it is up to Menkin to prove he belongs.
Eddie Pleasant- Considered a draftable player by General Manager Rick Smith, Pleasant was one of the first undrafted rookies to receive a phone call from the team. Pleasant has drawn comparisons to ex-Texans safety Bernard Pollard and is known for his tackling ability from the safety position. Pleasant’s biggest competition will come from second year safety Shiloh Keo, who was only a special teams player for the team last season. If Pleasant can show any versatility as a cover player during camp time, he could be a sleeper for the Texans.
Jason Ford- After his Senior season at Illinois, the former college tailback made the transition to fullback before the draft and added 16 lbs., bulking up to 251 lbs. entering OTAs. The signing of Moran Norris looks like he could be the starting fullback heading into the regular season but Ford, who has some running and catching ability, could be what the Texans are looking for. He also provided some lead blocking at Illinois in their offense, so the idea of him lead blocking is not anything new for Ford. If he can show any life as a fullback, his cheaper contract will be a welcomed sight for the cap strapped Texans.