The Forgotten One, T.J. Yates
It seems like it was a lifetime ago that a rookie quarterback drafted in the 5th round took the city of Houston by storm to lead the Houston Texans to their first playoff appearance and win in franchise history. Now T.J. Yates is almost two full years removed from that magical season when he started 6 games for the most storied team in franchise history in 2011.
Expectations were big in 2012 for the quarterback from North Carolina but it was a season filled with little opportunity for Yates. Yates’ season consisted of 33 pass attempts (23 in the preseason and 10 in the regular season), 38 passing yards and not much more. The three games Yates appeared in were in mop up duty in losses for the Texans (Green Bay, New England and Minnesota).
No one was harder on Yates than himself:
“I have to continue to keep getting better. Couple times I got into the games last season, I didn’t perform very well. It was a tough situation to come into off the bench, late in the game, but you know whenever I am asked to do that I have to play better.”
The role of a backup quarterback is not easy in the NFL. The time is limited during the preseason and scarce during the regular season. Yates spent the majority of the 2012 season watching and learning and waiting for his opportunity, but a healthy Matt Schaub took all but 23 snaps during the season and playoffs.
“You have to teach yourself all over again. It’s tough but that is the job of a back up quarterback. You are always on call.”
The Quarterback Room
There has been much said about Yates being pushed for his backup quarterback position, and Stephen McGee and Case Keenum are pushing the third year pro:
“They are pushing me a good bit. Stephen (McGee) is just picking up everything. Case (Keenum) is doing a good job. You can really tell after a year of getting the offense down it is really clicking for him. Stephen is doing a good job. He is real new to our offense. A lot of things he is doing now is what he did with his previous team.”
Yates, despite the new pressure from McGee and Keenum, is still learning the offense and using starter Matt Schaub in the same capacity he did during his rookie season, as another coach.
“I have known him (Schaub) for almost three years now. He is a great teammate and he is one of my coaches out here.”
The quarterbacks for the Texans also went through a change during the 2012 season when quarterback coach Greg Knapp left to be the offensive coordinator for Oakland and it opened the door for new quarterback coach Karl Dorrell to take over the position group.
“Knapp and Dorrell are different coaches and both have great qualities. Knapp was an in your face and all over you type of coach. As for Coach Dorrell, he is laid back but will coach you hard in a quiet way.”
New Year, New Targets
During OTAs, Yates was rusty during the opening practices but looked much better towards the end of OTAs. Yates talked about getting back out on the field:
“I felt pretty good. Some mistakes to correct. Feels good to knock off the rust. It is my first live action since getting into a couple of games last season. A little rusty, but feels good.”
Yates threw the ball with confidence and the rust was evident during the practice sessions. When he was on target, he was throwing some great passes all over the field and it was evident he worked well with Keshawn Martin and Lestar Jean. One new wide receiver that Yates really liked was the newest starter on the offense in DeAndre Hopkins. Yates was not short on compliments for the newest weapon:
“DeAndre is doing a good job. That guy will really go pluck the ball out of the air, and he will really go get it for you. That is what our offense really needs, a wide receiver that you know when you throw it up he will come down with it. He really has some strong hands.”
He also talked about the other young wide receivers on the team:
“Keshawn (Martin) has been having a great OTAs so far. Lestar Jean is doing really good. (Alan) Bonner has some skill but he has to get it down mentally. Once he gets it down mentally, that guy has some impressive ball skills as well.”
It is safe to say that Yates has been quickly forgotten on what he did for the Texans during his rookie season. The Texans will start looking for a replacement for Schaub in the coming years and Yates’ name is not being mentioned during the process. Heading into his 3rd season of his professional career, the sample size on the football field is small but under pressure during his rookie season he did better than expected. Where Yates ends up when his contract is up at the end of the 2014 season is a process in itself, but what he has done for this franchise should not be overlooked.
You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans.