NFL football is officially back in Houston in 2019. Is it exciting? Sure. But, let’s remember, it’s just the preseason and not about wins or losses yet. So, don’t get too high after Saturday’s 30-23 win over the Detroit Lions at NRG Stadium.
Rather, it’s about shaping up the roster for when wins and losses will matter — the regular season.
The Texans will be required to trim a current 91-man roster down to 53 by Aug. 31, with few spots on the regular season roster truly up for grabs.
Injuries to projected No. 2 quarterback A.J. McCarron and slot receiver Keke Coutee could stretch past that Aug. 31 deadline and force the Texans to keep an extra body at those positions that they normally wouldn’t have.
At receiver, the Texans should carry at least five on the 53-man roster, with the Coutee injury possibly pushing that number to six. The locks to make the roster are star DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V and Coutee, while Vyncint Smith, who had a nice 31-yard TD catch Saturday, and DeAndre Carter, who led the team in receiving Saturday with 40 yards on three catches, both have regular season experience with the team.
In last week’s preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers, none of the other receivers hoping to make the roster really stood out (rookie Tyron Johnson led the team with 48 yards on two receptions), and on Saturday that continued.
A lengthy McCarron injury virtually guarantees a spot on the roster for quarterback Joe Webb III (who was 14-for-25 with 186 yards, one touchdown and one interception Saturday) behind starter DeShaun Watson, but Webb’s versatility could see him stick around, regardless.
Carrying three running backs on the 53-man roster is par for the course for most NFL teams. With Lamar Miller entrenched as the starter and newly acquired Duke Johnson as the No. 2 RB, a slew of players will seek that third-string slot. Buddy Howell was on the Texans’ roster last season, putting him on the inside track, and on Saturday he was the team’s leading rusher with 84 yards and a TD on 15 carries.
Three is also likely the magic number for tight ends, but with returners Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins and third-round pick Kahale Warring, the other tight ends currently on the roster — Darren Fells and Jerell Adams — are likely auditioning for a different team to eventually pick them up. On Saturday, Adams had a 30-yard reception highlighted by a filthy stiff-arm, and Fells had a 13-yard catch.
There should be no surprises on which players make the final cut on the offensive or defensive lines, as the Texans have plenty of returning veterans and high draft picks at those various positions.
At linebacker, however, there should be one or two spots up for grabs for a potential newcomer, and on Saturday, Davin Bellamy may have secured one of those spots with a fumble recovery and a pass deflection.
The same goes for the defensive backfield, and Derrick Baitly Jr. could’ve put his name in that conversation with an interception on Saturday. But, he was also beat on two big pass plays and was injured in the third quarter. The preseason giveth, and the preseason taketh away when it comes to being a player on the bubble.