Houston Texans: Immediate 53-Man Roster-Cut Predictions Post-49ers Game

Brian McDonaldContributor IAugust 28, 2014

Houston Texans: Immediate 53-Man Roster-Cut Predictions Post-49ers Game

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    It's been a competitive offseason and preseason for the Houston Texans.

    With a new scheme on both sides of the ball and lots of roster turnover, questions surrounded the Houston Texans and what their roster would look like.

    Finally, we'll have our answer.

    Just a season ago at this point there wasn't much surprise with who would start and who would be cut with what had been a pretty locked roster. That wasn't the case in 2014 with battles at quarterback, the offensive line, linebacker and in the secondary.

    What has helped with the turnover has been a very talented rookie class that has a chance to go down as the best in history along with the 2006 draft class.

    One spot on the roster with a rookie in competition has been the Texans' second-string quarterback. Case Keenum appeared to have a lock on the spot after the Texans traded T.J. Yates, but through the preseason Keenum has done nothing to impress the coaching staff or fans.

    The quarterback position is where we'll start with this prediction on the last round of cuts and the 53-man roster going into the season.

Quarterback

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Who Will Make the Roster (2): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tom Savage.

    Fitzpatrick and Savage are an absolute lock. Fitzpatrick is the veteran caretaker until a more talented young quarterback is ready to take over, and Savage hopefully is that talented young player.

    The Texans and Bill O'Brien would probably prefer to keep three quarterbacks if Case Keenum had played well, but considering his poor performance, it would seem to be more wise to use his roster spot on another position of need. 

    Most thought the #Texans had one of, if not the worst QB groups in the #NFL. Nothing they've shown this preseason suggests otherwise.

    — AdamWexlerCSN (@awexler) August 29, 2014

    Keenum's weaknesses from the end of last year when he threw just two touchdowns to six interceptions over his final five starts have not shown any signs of improvement.

    He still holds onto the ball too long, doesn't recognize the blitz and doesn't go through his progressions quickly enough. His accuracy is still shaky over the middle of the field, and he still forces passes into double and triple coverage too often.

    Case Keenum in a game that could decide #Texans' backup QB: 8-17, 70 yards, one INT, 33.9 rating. #NFL #49ers

    — Brian T. Smith (@ChronBrianSmith) August 29, 2014

    Keenum isn't the future, so why keep him around if he hasn't shown any signs of improvement or being capable of playing well if forced into duty?

Running Back

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Who Will Make the Roster (4): Arian Foster, Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes and Jay Prosch.

    This position is in great shape.

    Even if Arian Foster misses a game due to injury, both Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes have played very well this offseason and have proved capable of carrying the load. Neither player is as explosive as Foster, but there won't be a dramatic drop-off in production if he misses time.

    One player from this group I would have liked to see remain with the team is the veteran Ronnie Brown. The Texans can't afford to keep another player here, but Brown's ability as a receiver and pass protector on third down has a lot of value. If someone gets hurt, expect him to be brought back.

    Then there's Jay Prosch. I've often called the rookie sixth-round pick out Auburn the next Vonta Leach, and he's looked every bit the part, with defenders bouncing off him as he goes through the hole to clear the way. I'm not sure how much the Texans will use their fullback, but he'll be a good one.

Wide Receiver

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Who Will Make the Roster (6): Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, DeVier Posey, Mike Thomas, Keshawn Martin and Uzoma Nwachukwu.

    The only battle at the wide receiver position was for the fifth and final spot. However, with so many receivers playing well, the Texans will have no choice but to keep six instead.

    Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Thomas and DeVier Posey are all locks, but spots weren't guaranteed to Keshawn Martin, Uzoma Nwachukwu or Travis Labhart. All three of those guys on the bubble have played well, and whoever gets cut will get another chance with a different team.

    The return ability and versatility of Martin and Nwachukwu will make the difference over Labhart. The undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M has played very well this preseason but doesn't figure to fit into their plans for the return position and can't play on the outside, so it's hard to find a spot for him.

    If Labhart does get cut, expect him to find his way back on to an NFL roster pretty quickly—hopefully as a member of the Texans practice squad.

Tight End

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Who Will Make the Roster (3): Garrett Graham, C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin.

    This group has never been in doubt. From Day 1 of OTAs and minicamp through training camp and the preseason, the situation at tight end has been settled and written in ink.

    Graham and Griffin both played well last year when forced to fill in for the injured Owen Daniels, so their spots were safe. Third-round pick Fiedorowicz is also safe with his high draft status and solid play this offseason.

    Of the group, Fiedorowicz is the one to get excited about. I wouldn't be surprised if he overtakes Graham as the starter at some point during the season. The rookie can block, has athleticism and has displayed solid hands.

    He's the total package.

    The Texans are likely to use many heavy sets this season, so keeping a fourth tight end isn't out of the question, but with how well Jay Prosch has played at fullback, keeping an extra blocker at tight end isn't necessary.

Offensive Line

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Who Will Make the Roster (9): Duane Brown, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Chris Myers, Brandon Brooks, Derek Newton, Ben Jones, Tyson Clabo, Will Yeatman and Alex Kupper.

    There was not as much competition here as there could have been. Had David Quessenberry not been unfortunately diagnosed with lymphoma, he would have competed with Derek Newton and likely won the job at right tackle. With Quessenberry out, Newton was named the starter before training camp even began.

    The other four spots and a reserve role for either Jones or Su'a-Filo were also written ink.

    Kupper and XSF having all types of issues pass protecting tonight. #Texans

    — PDS (@PatDStat) August 29, 2014

    Reserve linemen Kupper and Clabo haven't played very well during the preseason, but they're the best of a bad situation. Along with a couple of other positions, the Texans will likely be watching the waiver wire very closely when other cuts are made around the league to potentially add to or improve the depth on the O-line.

    Thankfully, the team has the first waiver priority, so anyone of quality who gets cut will end up in Houston.

    God help the Texans if there is another injury and either Kupper or Clabo has to start.

Defensive Line

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    Who Will Make the Roster (6): J.J. Watt, Jerrell Powe, Louis Nix III, Jeoffrey Pagan, Tim Jamison and Jared Crick.

    I would personally keep Ricardo Mathews, who has outplayed the former fourth-round pick, but Crick has been listed as the starter at the other end spot during the entire offseason, so he appears to be the guy at end. I don't see the team keeping Mathews as a third nose tackle.

    I was very high on Crick coming out of college, but he's just shown nothing so far this preseason. He was buried on the depth chart behind Watt and Antonio Smith the previous two seasons, but even this year he just never shows up or flashes on tape when you watch games. It's like he's invisible.

    Despite them not playing well or that much, Pagan and Nix are locks to make the roster as draft picks, especially Nix since he was taken in the third round.

    Filling in for Nix has been Powe, whom the Texans signed from Kansas City where he previously played under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Powe has exceeded my expectations and played like an unmovable force at the nose tackle position.

    Jamison makes the team with his ability as interior pass-rusher from the defensive end position. With Crick not showing much in that department, the Texans will need another lineman to be an option on obvious passing downs.

Linebacker

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Who Will Make the Roster (10): Jadeveon Clowney, Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Quentin Groves, Brian Cushing, Jeff Tarpinian, Justin Tuggle, Mike Mohamed, Akeem Dent and Max Bullough.

    The cuts at linebacker will probably be the toughest ones to make. A few spots like the ones that belong to Cushing and Clowney are obvious, but after that it's been a toss-up. With several young undrafted players outplaying underachieving first- and second-round picks, general manager Rick Smith will earn his money on cut day.

    One highly drafted veteran in particular who has underperformed has been former first-round pick Whitney Mercilus. The linebacker out of Illinois was drafted to be a hell-raising edge-rusher, but with few exceptions he has been glued to his blocker during the preseason.

    Mercilus will make the team, but I doubt he'll get much playing time this season unless he shows significantly better play during upcoming practices.

    Inside linebacker probably had the toughest battles among the linebacker group with who would start next to Brian Cushing and who would fill out the reserve spots. Tuggle looks like the leader to start with his ability to cover, which is an important next to Cushing, who likes to play downhill.

    Either Bullough or Dent being cut wouldn't be surprising, but the Texans will likely keep an extra guy here with both players having value on special teams. Bullough has also made a few plays, including an interception and a tipped pass that turned into an interception, which will help his case.

Defensive Backs

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    Who Will Make the Roster (10): Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, A.J. Bouye, Andre Hal, Brandon Harris, Elbert Mack, D.J. Swearinger, Kendrick Lewis, Chris Clemons and Shiloh Keo.

    This is another position group with a lot of competition. Joseph, Swearinger, Lewis, Clemons and Jackson are obvious locks, but after that, a lot has been up in the air.

    One spot in particular was won during the final preseason game—that being Shiloh Keo over Eddie Pleasant. Neither player has been impressive in the battle for the fourth safety spot, but Pleasant has been a disaster in coverage. 

    Eddie Pleasant could not locate the ball. Gabbert with a good pass for the TD. #Texans

    — PDS (@PatDStat) August 29, 2014

    Just a week after giving up two long touchdowns to Emmanuel Sanders, Pleasant gave up another score this week to the 49ers when he took a bad angle in defending the route and then followed it up with a missed tackle.

    Keo, on the other hand, played solid against the 49ers with several nice open-field tackles and some plays on special teams. He's not great, but he is good enough to win the job. Keo isn't a game-changer, but he's been less prone to making killer mistakes and is a better contributor on special teams.

    One young player who has been impressive is Andre Hal, who returned his second interception for a touchdown during the final preseason game against San Francisco. On both pick-sixes Hal was able to read the quarterback's eyes, anticipate and make a quick break on the ball. He's a good potential playmaker. 

    Andre Hal has been a good find. 7th rounder and had a great training camp. Now have to get him consistent. #Texans

    — PDS (@PatDStat) August 29, 2014

Special Teams

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Who Will Make the Roster (3): Shane Lechler, Jon Weeks and Randy Bullock.

    Chris Boswell finished the preseason with solid punting and a made field goal against San Francisco, but the Texans' three players here will be the same they started the offseason with.

    Lechler and Weeks were always locks, and while there was a time that Bullock was probably on shaky ground, his performance against Atlanta, combined with the two missed extra points in the same game from Boswell, likely sealed the job for the veteran.

    Bullock drove in the final nail when he made a 52-yard field goal right down the middle against San Francisco. The former fifth-round pick had a rough start to the 2013 season, but he made his final 12 kicks last season and has kicked well this preseason. He's earned the job.

    Boswell won't be without a job for long. He too made a kick on Thursday and has also punted well, which will make him an intriguing option for any team with a struggling or injured kicker or punter.

Final

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    Patric Schneider/Associated Press

    The final 53-man roster will look like this:

    Quarterback (2)Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tom Savage
    Running Back (4)Arian Foster, Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes, Jay Prosch
    Wide Receiver (6)Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Thomas, DeVier Posey, Keshawn Martin, Uzoma Nwachukwu
    Tight End (3)Garrett Graham, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin
    Offensive Line (9)Duane Brown, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Chris Myers, Brandon Brooks, Derek Newton, Ben Jones, Tyson Clabo, Alex Kupper, Will Yeatman
    Defensive Line (6)J.J. Watt, Jerrell Powe, Louis Nix III, Jared Crick, Tim Jamison, Jeoffrey Pagan 
    Linebacker (10)Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Brooks Reed, Quentin Groves, Brian Cushing, Justin Tuggle, Mike Mohamed, Jeff Tarpinian, Akeem Dent, Max Bullough
    Defensive Backs (10)Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Brandon Harris, A.J. Bouye, Elbert Mack, Andre Hal, D.J. Swearinger, Kendrick Lewis, Chris Clemons, Shiloh Keo 
    Special Teams (3)Randy Bullock, Shane Lechler, Jon Weeks