The Houston Texans and the rest of the NFL are less than two weeks of being on the clock trying to improve their rosters. The Texans went through small changes to their roster replacing players who left for greener pastures most notably Kareem Jackson to Denver and Tyrann Mathieu to Kansas City. That might not have been the outcome the Texans were looking for especially with the exit of Mathieu and misses they had in free agency.
The Texans came up short on offensive line help him Roger Saffold who opted for Tennessee while Trent Brown broke the bank by signing with Oakland. The Texans know they needed help but were not willing to go outside of their budget for free agents opting for a low-risk flier in Matt Kalil. With the bulk of the free agency signings concluded, what do the Texans look like heading to the draft?
We take a look.
Three Down Interior Player
The Texans want a full array of defensive lineman on the roster, combinations that stop the run or heat up the quarterback. D.J. Reader is their long-term solution t the position, and they like pairing him with Brandon Dunn to plug up opposing running games. Also, with the exit of Chrisitan Covington, the Texans feel that Carlos Watkins could be ready to fill that role.
Ideally, the Texans want a three-down player to pair with Reader for the future, but if that does not match up with prospects available, a pass rusher will suffice.
Much like the cornerback group and the shift in thinking to help out their pass rushers, an interior presence would help in that department too. The Texans have not had a three-down interior player in the O'Brien era and finding that player remains a high priority.
Texans Have Tried to Replace Julién Davenport, Twice
The Texans talk a good game, especially with Julien Davenport. General Manager Brian Gaine said the following of Davenport.
- “Julién Davenport is entering year three of his career. We’re hoping for an even better dividend, more growth, more potential here. “
- “We do believe that Julién is going to be even more improved this year, with two years under his belt, having the starting experience.”
Last season, Gaine tried to land Nate Solder who chose the New York Giants to be their starting left tackle and this off-season Gaine attempted to throw his hat into the ring to land Trent Brown. That is two off-seasons in a row that Davenport was close to being replaced but free agency did not come to fruition. Add in Matt Kalil, who will be competing with Davenport when camp opens up for the starting spot. Davenport is being pushed by the organization to improve sooner rather than later.
Right tackle is a Real Need
Majority draft analyst will continue to point at the left tackle position as the clear problem spot, but with both Davenport and Kalil there, Seantrel Henderson does not have a real backup. Henderson has not played 16 games in the NFL since his rookie season in 2014. Dealing with health issues and a couple of suspensions, Henderson has not been dependable as a player. That is the reality of Henderson despited Gaine calling him a “16-game starter”.
The Texans will be making sure they walk away with an offensive tackle when the draft concludes but do not be surprised if the right tackle is the target when it is all said and done.
Is Running Back Help Coming?
The Texans know who their top two running back options will be heading into 2019, Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman. Health plays a big part in this, and with the exit of Alfred Blue to Jacksonville, the Texans are working hard keeping an eye on running back prospects. The Texans want to have a running back by committee, but that has been in place since O’Brien took over the team in 2015. The only issue is that the Texans have yet to trust any back outside of their top two for the past three seasons, Miller and Blue.
One name to keep an eye on is currently on the roster is running back Josh Ferguson. Ferguson was added late in the season to the practice squad, but he impressed enough to land a reserve/futures deal at the end of the season. The Texans want to see Ferguson with a full training camp to see if he can crack the roster. Keeping Ferguson around does not prevent the Texans from addressing the position through the draft.
The Texans want to add depth, and this might finally be the year they put that plan into motion.
Shift in Cornerbacks
The Texans led on shortly at the end of the 2018 season that the defense needed to play more man-to-man coverage. Romeo Crennel’s system has the secondary based out of cover-2 and cover-4 which leads to different skill types of coverage players.
Bradley Roby is the shift in their thinking on what they want in the position, fast, quick and more importantly a toolbox of coverage skills that allow the defense to play accordingly. One reason for this schematic change is to help their pass rushers get to the quarterback. After watching quarterbacks get off easy too many times the past few seasons with completing passes to off coverage, that is where the need for a wrinkle they can use throughout the season.
Who is the Third Safety?
The Texans are dealing with the exit of Andre Hal, and that leaves a vacancy behind starters Justin Reid and Tashaun Gipson. Hal has led the team in interceptions since he was drafted in 2015 and losing his ability to shut down the passing game will be missed.
It leads to the Texans looking for a possible option to replace Hal heading into this season. Mike Tyson held that role with Hal out at the beginning of the 2018 season and with the addition of Briean Boddy-Calhoun, he could be an option in that role.
The Texans are doing work through the NFL Draft meeting with safety prospects to be that next safety of the future. Maryland's Darnell Savage Jr., Virginia's Juan Thornhill, Florida's Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Deleware's Nasir Adderley and Ole Miss' Zerdick Woods are prospects the Texans continue to monitor heading to the draft.
Another Need for an Edge Presence
The Texans will always make sure they have enough edge players to get to the quarterback, and this will not be too far from their need list. With J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Duke Ejiofor under contract and Jadeveon Clowney tagged. The Texans on the surface appear to be in great shape, but football is a game where situations can change in a hurry.
Mercilus is on the final year of his contract, Watt lost two seasons due to injuries, Clowney with a repaired knee, and Ejiofor has a lingering shoulder issue that has flared up the past two seasons. The group has upside and will continue to produce, but there will always be a need for defense.
If there is an edge player that can continue to have a trajectory that matches what the Texans want in their defense, the prospect could come within the first three rounds.
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