In a Texans preseason that's been brimming with the most anticipation of any of the three involving Bill O'Brien thus far, in large part because the team appears to have finally found a franchise quarterback, the third-year head coach's evaluation has remained very measured and conservative, citing a few of the good things, yet acknowledging that there's still more work to do.
When asked his thoughts on evaluating this group after the win over Arizona on Sunday, O'Brien stated matter-of-factly:
“You definitely like to win no matter if it counts or not. You want to go out there in between the lines and try to win the game and 3 and 0 is certainly better than 0 and 3. Obviously, you guys know better than me, you can go back through the history of this league, 4 and 0 in the preseason doesn’t necessarily always translate to great records in the regular season. What I just told the team there, one day at a time. Let’s correct the film when we get you guys back in here. Let’s correct the mistakes. Let’s think about the things we’re doing well and let’s move on to the next phase of basically preseason. We’ve got to cut the team down to 75 and then after Dallas, we’ve got a 53 cut. Just one day at a time. Let’s not put too much into it than what it is.”
Oh, Bill... that's what we do in the media! We put way too much into way too many things! So if you'll indulge me, Coach, we are skipping right past that "cut to 75," and heading straight to 53, with the latest version of Roster-ology, our fourth version of the 53-man roster prediction.
Here we go, starting with the locks, which lost one to injury (may lose another), and added three names....
THE LOCKS (38) .. * denotes rookie, new "locks" are in CAPS
QUARTERBACK (2) — Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage
RUNNING BACK (2) — Lamar Miller,* Tyler Ervin
WIDE RECEIVER (4) — DeAndre Hopkins, Jaelen Strong,* Will Fuller,* Braxton Miller
TIGHT END (3) — C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin, * STEPHEN ANDERSON
OFFENSIVE LINE (8) — Duane Brown (T), Xavier Su'a-Filo (G), Jeff Allen (G), Derek Newton (T), Chris Clark (T), Tony Bergstrom (G/C), Greg Mancz (G/C), Kendall Lamm (T)
DEFENSIVE LINE (4) — J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, Christian Covington, * D.J. Reader
LINEBACKER (5) — Brian Cushing, Bernardrick McKinney, Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, John Simon
CORNERBACK (4) — Kareem Jackson, Jonathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson, A.J. Bouye
SAFETY (3) — Quintin Demps, Andre Hal, * K.J. DILLON
SPECIALISTS (3) — Jon Weeks, Shane Lechler, NICK NOVAK
So the additions this week to the "LOCKS" list (along with a short blurb on each) are the following:
* ANDERSON: He's been in on a bunch of third down packages offensively, and has shown enough ability catching the football to make the 53-man, in part because the coaching staff just seems to have forgotten about fortifying this position, sticking with C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin and not really bringing anybody else in. Anderson, an intriguing prospect, makes it almost by default.
* DILLON: Led the team in tackles against Arizona and has steadily gotten better and better throughout camp, and right now, with the safety spots kind of a jumble after the first two guys, it's hard to see Dillon's performance and status as a drafted rookie not being enough to get him onto the squad.
* NOVAK: Has been steady placekicking throughout camp, and honestly, the new kickoff rules putting touchbacks at the 25 yard line may wind up helping some of the weaker-legged kickers as pooch kicks and attempts to kick off to right at the goal line may become more the norm rather than booming kicks out of the end zone.
* NOTE: Nick Martin has been removed from the "Locks" with the expectation that he will go on injured reserve after ankle surgery. Also, Duane Brown is still on the roster, but there is a strong possibility he winds up on the PUP list for the first six weeks. For now, I'll keep Brown on here and pray.
So let's try to put together the rest of the roster...
FILLING IT IN..... (15)
39. Alfred Blue, RB
40. Akeem Hunt, RB
41. Jay Prosch, FB
Yes, I totally wussed out and removed Kenny Hilliard and put Alfred Blue back in. To be clear, it's not because I'm a fan of Blue. However, this is a prediction of what the coaches will do, and for some reason they seem to be HUGE fans of the completely pedestrian style with which he gets his two yards on seemingly every carry. I still think Hunt's juice as a speedster gets him on the roster, and I'll keep Prosch on here, but truth be told, I feel good about the safety of none of these guys. You could make a case for keeping or cutting all three of them, as well as Hilliard and Jonathan Grimes.
42. Keith Mumphrey, WR
Switching up this one, too. Cecil Shorts seems to be behind Mumphrey right now, and Mumphrey's ability on special teams gives him the slight edge as the fifth wide receiver. Shorts has already taken a pay cut this offseason, so we can kind of see what they think of him already.
43. Jeff Adams, T/G
44. Okay Aboushi, G
Hanging onto these two, but you could see at least one, maybe two more names added on the offensive line, depending on how they handle Brown's injury and how good they feel about their depth, especially with Derek Newton out right now, too.
45. Brandon Dunn, DT/DE
46. Devon Still, DE
Joel Heath is pushing hard for one of these two spots, and may get it.
47. Brian Peters, LB
48. Max Bullough, LB
These two hang onto their spots because of special teams play (Peters) and overall improvement for the past few years (Bullough), respectively. I think Akeem Dent gets cut, and Rashard Cliett will be on the practice squad.
49. * Brennan Scarlett, OLB
The star of the second half of the Arizona game, Scarlett got a late start on training camp because of injury, but is making the most of his opportunities now. His stat line against Arizona was positively Watt-ian (six tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, two tackles for loss). Reminds me of Bryan Braman's successful bid to make the team back in 2011.
50. Charles James, CB
I am not making him a lock, only because he would never make himself a lock, but James is making the team. There's no superior physical specimen like Jumal Rolle (sarcasm font; Texans fans get it) around to take James's gig this time.
51. Eddie Pleasant, S
52. Antonio Allen, S
I honestly have no idea which safeties they like. This is as guess-y as guessing gets.
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53. Brandon Weeden, QB
Tom Savage has reverted back a bit to being Tom Savage again. I think O'Brien is going to keep that backup gig competitive for a while.
FELL OFF LIST: Kenny Hilliard, RB; Cecil Shorts, WR; Tony Washington, Jr., OLB
MOST "IN JEOPARDY": All of the running backs, Still, both safeties, Weeden
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