Today is my first day at Houston Texans training camp in West Virginia, and aside from my excitement over temperatures that are about 15 to 20 degrees cooler than those in Houston, I am very excited to visually make my way around the practice fields for the first time in 2018. (I say "visually" because my m.o. is to perch myself atop the bleachers where literally every position group is visible from on high, and then use my eyes to walk around practice.)
So as the 2018 preseason further unfolds, here are five position battles that will garner a disproportionate amount of my attention later this morning and throughout the week:
KAREEM JACKSON vs JUSTIN REID
After years of playing footsies with a full time move to safety for Kareem Jackson, Bill O'Brien and Romeo Crennel finally pulled the trigger this offseason. They, along with GM Brian Gaine, were also fortunate enough to have Stanford safety Justin Reid fall into their laps with the 68th pick. If Reid is who the Texans think he is, then it will feel like they landed a late first round pick with the 68th pick. The guess here is that the Texans are going to use so many different formations defensively that both guys will see the field plenty, but my other guess is that Reid will establish himself as the second safety on this team after Tyrann Mathieu coming out of camp.
STEPHEN ANDERSON vs THE LAST FEW ROSTER SPOTS
The Texans drafted two tight ends among their eight draft choices a few months ago, so in the NFL world, that would seem to be a "tell" on how they feel about Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson. Assuming he is healthy, I think Griffin's experience alone makes him a lock to be on this team, and likely starting. The draft capital expended on Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas would seem to secure their spots, if camp goes well. So what to do with Anderson, who's shown flashes of being productive, but also had a hard time getting open last season once this offense turned back into a Tom Savage-led pumpkin. My first crack at a 53-man roster last week had Anderson getting cut. Truth be told, he is probably competing more with the last few guys at other positions for a roster spot than he is competing with Griffin, Akins, or Thomas.
BRAXTON MILLER vs BRAXTON MILLER'S SPOTTY HISTORY
While we can read what we want into drafting two tight ends, there is no question that the selection of fourth round WR Keke Coutee is a direct shot across the bow of 2016 third rounder Braxton Miller. Miller's issues have been plenty in his two seasons. Mainly, they've centered around a rough transition to wide receiver in the NFL, as well as health. Even when Braxton Miller is able to generate a highlight, he incurs the wrath of his head coach by somersaulting into the end zone....
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TROYMAINE POPE vs TERRY SWANSON vs ALFRED BLUE vs LAVON COLEMAN
D'Onta Foreman will begin the 2018 preseason on the PUP list, and the team has not indicated Foreman's level of readiness to begin playing any time soon. Lamar Miller will be the starter, but now those 10 to 15 carries that will go to a second running back are slated for....well, all of those guys I listed above. Let's hope the Texans know something we don't know, because I don't know if can handle large dosages of Alfred Blue this season.
BRENNAN SCARLETT vs DUKE EJIOFOR vs PETER KALAMBAYI
In a perfect world, Whitney Mercilus is your starting outside linebacker on one side, and Jadeveon Clowney is no longer used to do OLB things on the other side. He is left to get after the quarterback and wreak havoc in the offensive backfield as more of a defensive lineman-type than an outside linebacker. That leaves the three names above some snaps to make an impact. Ejiofor is the most intriguing one to me, as the draft experts largely say the Texans got a steal with him in the sixth round in this most recent draft.
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