Thursday night, the Texans' 2012 preseason wraps up with a game against the Minnesota Vikings. The game is meaningful to a couple dozen guys still battling for roster and practice squad spots (and REALLY degenerate gamblers -- seriously, final preseason game gambling is the bestiality porn of the gaming industry), and that's about it.
Regardless of the final score that night or any of the other nights over the last four weeks, this training camp has to be considered an unequivocal success for the Texans.
Well, because barring something unforeseen happening off of the football field, the Texans' entire core nucleus will all be running out of the tunnel to take on the Miami Dolphins on September 9.
This includes players who missed time during training camp: Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Shaun Cody and Duane Brown.
This includes players who missed chunks of time last season: Johnson, Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, James Casey, LeStar Jean, Rashad Butler and Danieal Manning.
And this includes other players who haven't missed any time lately or last season but are really, really freaking important to the 2012 outlook: Owen Daniels, Chris Myers, Antonio Smith, Connor Barwin, Johnathan Joseph, Glover Quin and Jon Weeks. (Okay, I'm kidding about Weeks.)
So if you're looking at some position battles that will be resolved Thursday night, and that's about the only reason to watch, probably best to first figure out who has secured a spot on the 53-man roster.
By my estimation, the following players have all sewn up spots on the 53-man roster:
QB (2): Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates RB (3): Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Justin Forsett FB (1): Moran Norris TE (3): Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham, James Casey WR (4): Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, LeStar Jean, Keshawn Martin OL (8): Duane Brown, Wade Smith, Chris Myers, Antoine Caldwell, Derek Newton, Rashad Butler, Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones
DL (6): J.J. Watt, Shaun Cody, Antonio Smith, Jared Crick, Earl Mitchell, Tim Jamison LB (8): Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, Brian Cushing, Bradie James, Bryan Braman, Mister Alexander, Tim Dobbins, Whitney Mercilus DB (9): Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Danieal Manning, Glover Quin, Brice McCain, Brandon Harris, Sherrick McManis, Troy Nolan, Quintin Demps
Specialists (3): LS Jon Weeks, K Shayne Graham, P Donnie Jones
That is a total of 47 players, so six more to go, but before we try and figure out who those players are, a few comments on the group above, in "Larry King, dot dot dot notebook" style: Players I had to think about before making them locks: Forsett and McManis...Forsett makes it on strength of versatility (receiving, kick returns) and experience over Jonathan Grimes...McManis makes it on strength of special teams play....Derrell Smith waiver puts the Moran Norris "depth chart" situation to bed. Why was he behind Smith again?...No drama in the kicking game with Bullock going on IR and Hartmann waived.
Okay, here are the battle-fights to watch on Thursday night against the Vikings
KR Trindon Holliday versus every bubble guy for the 53-man roster Some say Holliday is a lock, I say he isn't. I spent enough words on this on Monday. If Holliday has another fumble on a kickoff or punt, I don't know how you can say he's shown enough to where he's worth the risk. On a team as good offensively as the Texans, two turnovers in the return game cancel out two touchdowns every time.
Players who are privately rooting for Holliday to fuck up royally on Thursday should be: Jesse Nading, Shiloh Keo, Eddie Pleasant, Alan Ball, Roc Carmichael, Shelley Smith, Andrew Gardner, Jonathan Grimes and John Beck. If Holliday makes the team, it's likely at the expense of one of them.
QB John Beck versus opportunity Since driving the Texans to their only offensive touchdown in the preseason opener against Carolina, Beck hasn't seen the field. He will get the start on Thursday and play the whole first half. Case Keenum will play the second half. One argument for Beck making the team is that the team wound up keeping three quarterbacks last season and needed all three. My counterargument to that would be that 1) the odds of having to go to QB3 a second year in a row should be minuscule and 2) it's John Beck. If your season gets down to John Beck factoring in, face it. You're fucked.
WR DeVier Posey versus his calf There are two options for Posey: Either he makes the final roster (no chance of being cut and almost no chance of practice squad) or this calf injury that forced him to miss Saturday's game against the Saints mysteriously becomes VERY severe in the 24 hours following the Vikings game, and he goes on injured reserve. I can't imagine the Texans' ideal solution involves Posey's being away from football for another year, but he's done nothing to warrant a spot on the roster this summer.
G Shelley Smith and OLB Jesse Nading versus the CSU fade Since Gary Kubiak arrived in Houston in 2006, former Colorado State Rams have been a fixture on the roster. But in the last 12 months, we've seen David Anderson, Joel Dreessen and Mike Brisiel all either asked to leave or be allowed to leave in free agency. Former Rams Smith and Nading are like the last of the Jedi, that is, if the Jedi played football in Fort Collins, Colorado.
NT Hebron Fangupo versus Shaun Cody's epidural Sonny Harris's going down with a season-ending injury opened the door for Fangupo to at least be discussed as a dark horse to make the roster. As of now, the only way he makes the 53-man is if Cody's back starts acting up again. So my suggestion to Fangupo would be to fuck with the settings on Cody's chair in position meetings and turn the air conditioning WAY down so Cody's back tightens up. It could work.
CB Alan Ball versus CB Roc Carmichael Carmichael is like a -300 favorite in this one. If these position battles were an actual wrestling card, this would be the first match on the card. Quick squash match.
S Shiloh Keo versus S Eddie Pleasant versus math in a triple threat match The Texans love Eddie Pleasant. They invested a draft pick last season in Shiloh Keo, and he's been one of their best special teams players this preseason. There is no chance they keep six safeties, so one of these guys will miss the cut, and there's a decent chance they don't keep five safeties (they've always kept four, mainly because they've always had shitty safeties), so both guys may be screwed.
My call for the final six spots:
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48. Roc Carmichael 49. Trindon Holliday (but I don't feel nearly as good about it as most seem to) 50. Shiloh Keo 51. Andrew Gardner 52. DeVier Posey (or possibly some veteran waiver wire pickup if he goes on IR) 53. Jonathan Grimes
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