In a training camp with 50 new faces, it's been somewhat difficult to discern who the frontrunners are for several of the roster spots for the 2021 Houston Texans. However, we are starting to hit some key milestones — first and second unofficial depth charts revealed, first preseason game in the books — that begin the subtle reveal of which players are in line to be on the 53-man roster for the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
So, without further ado, but still with major trepidation over all these new faces, here is my best guess at a 53-man roster prediction for your 2021 Houston Texans:
QUARTERBACK (3): Tyrod Taylor, David Mills, Veteran QB Not Yet On The Team
The first two names in this position group are easy. Taylor will be the Week 1 starter, and Mills is the drafted rookie, who will get a look at some point. Right now, Jeff Driskel is the third string quarterback, and he is so bad, that I can't imagine him being on an NFL roster. I do think they will have a third quarterback, likely a veteran, so they don't have to start Mills too early. The other caveat here is Deshaun Watson. If he hasn't been placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List by Week 1, he may need to occupy a roster spot (and be tabbed as "inactive" each week).
RUNNING BACK (4): Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Mark Ingram, Buddy Howell
The only one I feel 100 percent strong about here is Lindsay, who is the youngest of the veteran backs, has shown the most burst, and started the game in Green Bay. Howell makes it over Rex Burkhead based on his ability on special teams, and his ability to run the ball between the tackles, if needed. Johnson transitions into a role as the third down back.
WIDE RECEIVER (5): Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, Chris Conley, Keke Coutee, Chris Moore
The one variable here is Anthony Miller, who left the game against Green Bay with a shoulder dislocation, a recurring issue for him. He was slated for an MRI, and I am going to assume he misses some time. So he may be on the 53-man roster out of camp, but then put on IR, so that he is eligible to play in 2021. I think ultimately Moore will be on the 53-man roster in Week 1, once they administratively handle Miller's injury.
TIGHT END (3): Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown, Brevin Jordan
This position is all sewn up, barring injury. The disappointing career of Kahale Warring, mercifully, comes to an end.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Laremy Tunsil, Tytus Howard, Justin Britt, Max Scharping, Charlie Heck, Jordan Steckler, Justin McCray, Cole Toner, Geron Christian
If there is a position group that could be the biggest key to the Texans overachieving in 2021, it's the offensive line, where they return two of their most talented players in Tunsil and Howard, brought in a major upgrade at center in Britt, and have seen position coach James Campen quickly develop Heck onto a possible starter. Roderick Johnson might be the one in jeopardy here, if his stay on the COVID list extends into the next preseason game. I have no clue what's happening with Marcus Cannon, who has yet to suit up for a practice for the Texans, so I'll keep him off the grid for now.
DEFENSIVE LINE (10): Maliek Collins, Ross Blacklock, Jaleel Johnson, Roy Lopez, Charles Omenihu, Whitney Mercilus, Jacob Martin, Jon Greenard, DeMarcus Walker, Jordan Jenkins
With all of last year's outside linebackers now listed as defensive ends, this group becomes jumbo sized in Lovie Smith's 4-3 defense. This was one of the more difficult groups to arrive at final cuts. For what it's worth, I think there is a very good chance that Whitney Mercilus' Texans career ends with him being one of the final cuts at the end of camp, although it would be a $15 million cap hit to let him go. For now, I have him in the fold over the very disappointing Shaq Lawson.
LINEBACKER (5): Zach Cunningham, Christian Kirksey, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Garrett Wallow
The first three were all listed as first string on the depth chart, but none of them played against the Packers. Grugier-Hill had two tackles for loss, and looked very active. Wallow has climate well as a rookie, after Caserio traded up twice on the third day of the draft to select him out of TCU.
CORNERBACK (6): Bradley Roby, Terrance Mitchell, Desmond King, Vernon Hargreaves, Tremon Smith, Tavierre Thomas
The one caveat with this group is that Roby will miss the first week of the season while serving the final game of his PED suspension from 2020. King might end up doubling as the punt returner for this team, as well. Hargreaves will never die!
SAFETY (4): Justin Reid, Eric Murray, Lonnie Johnson, A.J. Moore
On a team where there's been massive turnover at almost every position (except maybe tight end), I have the Texans returning the exact same four safeties that ended 2020 at the top of the depth chart. For a secondary that was so bad last season, I don't know how to feel about that.
SPECIALISTS (4): Jon Weeks, Cameron Johnston, Ka'imi Fairbairn, Andre Roberts
The first three names have no competition in camp right now. They will be the three headed specialist monster. I put Roberts in this category, as opposed to wide receiver, because if he makes the roster, it will be solely to return kicks.
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