Last year, the preseason felt like a long preseason. Admittedly, that was due almost completely to the fact that Mother Nature decided to plunk a hurricane down right in the middle of the proceedings, cancelling the fourth preseason game in the process.
This year, the preseason has felt even longer, but thankfully, that feeling is spawned from GOOD reasons — anticipation, excitement, general human impatience, and the health of Deshaun Watson (and J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus and....). Finally, the 2018 preseason is over, with the Texans' backups capping things off with a 14-6 win at home over the Dallas Cowboys' backups.
With guys fighting for their NFL lives, there were certainly winners and losers, so let's run through them quickly....
4. Greg Mancz
Prior to the game last night, the Texans sent out a press release announcing that they had signed Greg Mancz to a two-year contract extension, making him a Texan through the 2020 season. On the surface, this would seem to serve two purposes. First, for the next couple seasons, this secures some valuable interior line depth, as the starters at guard and center, are all under contract through at least 2019, if not 2020 or 2021. Second, Nick Martin is heading into the third year of his four-year rookie deal. Martin has been okay, but not great. Perhaps the team extended Mancz, who started all 16 games at center in 2016, as insurance in case Martin doesn't take that next step in his development this season. Either way, Mancz has far outplayed his undrafted pedigree by getting to a second contract.
3. Shane Lechler
I will admit, as I was cobbling together the rough draft of this post during the game, I had Trevor Daniel's name in here. Daniel, of course, is the rookie trying to take Lechler's job, and it's been quite a battle throughout camp. In the first half of last night's game, Daniel had the upper hand, with a nice 50-yard boot coinciding with a Lechler 30-yard shank. However, like the Hall of Famer he is, Lechler closed strong as he boomed a 61-yard punt that was sandwiched in between two Daniel knuckleball punts. I'm guessing, in the end, Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien will opt for the safe 2018 play in Lechler and hope they can find a way to keep Daniel for the future, perhaps on the practice squad or by finding a hangnail or something that would allow them to place him on injured reserve.
2. Joel Heath
If you combine numbers with actual production, the most competitive position group on the team is defensive line. There are seven defensive linemen who absolutely deserve to make this team, and if traditional numbers hold, only seven will. (This doesn't even include Jadeveon Clowney, who I'm counting as a linebacker for these purposes.) It's probably Heath and Angelo Blackson battling for the last spot, and Heath has really reasserted himself these last couple games. Last night, he had a couple tackles early in the game, including a "statement" tackle for loss. I think Heath makes this team, and Blackson needs to hope they keep an overload in the defensive line. If not, I see Blackson being claimed off waivers.
1. Alfred Blue
Deep into the offseason, Alfred Blue was sitting at home without an employer. His first foray into free agency resulted in, well, nothing. Then, just before the start of the offseason activities, the Texans inked Blue to a one year deal, presumably because he is "dependable" and "knows the system," two key traits to thrive in the World of O'Brien. Now, with D'Onta Foreman ready to start the season on the PUP list and sit to six weeks, Blue is in line to get about 8 to 10 carries a game. HE WILL NEVER DIE, PEOPLE. ALFRED BLUE WILL NEVER DIE.
4. Kendall Lamm
In the battle for a backup offensive tackle spot, Lamm had actually been showing well in the two most recent games, and in general, he looked more capable throughout training camp this season than last year, when he was anointed the starter, and quickly gave up what felt like 30 sacks to the Jaguars in Week 1. Last night, unfortunately for Lamm, was the Jags game all over again, as Lamm was repeatedly getting shoved backwards and beaten for sacks and tackles for loss. For those wondering why the hell Kendall Lamm has lasted this long, it may all be over soon.
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3. Tyler Ervin
Same thing for Ervin, who last season, was being pumped up as a solution in the slot as a receiving threat, and instead suffered a knee injury. This year, he was being given every chance to win his way onto the team as a return specialist, and never really got out of first gear. Ervin did nothing special this camp, and I think Brian Gaine is probably ready to punt on his Texans existence.
2. Stephen Anderson
The tight end position is one that has seem sewn up for virtually the entirety of this preseason. Ryan Griffin was always a lock to start on this team, and the two rookie Jordans, Akins and Thomas, have done more than enough to warrant their making the 53-man roster. If this team was going to keep a fourth tight end, that fourth tight end would have to do something pretty noteworthy. Since he'd been on the team
doing fairly unremarkable things over the last couple seasons, everyone assumed Stephen Anderson would find a spot on the roster. However, at this point, MyCole Pruitt and Matt Lengel have been more involved as reserve tight ends than Anderson, who's disappeared since the start of camp.
1. "QB needy teams"
So there was a report online from NFL.com's Ian Rapoport this week about "QB needy teams" possibly being in the market for names like Tom Savage, Mike Glennon, and Joshua Dobbs. If you're in any sort of market where the product that you're seeking is Tom Savage or Mike Glennon, you are in a horrible way and I will pray for you and your team.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.