We're at the time of year when you have to get your NFL 53-man roster predictions out there quickly, or else they could get debunked if your team has an itchy trigger finger, so quickly, here is a reminder on the key dates this week:
Sept. 1: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must reduce their rosters to a maximum of 75 players on the active list.
Sept. 3: Final preseason games.
Sept. 5: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List.
Ok, let's do this….
THE VETERAN LOCKS
QUARTERBACK (3): Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage
We had a slight ripple of drama injected into this chunk of the depth chart in the middle of last week when Ryan Mallett's alarm clock malfunctioned, but by Sunday, if you'd been abducted by aliens from Wednesday through Saturday, you'd never know anything had happened with Mallett.
RUNNING BACK (3): Arian Foster, Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes
Rumors are that Arian Foster is supposedly running, feeling good, and routinely smiling, which should make Texans fans routinely smile. Blue is the definition of a nondescript backup who doesn't really do anything above average, but isn't horrible at anything. Despite only 13 carries in the preseason, I think the team likes Grimes. (Hell, that's probably why he only has 13 carries.)
WIDE RECEIVER (5): DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts III, Nate Washington, Jaelen Strong, Keith Mumphrey
The store is pretty much closed here, especially if Mumphrey can return kicks. The only was a sixth receiver makes it is if they can help returning the football.
TIGHT END (2): Garrett Graham, C.J. Fiedorowicz
I'm still bullish on a 45-50 catch season for Graham, and bullish that Fiedorowicz will be more than a souped up extra blocker.
OFFENSIVE LINE (6): Duane Brown, Derek Newton, Ben Jones, Brandon Brooks, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jeff Adams
Not worried at all about Duane Brown and the thumb issue that popped up this weekend. Supposedly, it's an issue Brown has lived with for a large part of his NFL career. Fortunately, in the New Orleans game, they found a solution with Kendall Lamm at left tackle (you may hear his name momentarily) that prevented everyone else from having to shift positions, especially Ben Jones who needs reps at center badly to be ready for Week 1.
DEFENSIVE LINE (5): Vince Wilfork, J.J. Watt, Jared Crick, Christian Covington
I had closed the store at defensive line last week, but I just can't shake the six percent chance that the team may just say "Fuck it" with Louis Nix III and cut him. He hasn't done anything this preseason, despite oodles and oodles of snaps relative to the rest of the team. Pagan has been blah, too, so I'm not locking him in. Covington not only has made the team, but I'm confident he can be a contributor this season, not just a place holder.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (3): Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, Jon Simon
This is total "observational regular guy" analysis, but I like that Clowney is constantly joking and laughing with his teammates on the sidelines during these games. That's engagement, and engagement means Clowney feels like he belongs, and if he feels like he belongs, it probably means he feels healthy. Am I reaching? Maybe. But it's now Week 4 of the preseason. It's time for reaching.
INSIDE LINEBACKER (3): Brian Cushing, Mike Mohamed, Bernardrick McKinney
I know these three guys are making the team. I have no idea who else does at this position. At least four names in line for two spots.
CORNERBACK (4): Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Kevin Johnson, A.J. Bouye
I'm putting Bouye on here because he gets discussed like he's a lock, not because he's played like one.
SAFETY (4): Rahim Moore, Andre Hal, Eddie Pleasant, Quintin Demps
I have no idea who the starter will be at strong safety, but I know who will be on this roster come Week 1. (Prediction: Andre Hal will be the starter Week 1, mainly because they need some extra pass coverage out there for tight end Travis Kelce. And yes, I'm totally over thinking this.
SPECIALISTS (3): Jon Weeks, Randy Bullock, Shane Lechler
Bang, bang, chicken and shrimp.
Okay, so before we start shopping from the training-camp bubble to fill out the 53-man roster, here's where we are:
OFFENSE (19): 3 QB, 3 RB, 5 WR, 2 TE, 6 OL
DEFENSE (19): 5 DL, 3 OLB, 3 ILB, 4 CB, 4 S
SPECIALISTS (3): 1 K, 1 P, 1 LS
So we need twelve more players. Let's go find twelve more players, people...
42. Jay Prosch, FB
Yay. Fullback. Woo hoo.
43. Ryan Griffin, TE
I want so very badly to give this spot to Khari Lee, you have no idea. But I think Griffin's spot is pretty solid, almost solely on his pass catching ability. That said, they better throw to the tight ends more or there's no reason to have Griffin on the roster. Last season was like having Kyle Korver on your roster and swearing off shooting threes.
44. Chris Polk, RB
Need another body at this position until Foster is healthy. O'Brien likes Polk. Kenny Hilliard will be a practice squad guy.
45. Kendall Lamm, T
46. Random waiver wire veteran, T/G/C
He was singled out (positively) by O'Brien last week, and got the start on Sunday. That has to be good, right? Beyond that, I have no idea who they're taking on the 53-man roster from the bucket of offensive linemen in camp. I think they'll scour the waiver wire on Friday and Saturday, and a move will be made.
Okay, defensive side of the ball...
47. Akeem Dent, ILB
48. Charles James, CB
I don't even feel like I'm shilling for a reality television star anymore. James deserves to make the team! Which brings us to five cornerbacks (and Andre Hal, who has corner skills and was drafted as a cornerback). I have no idea who to cut between Darryl Morris and Jumal Rolle, so I'll flip a coin…..
49. Darryl Morris, CB
50. Kourtnei Brown, OLB
Although you can spin the wheel with Trail, Ankrah, Thompson, and Washington.
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51. Louis Nix III, NT
52. Jeoffrey Pagan, DE
But you're both on double secret probation.
53. Justin Tuggle, ILB
Not sure what's wrong with Tarpinian, but his injury is hurting his chances, and Tuggle has played decently on special teams. There will be a few guys that get thrown on injured reserve.
FIRST FOUR OUT: Lee, Trail, Worthy, Tarpinian.
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