Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans 2017 Preseason, So Far — 4 Winners, 4 Losers

Keith Mumphery has played his last game as a Houston Texan, and maybe his last in the NFL.
Keith Mumphery has played his last game as a Houston Texan, and maybe his last in the NFL. Eric Sauseda
The Houston Texans are rarely a source for much drama, even at a juncture of the NFL season when tensions are typically at their peak. However, this offseason has been a little bit different. We have a brewing quarterback competition, a quasi-holdout of one of the team's top players, and Texans being released over (presumably) off-the-field sins.

In other words, the Houston Texans are starting to feel like a real NFL team! (I kid, I kid...) Let's do a quick status check on the dashboard indicators for our favorite professional football franchise, shall we?


4. Offensive tackles needing reps
Duane Brown is staying away from OTAs in a contract-related dispute, and it doesn't look like he's joining the team anytime soon. This shouldn't be the source for much drama YET. If Brown starts missing mandatory things like minicamp, then we have ourselves a story. In the meantime, Brown's absence is probably a GOOD thing for the Texans, because some of the guys further down the depth chart are getting reps. (Granted, they are padless, OTA reps, but MENTAL reps nonetheless.) So while eventually we all want Duane back, right now the extra time in actual snaps is good for Kendall Lamm, Breno Giacomini (not a young guy, but new to the system), Chris Clark (needs as much work as possible) and rookie Julien Davenport.

3. D.J. Reader
We had Reader on my radio show on Friday, and you can just sense his confidence heading into his second year. Rarely is a fifth-round choice anointed a starter in OTAs of his second season, but Reader's replacing Vince Wilfork at nose tackle seems to be a foregone conclusion. It brings up an interesting question for young players — given that it's the SECOND contract in which guys can really break the bank, would you rather be a second-round pick on a bad defense, or a fifth-round pick who will spend the last three years of his rookie deal playing in between J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney? If you're wondering about the financial difference, using a hypothetical, over his first four years, Detroit DT A'Shawn Robinson (the 46th pick in 2016) is going to make about $5.2 million playing for the 32nd-ranked defense (per DVOA) in football in 2016. Reader (the 166th pick in 2016) is going to make about $2.5 million over those four years playing with Watt and Clowney (and other highly capable players and coaches). It's worth noting that Robinson has about half his deal guaranteed, $2.6 million, whereas Reader's only guarantee is his $215,380 signing bonus.

If you're Reader, a fifth-round pick with talent most certainly commensurate with a much higher round, I feel good betting on myself in this specific situation. In other words, there's a good chance I think Reader could more than make up the $2.7 million delta in his second contract playing for the Texans than if he'd been drafted into a bad defense as a second-round pick.

2. Robert Nelson

Who will be this year's A.J. Bouye? This will be a "hot take" touch point when any of us broadcast types need a segment during the dog days of summer radio (although admittedly the Astros got us all feelin' some kinda way right now, am I right?). The segment's purpose will be to identify what formerly undrafted free agent has a chance to make a significant leap in Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4 (which was Bouye's "leap" year). Here's the thing — the Texans actually need to replace A.J. Bouye at HIS position. In other words, they need a cornerback to ascend. It could be fifth-round rookie Treston Decoud, but the draconian Pac-12 graduation rules don't allow him to work out right now. So one of last year's street pickups, Robert Nelson, has stepped into the breach and made some plays in OTAs. We will see if it's still happening when the pads go on.

1. Every undrafted wide receiver in camp
In the wake of his somehow-hidden-for-two-years sexual assault accusation that got him expelled and banned from Michigan State's campus, wide receiver Keith Mumphery was released by the Texans on Friday afternoon. More on that in a moment. What Mumphery's release does functionally, on the depth chart, is open up an intriguing spot behind DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller and Jaelen Strong for the fifth wide receiver (assuming the team carries five, which they may not, given the versatility of some of the running backs and tight ends). So if you're an undrafted rookie, like, say, Riley McCarron or Justin Hardee, all of a sudden your path to the NFL just became a little clearer — make a few "WOW" plays, stay after practice and do the JUGS machine like a mother, and volunteer to play every special teams snap possible.


4. Deante Gray
The one undrafted wide receiver for whom things got murkier on Friday was Gray, the speedster out of TCU. According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Gray suffered a Grade 2 partial hamstring tear. The Westside High School graduate should be ready for training camp, but wide receiver is one of the few positions where you can turn some heads without pads on, so Gray is missing out on some important snaps for a guy trying to survive as an undrafted rookie.

3. Cleveland
If you read my posts on a regular basis, then you know this already, but Cleveland is kind of feeling some good vibes on Brock Osweiler right now. They're picking up what ol' Brocky is dishing out. As a city that's been down this road with that carnival huckster of a quarterback before, for Houston, it's kind of funny to see, especially considering that Brock is now a Cleveland Brown, the only franchise more QB-starved than the Houston Texans. Hue Jackson is reportedly really enthused by Brock's improved fundamentals and his ability to make various throws. He really LOOKS the part, they say. (Does this all sound familiar, Houston?) In the wrestling business, they have a phrase for a guy who looks and sounds like a million bucks until he actually has to DO SOMETHING in the ring — they say "...and then the bell rang." The football equivalent would be something like "...and then he had to put on pads." At some point, Brock will put on pads, and he will fail miserably.

Now on to our two released Texans (and a former Michigan State Spartan)...

2. Max Bullough
Bullough was going to enter the season with a four-game suspension for failing a PED test. When you're Brian Cushing, the previous season's AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, and you fail a PED test, the team will wait patiently for you to come back. When you're Max Bullough, a fringe roster guy heading into his fourth season and the team used a second-round pick on a (better) guy at your spot, well, you can get cut at any time. Bullough found that out the hard way on Friday...

1. Keith Mumphery
.... as did Mumphery, who was, not surprisingly, released by the Texans in the wake of the news that he had been expelled from Michigan State's graduate studies program and banned from campus until 2019 (with arrest being the outcome if he showed up there) nearly a year ago over an alleged sexual assault. We've covered the details of that story extensively here. The football question (because obviously there are a ton of legal and procedural questions) becomes "Will Keith Mumphery play in the NFL again?" Let's be blunt and clear — even with a clean rap sheet, Mumphery was on the verge of washing out as a fifth-round pick, as he regressed from his rookie year to his second year. Mumphery just wasn't a productive player, as a receiver or a returner, and for a fifth-round pick, he was given plenty of chances. Unless there's a Michigan State connection out there where Spartans coach Mark Dantonio can make a phone call to a head coach, coordinator, position coach or scout (assuming Dantonio has positive thoughts on Mumphery), I'll be surprised if Mumphery plays another snap in the league.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast