Yes, the Houston Texans had a game last night. Yes, they won (28-24). No, it's probably not worth extensive discussion.
Aside from the very small handful battling for the remaining roster and practice-squad slots, there wasn't much to be learned out of the preseason finale with the Vikings. Sean Pendergast has a good rundown of those Texans battling for the final positions on the 53-man roster, due to the league by 8 p.m. tonight.
What could be interesting, however, are names exposed from the 31 other clubs around the NFL -- thereby expanding the pool beyond a small handful. Any player not placed on a team's 53-man roster, or injured reserve, is subject to being claimed through the NFL's waiver process.
Two years ago, the Texans nabbed cornerback Jason Allen via waivers (though it was slightly later in the year), and he became an impact player in 2011 on the first playoff team in franchise history.
Who are candidates to be this year's Allen? It's still too soon to tell, with most roster cuts not expected to leak until tonight and waiver claims not coming until later in the weekend. That said, the preseason did give us an idea on which positions the Texans may comb through the list to try and find help.
Here's a quick examination of areas the Texans may target, starting with the most likely.
4. Offensive tackle One week ago, this position was on the list but near the bottom. Now, it's at the top. Neither of starting right tackle candidates Derek Newton or Rashad Butler was particularly impressive in the preseason. The Texans chose Newton, a second-year player with more run-blocking ability and higher upside, as their starter, with Butler ready to assist as the swing tackle on the bench. Nice plan in theory, but it blew up Thursday night when Butler tore a triceps muscle, ending his season early for a second straight year.
That leaves Andrew Gardner -- a 2009 sixth-round choice of the Dolphins and former Houston practice squad member with two career games under his belt -- as the top backup behind Duane Brown and the inexperienced Newton. With so much riding on the health of Matt Schaub (who, believe it or not, has had injury troubles before), the Texans would love if a more experienced option comes available to protect him.
3. Nose tackle Shaun Cody says he'll be ready for the regular season, but Wade Phillips could sleep easier with better insurance. Cody, who hasn't played since the preseason opener against Carolina, had an epidural to relieve pain from a lower back strain. Those don't go away easily.
In Cody's absence, the Texans had the 31st-ranked rush defense in the preseason and gave up a league-worst 5.8 yards per carry. That somewhat reflects on backup nose tackle Earl Mitchell, who can rush the passer but doesn't have nearly the ability of Cody against the run. In Phillips's 3-4 scheme, the nose tackle must occupy multiple blockers and allow others to make plays. Cody has the combination of bulk and skill to do that. No one else on the roster does. Ra'Shon Harris showed promise the first two games, but like Butler is now out for the year with a torn triceps.
Besides Mitchell, the only other options are a pair of rookies. Fourth-rounder Jared Crick is best suited at end and most likely doesn't have the bulk to hold up inside. Hebron Fangupo had his moments, but was an undrafted rookie free agent. If a rotation player comes available, the Texans should take a long look. 2. Wide receiver This is more of a longshot, but Gary Kubiak does appreciate his veterans at receiver (Bryant Johnson, in 2011). Behind Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, rookie slot man Keshawn Martin and second-year wideout Lestar Jean have sewn up roster spots but have nothing in the way of NFL regular-season experience.
The smart money still says the Texans give the final two spots to Trindon Holliday, based on return skills, and DeVier Posey, because they invested a third-round pick on him. But that would be six receivers with only two having real game experience. That's not the typical Kubiak MO. If the right veteran receiver comes available, don't be shocked if Posey heads to the IR with a mysterious injury to make room.
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1. Middle linebacker The outside group -- led by starters Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed and subbed by young pass-rushing fiends in Whitney Mercilus and Bryan Braman -- looks set. Brian Cushing, of course, has one middle spot on lockdown. The other middle position, however, has room for improvement.
We've written at length about the preseason struggles of aging ex-Cowboy Bradie James. Should James falter in the regular season, the alternatives are Tim Dobbins and Mister Alexander. Dobbins is ideal in his role as a run stuffer, but doesn't have the fluid movement to cover tight ends on passing plays.
That leaves Alexander as the lone James alternative on passing downs, and he's something of an unknown. He played extensively on special teams a year ago, but has little in the way of an in-game track record at linebacker. Depending on how the Texans viewed his training camp and practice performances, they could be tempted to look elsewhere.