A look at Texans roster from worst to best
JUN 19, 2014 1:35p ET
Head coach inherits a roster that had Super Bowl aspirations entering 2013. After winning their first two games, they ended the season with 14 straight losses and the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
In the offseason, the Texans went through a bit of an overhaul as they traded away Matt Schaub, let go of Earl Mitchell, Antonio Smith, Ben Tate and Owen Daniels as well as some players who contributed last season.
With some minor offseason acquisitions and the new draft class, the roster is revamped with a lot of youth and inexperience.
As minicamp ends and Houston looks towards training camp, here is a look at the entire roster and the quality of each position from worst to best.
Starter: Brad Smelley
Reserves: Jay Prosch and Toben Opurum
Definitely the worst position on the roster. Smelley was cut by the Cleveland Browns before Week 1 of the 2013 season and signed on with the Texans on December 13. Meanwhile, Prosch was the best fullback in this yearâs draft as he did a good job blocking for Heisman Trophy candidate Tre Mason. However, he played four games as he was injured. Opurum is the only experienced player coming back after spending time with both Houston and Kansas City last season.
None of the players are proven and there are questions surrounding each one. In addition, with a quarterback centered head coach who will likely want to run a lot of single back sets with three wide receivers and a tight end, they may carry one guy at the most.
Starter: Garrett Graham
Reserves: CJ Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin
This group lost the ever-productive Owen Daniels in free agency but he only played five games last season and is 31 years old. Garrett Graham, did well to replace Daniels in 2013 as he caught 49 passes for 545 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games. Meanwhile, Griffin did well while manning the other tight end position. While his stats were unimpressive he did most of the grunt work by blocking in the running game.
Finally, Fiedorowicz is an intriguing prospect out of Iowa as he runs a 4.76 40-yard dash at 6â7â and 265 pounds. He is a big target who can dash defenses in the middle of the field.
Overall, this group is extremely young and is a position in question heading into 2014.
Starters: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Reserves: Tom Savage and Case Keenum
The quarterback position has a nice mix of youth, talent and experience. Fitzpatrick was recently named the starter and will provide the Texans with experience at the quarterback position while O'Brien grooms Savage for the future.
Savage has all the physical traits you want in a quarterback as he stands at 6â5â and 230 pounds and has rocket arm but he didnât exactly dominate college football. Meanwhile, Keenum started eight games as a rookie and started off hot before cooling down later in the season.
The bottom line here is that Fitzpatrick has never led a team to a winning record since coming into the league. His best record in Buffalo was 6-10 and he went 3-6 last season for the Tennessee Titans in relief for Jake Locker. None of these quarterbacks scream franchise player, at least not yet.
You canât talk about this group without starting with JJ Watt. He is not only one of the best defensive linemen in the league but also one of the top players in the league. He managed to rack up 30.5 sacks over the past two seasons. He also is a force in the running game. The rest of the group is largely made up of guys who are unproven or rookies. Crick, Jamison and Mathews were all reserves with Crick gaining the most playing time outside of special teams.
Meanwhile, Louis Nix III and Pagan are rookies. Nix is the most intriguing rookie as he has experience playing in the 3-4 defensive scheme which the Texans are switching to this season. Despite being picked in the third round, he had a first or second round grade on him entering the NFL Draft.
Watt will have an impact on the game no matter what, but the biggest question is finding out who else will step up?
Starters: Arian Foster
Foster has the backfield pretty much to himself with Ben Tate moving on to Cleveland. When he is healthy, Foster has proven himself to be one of the best running backs in the game as he rushed for 1,000 yards in each of the previous three seasons prior to 2013. Meanwhile, Brown played well in a Giants uniform in a backup role but has also been hampered by injuries since entering the NFL.
Blue is a running back who didn't get a lot of playing time at LSU because of the depth of talent at the position while Dennis Johnson and Johnathan Grimes both played sparingly for Houston last season.
The biggest question surrounding the position is health. Arian Foster is one of the gameâs best running backs when healthy. If he goes down though, Brown would be his backup but also has a history of injuries.
Overall, the position isnât too bad. Andre Johnson continues to be one of the gameâs best wide receivers. He has passed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in seven of his 11 seasons in Houston. Meanwhile, Hopkins caught 52 passes for 802 yards and two touchdowns while working opposite Johnson in his rookie season.
While Hopkins is an intriguing player because of his upside, Posey, Martin and Thomas have not produced when given the opportunity to do so.
With Johnson absent from OTAs and minicamp, this group is young and not very talented outside of Hopkins. With Johnson, they are better but no one really scares you outside of him.
Joseph and Jackson are very viable cornerbacks for the Texans. Joseph made two Pro Bowls before last season and according to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just 49.3 percent of passes throw his way to be caught from opposing wide receivers. That number ranks as the third best percentage in the league. His opposition in 2013 included Larry Fitzgerald, Demaryius Thomas, Malcolm Floyd, Torrey Smith, Kenny Britt, Chris Givens, Ty Hilton, Cecil Shorts (twice) and Donnie Avery. Meanwhile, Jackson had a good 2012 before regressing in 2013. Both players should benefit from a better front seven than last year.
Harris will likely be the nickel cornerback once again; however, he didnât exactly impress anyone last year. One name to watch out for is Andre Hal. Hal played against some of the best competition in the nation at Vanderbilt and recorded three interceptions and led the SEC in passes defended at 18.
If a team is good enough to spread this defense out in a nickel or dime package, the third and fourth corners could be exposed.
Starters: Chris Clemons, DJ Swearinger
Swearinger had a solid rookie season while playing out of position the entire season. He made 54 tackles, defended four passes and intercepted one pass as well. Clemons provides an upgrade at strong safety as he defended eight passes and had 63 tackles. Finally, he adds leadership on the backend and allows Swearinger to move back to his natural position at free safety.
Lewis is a very solid backup should Clemons or Swearinger go down or the team plays three safeties. Lewis had 49 tackles, one interception and five passes defended last season. Ballentine, despite being Mr. Irrelevant, be a hidden gem down the line. Keo can also back up Swearinger as he had 54 tackles, six passes defended and one interception at the free safety position for the Texans in 2013.
Punter: Shane Lechler
Kicker: Randy Bullock
It isnât good when your special teams unit is rated this high on your roster in terms of a position of strength but the Texans have a solid special teams unit. Bullock is nothing to write home about as he made 74 percent of his kicks but it was his first season as a starter. He is very accurate from 40 yards and in, as he should be. The trouble came from 40 and 50 yards out where he was 12-of-17 from 40-plus yards and 1-of-5 from 50-plus yards. He will have to improve this season or the Texans will be looking for a new kicker.
Lechler is one of the game's best punters. He averaged 47.6 yards per punt last season, good for fifth best in the league. He also dropped 34 punts inside the opponentâs 20 yard line.
Why is this group rated as one of the strongest positions on the roster? Well, it has a good combination of depth and talent. Reed will likely move to the inside so both Mercilus and Clowney can rush the passer on the outside. Cushing can play either inside or outside but the fact that he has had his season come to an end each of the last two seasons due to knee injuries is concerning.
Tarpinian is a solid replacement should a player go down to injury. Sapp, Tuggle, Hazel and Mohamed all provide some experience and should see the majority of their time on special teams.
If Cushing comes back healthy and Clowney can transition from defensive end to linebacker, then this unit could be scary good. Cushing is always around the ball and Mercilus and Clowney will rush off the edge and create havoc for opposing offenses.
In terms of the starting lineup, this is the best position on the roster. Brown was currently named as the 86th best player in the Top 100 player countdown on NFL.com. Myers and Brooks are both high quality starters according to Pro Football Focus' rating system. Su'a Filo fell surprisingly low in the draft and should bolster the other guard spot in both the run and the pass. The only question mark, and it is a big one, is the play of Derek Newton. According to Pro Football Focus' rating system, he is a poor starter and the Texans will likely have to cover him a lot this season at right tackle.
Unfortunately for the Texans, Quessenberry will be out for the season as he battles cancer and the rest of the depth behind the starters is largely unknown as White and Williams have rarely played.
If this group stays healthy, they have the potential to be one of the better offensive lines in the league.