Holliday makes case to stay on Texans’ roster

HOUSTON – He’s bursty, that little Trindon Holliday. He catches the punt, waits a beat, takes a slow step, waits another beat and then boom-cut-boom again, and he’s gone.
 
“The thing I worked on this offseason was catching the ball and being more patient,” Holliday said. “It’s very hard.”
 
Because when you’re trying to make an NFL team, all you want to do is make a play.
 
“Just go,” Holliday said.
 
Nobody had more at stake in the Houston Texans’ final preseason game Thursday against the Minnesota Vikings, which Houston won 28-24 despite losing starting right tackle Rashad Butler for the season with a torn tricep. They call Holliday a wide receiver, but the guy is barely tall enough to ride the rides at the Texas State Fair. He’s no receiver. He’s a return specialist, and as Texans coach Gary Kubiak put it recently, you’ve got to be pretty darned special as a return man to make a 53-man roster without doing anything else.
 
“For a little guy, he’s violent downhill,” Kubiak said. “When he runs the ball, he’s fearless.”
 
Well, Holliday returned a punt – patiently, then boom-cut-boom – 76 yards for a touchdown Thursday. It was his third return TD in four preseason games, which qualifies as pretty darned special.
 
Just in time, too.
 
This is Holliday’s third season in the NFL, though he has spent almost all of it on the Texans’ practice squad. The Texans have released him three times already, only to re-sign him again. Maybe that would have happened again, maybe not. Either way, 5-foot-5 wide receivers who don’t catch passes don’t get a lot of second chances.
 
“I told him in front of the team last night it was a big night for him,” Kubiak said. “He had to continue to do it, he had to protect the ball. Then he steps in there and does it again.”
 
Naturally, Holliday wasn’t about to just assume he made the team. He said he thought he could have had a better preseason. He thought he could have done more as a wide receiver, but you got the impression he was just protecting his emotions.
 
“I’m just gonna wait it out and see what happens,” he said.
 
The bottom line is that he’s a return man, and he scored three touchdowns that way this preseason.
 
“I’ve been knowing I could do it, I was just waiting for my opportunity to show my coaches I could do it,” he said.
 
That seems clear now, although Kubiak was not about to say whether Holliday had made the team when somebody asked him about Holliday’s performance.
 
“Keeps doing it,” Kubiak said. “That’s a loaded question.”
 
Kubiak was then asked more directly if Holliday had earned a spot on the 53-man roster.
“You’re asking me that now?” he said. “Nobody has it made, we’re not finished yet. He’s made a heck of a case for himself.”
 
Holliday, of course, was one of many looking to make the roster with their performance Thursday night. Two of them were quarterbacks John Beck and Case Keenum, Nos. 3 and 4 on the depth chart.
 
Beck started the game and looked like the better player, going 6-for-10 for 149 yards and a touchdown, although he did throw behind and under several receivers early in the game. Keenum played the second half and went 5-for-10 for 43 yards, flinging a couple of passes that looked … like the kinds of passes rookie quarterbacks often throw.
 
The top two quarterbacks, Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates, are set in place. The Texans might not keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, and Keenum is the more logical practice squad player, so Beck’s performance might not ultimately be of much consequence so far as the Texans are concerned.
 
Kubiak said he came away “very impressed” with Beck’s performance, but he also thought Keenum did not benefit from the same level of pass protection Beck did.
 
“We got to look at our big picture and see where we’re at,” Kubiak said.
 
Unfortunately for Butler, he won’t be part of that big picture this season. Second-year man Derek Newton will take his place.
 
“Tough, tough deal,” Kubiak said.