5 Players to Watch against the Vikings

Patrick D. Starr

With the final preseason game upon us, the Houston Texans will be making some major roster moves within the coming days. This is the first time in a long time where there are more than one or two players fighting for the last roster spots onthe team. The Texans are going to have to weigh all of their options if they elect to cut a player and make sure it is the right move.

Jeff Maehl

The game in Minnesota will be probably one of the most uninteresting games to the average fan, because the starters will probably see very little playing time if any and those "backups" will be getting most of the snaps. The true eyes of the game will see a contest where players are fighting for their Texans and NFL careers either on the active or practice squads. Positions on the team might already be decided in the coaches mind heading in to the game with the Vikings, but one "good" play could change a coaches mind in an instant.

Here are five players to watch heading into Minnesota

Cody Wallace (OL)

Heading into training camp it was safe to say the three-year journeyman was a camp body for the Texans. With injuries to Kasey Studdard and Shelly Smith, Wallace has come to the front to pick up a spot as a backup on the offensive line. Wallace has improved his game as the preseason has progressed, but his true value lies in the fact that he can play both the center and guard positions for the Texans. He was playing center in camp with the second string, but has since moved to playing some at the guard during the preseason, which has actually helped Wallace's chances.

In the NFL, you need players who can maximize your roster and play different positions and Wallace can play two on the inside of the Texans offensive line. Wallace will get plenty of snaps on Thursday night to make the team.

Shiloh Keo (S)

The learning curve for the rookie out of Idaho has been a tough one for Keo. He has been eased into the secondary mix, watching and learning. At camp, Keo was working with the 3rd and 4th string defenses at the safety position and really did not make a impact to move up the depth chart. In his first preseason game against the N.Y. Jets Keo had a terrible debut and one he soon hopes to forget, but he has kept plugging away at getting better. Fast forward to the next two preseason games, Keo has returned kicks and even made a few special teams plays. Against the San Francisco 49ers, Keo on a kickoff went screaming down on coverage and made a nice tackle on the return. Keo's value on this team, at this moment, is the special team's warrior, much like Bill Bates was for the Dallas Cowboys in the 90s.

Shiloh Keo is Wade Phillip's hand-picked guy from the East-West Shrine game, which makes me think that Keo will find a spot on the active roster.

Dominique Barber (S)

Returning to his home state of Minnesota might turn out to be his biggest in a Texans uniform. Barber who has been with the Texans since 2008, is in a dog fight for the last safety positions with Quintin Demps and Shiloh Keo. During camp, Barber was running safety with the 3rd string defense and played occasionally with the second string. Going through camp with a heavily taped left thumb, Barber did not sit out a practice and kept going in the Texas heat. During the preseason contests Barber is on all the major special teams and against the San Francisco 49ers he caused a fumble on punt coverage, which was covered by the Texans.

Barber provides leadership on special teams, but he has to prove he can help the secondary when needed.

Brian Braman (OLB)

The "Brian Braman Revolution" was in full tilt after the N.Y. Jets game when he manhandled the Jets third string offense for 1.5 sack performance. Braman after his Monday Night performance was given some more opportunity to succeed and got some second team reps against the New Orleans Saints, which he was a non-factor. He was stone-walled at the point of attack on his pass rush game and against the San Francisco 49ers, Braman was non-existent. He has been put on special teams to see if he can make his mark there and shows some life when he covers on kick-offs, but he needs to prove he can be that extra pass rush when needed off the bench.

Braman needs to take a big step forward on Thursday night to prove he belongs in Houston, because his competition Jesse Nading has the leg up on the roster spot going into the game.

Jeff Maehl (WR)

With the addition of Bryant Johnson and the apparent roster spot of Dorin Dickerson, Maehl is fighting for a practice squad invite. Coming into camp Maehl was buried behind Derrick Townsel, Devard Darling, Terrence Toliver, Dorin Dickerson and Lestar Jean. With Darling and Jean now on the inured reserved list, Maehl has been getting more reps that he competition during the preseason, with the exception of Dickerson. Maehl has one catch this preseason, but has done a decent job on special teams. Maehl is a smart player and falls into that Gary Kubiak players he really likes.

Jeff Maehl looks like the practice squad with the Texans is his only hope, it will be interesting if the Texans are willing to keep him and Toliver going into the season. Both receivers have some potential to develop, but like every NFL team it will turn into a need and numbers game.