Every season NFL teams have players who come from nowhere to make an impression, and this season for the Houston Texans there are a handful of players taking this step. One of those players is rookie cornerback A.J. Bouye from Central Florida who was left undrafted, but there for the Texans after the 2013 NFL Draft.
Bouye, pronounced boy-YAY, was considered an injury risk by NFL teams after he tore his ACL during his junior season on an interception return. After a six month rehab, Bouye worked hard to get ready for Spring football at UCF despite some issues with his knee.
Considered a "field corner" by UCF Head Coach George O'Leary, the Knight's secondary took a step back without Bouye on the field, that all changed his senior season when he came back. Bouye in the lineup the Knight's defense only gave up 169.4 yards through the air, during his injury the yards increased to 229.6 yards a game. His value to the team was apparent, he was a leader and a playmaker for the Golden Knights.
Bouye during his Senior season started 14 games and posted 53 total tackles with 3 interceptions and 8 pass deflections, and also had a two touchdowns to his credit on an interception and fumble recovery. He garnered All Conference USA honors on the second team, and this was after tearing his ACL and 6 month recovery.
Making an Early Impression
The 6-0 183 lbs. cornerback has been working since day one of his arrival at rookie mini-camp. Bouye came into camp with two other rookie cornerbacks in Travis Howard and Johnny Adams who had impressive track records with performance on the field and their respective schools. Bouye impressed during the three-day session and made an early impression with pass break ups and most importantly being a student of the game. His confidence was evident, and he could hold his own against rookie competition. The next step for Bouye was coming in OTAs, and to continue his solid play.
The veterans arrived, and Bouye did not disappear on the field against better competition. Defensive backs and wide receivers get the most work during these times with 7 on 7 drills and team sessions focused on the pass. Bouye was still making plays versus the likes of Lestar Jean, Keshawn Martin and Jeff Maehl who understand the game at the NFL level. Pass break ups and tight coverage has help set Bouye a part from his competition and has put some good work on film for him to build on heading into training camp.
From UCF to the final day of mandatory mini camp, Bouys has kept a steady trend upward in what he has shown on the field. Bouye attributes it to learning the system and working,
"I feel good and feel like I am getting well into the playbook. I am still making little mistakes, but I am progressing everyday. That is all that matters right now before heading into camp."
Bouye also feels what Coach O'Leary did for him at UCF has helped him for this moment and he is grateful for his school,
"I feel the progression and it all comes from my school at Central Florida. They prepared us for these hard practices, reading our keys and preparation for this. That has helped me a lot coming out here."
Speaking of home, Boyue talked about Texas heat and how it compared to home in Orlando,
"It's more humid out here, but the it is close. I miss the breeze in Orlando."
The heat on the field has not slowed Bouye from getting the attention of his veteran teammates, especially veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph,
"A.J. the young guy. He has been making plays since day one and he is one that is catching my eye."
Bouye has been learning on the run and has two veteran corner backs he has leaned on to learn the in and outs of the NFL from Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. He has not be intimidated to ask questions and learn from the two veterans,
"They (Jackson and Joseph) are teaching me how to watch film, watch splits on wide receivers and leverage. Leverage on how we should play a certain route with inside or outside leverage. Also, what to expect from certain formations in terms of routes. (Johnathan) Joseph and Kareem (Jackson) have helped me out a bunch."
It has been evident that the secondary is a tight-knit group under third year coach Vance Joseph and every secondary player shares the same thoughts on him. Bouye gave us his thoughts on his position coach,
"He has helped me out a lot, he is a very energetic coach. Especially in the meeting rooms and he makes sure we run through everything until we understand it."
There is no doubt A.J. Bouye has been under the radar in the early part of the offseason, but consistent practices has helped him put his best foot forward. Training camp and preseason games will help decide Bouye's fate with the Texans, but the start of his NFL career in Houston has been a positive one.