Heading into week four, the Houston Texans have been showing a little bit of everything on both sides of the football in their wins. The team has shown running or passing the football they can win and also with timely defense they can turn the tide in an instant. To make things like this happen, it takes certain players to make their mark on the season, and there have been some role players who have been doing their part.
Despite being early in the season, the Texans have leaned on some players who are building off of decent 2011 campaigns, and there are a few new additions that have helped solidify this already deep NFL roster. Take a look at some "not so big" names that are making a mark early in the 2012 season.
One of the early season blessings for the Texans had to be when Randy Bullock went on injured reserve because there would have been a good chance that Graham would not have been on the final 53 coming out of camp. The team, in my opinion, has upgraded by adding Graham as the kicker for the season and he has not disappointed. His first kick of the season, in week one, came up short from 52, but since then he has hit 6 in a row and has been perfect in extra points. Not gifted with a powerful leg, he makes it up with his accuracy, which is pretty impressive as he is 4th All-Time in Field Goal % and 3rd Active Field Goal %. The Texans have improved their special teams and it starts with Graham.
He is close to splitting snaps (50/50) with starting nose tackle Shaun Cody in the early part of the season. Mitchell has taken advantage of J.J. Watt's early season success, where he is left one on one with the opposing center. He has added weight and has become a better technician at his position, controlling the line of scrimmage. Mitchell has also received more snaps in dime defensive situations as a pass rusher in their four man front. We have been hard on Mitchell for his play in 2011, but he has taken that step as a player where he might be taking that step to becoming a better NFL player.
Thumb surgery on Monday, Demps played with an injured right hand the entire second half of the Broncos game. Demps' play moved him into the 3rd safety position during the preseason and he has not disappointed since taking over. Even with limited snaps in 2012, Demps is 3rd on the team with 13 total tackles (9 solo, 4 assists) and that is not bad for a player that the Texans let go in 2011 after camp. Demps seems to have found his confidence again and is playing at a high level, and it will be interesting to see how he will perform with a cast on his right hand. Either way, he has made some big open field tackles and turned himself into another good safety for the Texans.
Ben Jones (Picture Above)
The only rookie on the list and he has made some serious noise filling in at right guard with some spot duty. Not having played the guard position since high school, Jones first appeared at the guard position for the Texans in the 4th preseason game. We knew he was a good college center, but he looks like the right guard of the future for the offense. Jones' development will give Brandon Brooks some more time to develop as an offensive lineman, and this will help put the Texans offensive line's future in good hands. Jones has another gear that offensive lineman rarely show, especially in run blocking and getting to the second level. He has been the most impressive rookie of the class and it would not be surprising to see Jones as the starter by the end of the season.
Don't act like you are not surprised with what you have seen with Walter in the first three games of the season. Averaging 15.4 yards a reception, Walter looks like a new player and is actually being used in the offensive game plan. It helps that Matt Schaub is back, but Walter has started the season out with a bang. He opened some eyes when he showed he can still stretch the field when he went for a 52 yard touchdown against the Broncos last week. Walter's early success has given Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey and Lestar Jean some time to develop while he gets some quality snaps. Knocked for being just a "blocker", Walter is showing he still has some receiving skills to help the Texans' passing game.