The Houston Texans are now on the brink of making some tough decisions regarding their roster. These choices will not only affect them in 2018 but likely will come into play further down the road. With the final preseason game on deck, the Texans have some players who could reshape the roster and possibly impact the team the coming seasons.
The team will poke and prod their roster every day of the regular season, trying to mix and match to find the best combination to win the first game of the regular season. With the foundation of the 2018 roster becoming clearer, tough decisions will have to be made as general manager Brian Gaine, head coach Bill O’Brien, and the coaching staff work to come to a consensus.
New faces Joe Webb III and Sammie Coates were both added by Gaine this past off-season, Webb was brought in as a free agent signing, while Coates was a waiver claim. Coates has had a strong camp and preseason, putting him in serious discussion to make the receiver depth chart, plus the Texans have been working him into different spots, including kick returner. He has caught the ball at a high rate and done plenty to put his name in the ring to make the roster. As for Webb, he has been a real-life Swiss army knife for O’Brien and it might be the tip of the iceberg of what he can bring to the team.
To this point, Webb has played quarterback, as well as on both kick coverage and return teams, and has even worked on punt block teams when needed. He has done everything O’Brien has asked and is literally the definition of what the coach preaches in versatility. He is the one player of whom probably the most is asked when it comes to learning multiple positions. Add in that the Texans know that Webb can play wide receiver if needed and his value for the roster and what he could bring on game days makes his spot even more valuable. If Webb can find a spot on the roster, it will mean other roster spots have to be adjusted.
The idea that every player from the 2017 roster is safe is not accurate but there are players for whom it could really go either way. When it comes to the idea of Jay Prosch and Bruce Ellington, there are decisions that need to be made on where they fit or whether they fit.
Prosch was O’Brien’s hand-picked fullback when he arrived in 2014, drafting the blocker from Auburn. It was O’Brien who was there to work him out and he was part of the brain trust that felt it was a good idea to extend Prosch prior to the 2017 season. In the second season of that three-year extension, Prosch’s value is in O’Brien's sets that use him in run looks on offense plus work on special teams. With such small usage on the offensive side, the issue then becomes if that roster spot is maximized to it’s fullest value in a league that needs all 46 roster spots on game day used properly. The Texans offense has tinkered with using tight ends as lead blockers this preseason with mixed results. O’Brien has never gone a season as a coach in the NFL without a fullback and it is hard to feel he would choose to do so in 2018.
The bigger question is where Bruce Ellington fits in the picture not only for the offense but long term. The Texans drafted Keke Coutee and instantly put him into the starting offense. The only reason Ellington jumped back into that role was due to Coutee’s hamstring injury. The relationship that he has with Deshaun Watson is well-documented, such as how well they allegedly work together on the field. There could be a reason to keep Ellington on the roster if the health of both Will Fuller and Coutee are in question but with Fuller expected back week one and Coutee already back on the field, the idea of Ellington on the roster could be coming down to a numbers game.
Rookie Free Agents Pushing to the End
Every season there are rookie free agents who push the coaches into decisions that could run off familiar faces. Undrafted rookies Andre Chachere and Trevor Daniel should not only be in the discussion but could be household names for Texans fans soon.
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Trevor Daniel has outperformed veteran punter Shane Lechler all preseason and it has not been a close competition (Read More Here). The Texans would be doing a disservice if they passed on a player who has outperformed another and this is no exception. In the harsh reality of the situation, Daniel ranks in the top 6 in both average and NET average on his punts this preseason. This off-season, Gaine, and O’Brien worked hard to improve the special teams by signing players who were successful on other teams and by bringing in a new special teams coach Brad Seely. If the Texans truly want to improve their special teams unit, Daniel should be on the roster in week one.
Andre Chachere was just a normal signing this rookie free agent period after the draft and he has slowly turned into a cornerback who has a future in the NFL. He has shown that he can play both inside and outside as a cornerback, mix it up in run support, and play solid technique in the run game, holding the edge when asked. He has had rookie bumps here and there but has done plenty in this time to really like the big picture on what he can be. With cornerback being a premium position, Chachere is at a spot that if the Texans waive him, he could be snatched up and put on another 53-man roster. He could possibly be a diamond in the rough and it is there for the Texans to find out whether he is real or not.
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