Next Man Up: Antoine Caldwell
Patrick D. Starr
With the Houston Texans making some tough decisions, the NFL waits for nobody and the Texans are adjusting on the fly. After a magical 2011 season which brought the franchise’s first division title, playoff appearance and win, the Texans appeared ready for a big 2012 season with a deep roster. With the cap issues that hit the Texans, a once deep roster has to fill the voids left by players who left for other teams via free agency.
With former starting guard Mike Brisiel leaving for the Oakland Raiders, the Houston Texans' offensive line seems to be in shambles. After tough man Brisiel was not resigned and long time starting right tackle Eric Winston was cut for salary cap purposes, this had fans questioning what were the Texans thinking. The Texans will be looking at 3rd year offensive guard Antonie Caldwell to step into that starting role for the 2012 season. This might be one of the cases where the drop off in production could be minimal as Caldwell has started 13 of the 28 games he has appeared in.
Caldwell was drafted by the Houston Texans in the 2009 NFL draft in the 3rd round (77th overall) out of the University of Alabama as one of the top offensive lineman in the country and was even named an All-American in 2008. Caldwell was considered a solid pick by the Texans in 2009, but he has been lost in the shuffle fighting for a starting position for the Texans. Caldwell was in constant competition with Brisiel for the starting right guard position but could never overtake Brisiel. It was not until week 15 this past season that Caldwell got his shot to start for the injured Brisiel.
The word is that Caldwell was hampered by two high ankle sprains all season and was never healthy enough to be truly effective at the right guard position. Caldwell struggled some during the season and could tell he was rusty at times during the game. It sounds like the coaches of the Texans are high on Caldwell and are confident in what he can do on the field. The biggest factor is that the Texans now got 4 years younger at the right guard position and could have gotten more athletic in the process. At 6'3" and 311 lbs., Caldwell has good size for the interior of the Texans zone blocking scheme.
Caldwell does have some work to do to get where Brisiel was with the rest of the offensive line, but that is what OTAs and camp are for - to get better for the regular season. Many fans will think he is a backup, but during the two playoff games Brisiel started but Caldwell got plenty of work also. Against the Baltimore Ravens Caldwell got the majority of those snaps in that crucial playoff game and played well.
He has a good enough skill set to be a quality right guard for the Texans in 2012, but he will have to get fully healthy before that time. Caldwell is a solid player but now it is his time to show why the Texans selected him in 2009.