HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans might not be a team to watch for in regard to wins, but they are watch-worthy when it comes to roster formation. For the first time in a long time, some battles to make the team feels wide-open.
First-year Texans general manager Nick Caserio added 47 veterans and 52 total new players this offseason. The plan is for head coach David Culley to find the best players in that bunch.
Defensively, it is a crapshoot on who will make the final cut. On offense, there are clearer guesses
Deshaun Watson or not, offense will be the strong suit. The offensive line seemingly looks improved, as does the wide receiver room. Can the run game expand after finishing 31st overall in 2020?
Anything can change when came begins Wednesday before roster cuts happen, but these 15 players feel like the safest bets on offense.
QB Deshaun Watson: Watson makes the list because the NFL has yet to rule on his status for the season. He still faces 22 civil cases of sexual assault and sexual misconduct as of this time. However, if the NFL does not rule him ineligible, he can suit up starting Week 1.
Watson is at camp so he won't be fined $50,000 a day by the league. That doesn't mean he'll play his final year on his rookie deal worth $10.1 million in Houston. Caserio is willing to listen to offers on dealing the three-time Pro Bowler, but the value has to be right.
QB Tyrod Taylor: Watson is not expected to play this season for Houston, meaning Taylor likely sees first-team reps. For a journeyman, Taylor actually has been a productive starter throughout his career. He went 22-20 in Buffalo for three seasons, 1-1-1 in Cleveland and 1-0 with the Chargers.
No one believes that Taylor will be the long-term option, but he provides stability. The good news is that the 31-year-old understands the offensive concepts after working with both Pep Hamilton in Los Angeles and Culley in Buffalo.
QB Davis Mills: This will be the name that potentially takes over as the franchise's face. Mills' overall college career comes with mixed results, and his status with the team is based more on upside than anything. Stanford coach David Shaw raves about his accuracy, vision, decision-making and and arm strength.
Is 11 college starts enough to prove he could be the guy? Maybe so, but after being selected with the Texans' first draft pick last April, he'll be on the roster for at least a season.
RB Phillip Lindsay: The former undrafted running back out of Colorado has the most upside of any back in Houston. In his first two years with the Broncos, Lindsay tallied over 1,000 yards per season. He also is a stable pass blocker.
At 26, there's still room to grow. That gives him the edge over David Johnson and Mark Ingram II.
RB Buddy Howell: Surprised, right? Howell likely won't be making much of an impact on the ground, but he will on special teams. Since joining the squad in 2018, the Florida native has recorded 16 total tackles on kickoffs and punts. That'll be his role again for new coordinator Frank Ross.
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WR Brandin Cooks: Cooks tallied over 1,000 yards last season for the fifth time in his career. He has proven that he could be the No. 1 option and a replacement to DeAndre Hopkins. Maybe his production diminishes without Watson, but he still will be the top weapon for the passing attack.
WR Nico Collins: Similar to Mills, Collins is going to have a year to prove he is the next No. 2 receiver. His 6-5 frame allows him to work best on the outside, bullying smaller cornerbacks in man coverage. He could be the Texans' breakout star in camp.
WR Anthony Miller: The only reason Miller makes this list is because the Texans had to use a draft pick to get him. Houston sent its 2022 fifth-round selection to the Bears for the fourth-year pro, and also received a seventh-round pick. Perhaps the Memphis product just needs a change of scenery to prove he is a big-time slot weapon.
TE Jordan Akins: Entering a contract year, Akins is looking a big payday. Last season, he improved as a No. 2 tight end behind Darren Fells, recording a career-best in receptions (37). Fells is gone, meaning Akins will have to prove he can be the lead guy.
TE Brevin Jordan: Although he was a fifth-round pick, this might have been Caserio's best selection. Coming out of Miami, multiple scouts agreed that in the passing game, Jordan was likely the No. 3 tight end prospect. He needs to improve as a blocker, but his hands and route-running could make him the next big name at the position.
TE Ryan Izzo: This might come as a shock, but the Texans are looking to run more of a two tight end formation in the future. Izzo offers nothing in the passing game, but he's a sound blocker who provides that extra umph in run sets. Expect him to be the blocking tight end Houston has needed.
OT Laremy Tunsil: Tusil was traded for two first-round picks, plus a second-round selection. He's made the Pro Bowl twice since coming over from Miami and is one of the game's top pass-protectors. He's safe until his contract runs out in 2023.
OT Tytus Howard: Much like Tunsil, Howard isn't going anywhere. Although his play dipped in 2020, he is a talent. There are rumors he could be moving inside, which might benefit his career long-term. No matter, Howard will start Week 1.
OT Roderick Johnson: Until Charlie Heck proves otherwise, Johnson will remain Houston's swing tackle. Last season, the veteran actually played well when asked to fill in for both Howard and Tunsil in snaps. He's not a viable starter, but in a pinch, he'll do.
OL Justin Britt: The Texans need a veteran presence at center. Britt, who signed a one-year deal this offseason, might have missed all of 2020, but he was one of the better blockers for Russell Wilson in Seattle when healthy. He'll be the starter Week 1.
OL Max Scharping: This initially was going to be Marcus Cannon, but he's now on the PUP after undergoing offseason surgery. Scharping is the one player with experience starting in Houston left. He's been an inconsistent blocker, but he does know how to work with both Tunsul and Howard.
He might not be a starter when September 12 approaches, but it will be hard to imagine him not on the roster just for depth.
CONTINUE READING: Miller vs. Collins: How's Trade Change Texans WR Room?