Texans Mailbag: Does Scottie Phillips have a chance to crack the Texans running back depth chart?

Patrick D. Starr

With the Houston Texans entering a full month into their virtual off-season, the NFL is slowly working on a plan for teams to return to their facilities. The Texans have work to do before that time comes and a shortened time frame to make decisions on their roster heading into 2020. 

Could a rookie running back like Scottie Phillips find his way onto the roster or defensive tackle Auzoyah Alufohai make his name known? We look at those questions plus much more in this week's State of the Texans mailbag. 

Texans Mailbag 5.25.2020

SOTT-Mailbag

Is our running back group set, or do you expect a trade of players in the preseason? -@uberweiss2

I think that is a good question because there is potential in the second year running back Karan Higdon, Jr. and rookie Scottie Phillips.

Higdon will be healthy and went to the last training camp with a knee injury and a full year with the team on the practice squad. So, he understands the system and expectations.

Phillips is a young back who will need to prove his worth on special teams before thinking of being part of the offense when camp arrives.

There is one thing that O'Brien does not mess with, rookie running back making mistakes, and both Higdon and Phillips will have high expectations to meet.

With the exit of Taiwan Jones, there is a role on the depth chart for either Higdon or Phillips to take, but they have to prove they are worthy of the roster spot. 

Will there be another trade till the start of the season? - @rz19842

At this point, no one can ever count out Bill O'Brien from making any moves to improve the roster, which includes a trade. In just over a season, O'Brien has executed seven trades for players since taking over at the helm.

Since 2011, past general managers for the Texans have made 11 trades. Only five of those had a player in return in those deals.

The Texans under Brian Gaine traded for Demaryius Thomas in 2018. In 2017, former general manager Rick Smith only traded players twice, sending out Duane Brown to Seattle and Brock Osweiler to Cleveland, which opened the door for the Deshaun Watson Era. In 2015, Smith executed a trade with the Denver Broncos for left tackle Chris Clark before the start of the season and sent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to the New York Jets. In 2014, the Texans traded for quarterback Ryan Mallett from the New England Patriots, and earlier that off-season shipped Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders. In 2013, the Texans traded wide receiver Jeff Maehel to the Philadelphia Eagles for offensive tackle Nate Menkin. 2012 was the worst season of trades when the Texans sent cornerback Sherrick McManis to the Chicago Bears for Tyler Clutts and then sent DeMeco Ryans to the Philadelphia Eagles for draft picks. Then in 2011, the Texans traded a pick for wide receiver Derrick Mason who was with the Jets.

One thing that O'Brien always makes sure in his deal is that a player is in return for every trade transaction he has made, including his most recent for David Johnson in the deal with the Arizona Cardinals for DeAndre Hopkins. 

Do you envision Auzoyah Alufohai making the team as a developmental prospect and maybe becoming a DJ Reader type player in the future? -@prohater2020

"Big Z" as he is called, is going to be an interesting name to watch. He was considered a diamond in the rough for prospects, and the Texans pushed to land him during the free-agent process. He landed $65,000 guaranteed, including a $20,000 signing bonus in a deal with the Texans, which is strong for a rookie free agent. 

I think it is going to be hard for rookies to make an impact early, especially the rookie free agents. With no OTAs to make moves, the team will be focused on using training camp to put towards the bulk of their roster. 

As we know, Ross Blacklock will get the first crack to get on the field, and he will, while Timmy Jernigan, Jr. will also figure into the mix with Charles Omeinhu, Brandon Dunn, and J.J. Watt upfront. Angelo Blackson is in position to take his spot on the defensive line once again, giving the Texans six deep upfront on the defensive line. 

Eddie Vanderdoes, Ira Savage-Lewis, and Carlos Watkins return to fight with Alufohai on the defensive line. Alufohai best bet in the practice squad at this point unless he has an amazing camp but reps will be limited with the team set to focus on getting Blacklock and Jernigan acclimated with the defense. 

What are the chances we make another big splash in free agency? Not a backup. I mean someone like Everson Griffen. -@Nolf25

Low and here is why. 

The Texans are confident in the roster, and if they had to play a game tomorrow, they could roll out a starting group in all three phases of the football. 

When many ask about free-agent pass rusher Everson Griffen the issue is not talent, but where is he going to play?

Is Griffen going to take Watt or Merclus' role in the defense? No, Griffen is not a stand-up player like Mercilus in their 4-3 under looks or base 3-4 defense. Bringing in Griffen would cut out playing time for players like Charles Omnenihu, Duke Ejiofor, Jacob Martin, and Jonathan Greenard if he was signed. 

Also, is Griffen willing to take limited snaps to fit in behind players like Watt and Mercilus? Plus, Griffen is a 4-3 end, which is not the Texans' primary defense. 

The only way Griffen makes sense if Watt went down before the season starts. The Texans need him to fill out his role as a hand in the dirt defensive end. 

The Texans roster and cap space has little room for a splash.  

What should we expect from Tim Kelly? Are we getting another Godsey, or will we get to see him really put his own touch on this offense? -@JJHOU99

Tim Kelly is going to interesting to watch as his first season as the play-caller. We know he was the offensive coordinator last season but did little play-calling during the season. During practice and training camp, Kelly would be on the radio calling plays into Deshaun Watson, so Bill O'Brien has used a full season to prep Kelly for this upcoming season. 

Here is the biggest difference between former coordinator George Godsey and Kelly. Godsey was brought to the Texans after being the tight ends coach with New England, where he and O'Brien spent the 2011 season together. That is less than a season together, and the next time they coached together, O'Brien hired him as the quarterback coach three years later. 

O'Brien didn't know enough about Godsey just used a small snapshot of their time, less than a calendar year, to build their relationship. It did not last long after Godsey was named offensive coordinator and had his play-calling duties stripped early in the 2015 season. 

Kelly has been with O'Brien since the 2012 season at Penn State as a graduate assistant. Since arriving at the Texans, Kelly has been the offensive quality control coach, assistant offensive line coach, tight ends coach, quarterback coach, and now the offensive coordinator. 

Going into his ninth season next to O'Brien, Kelly has learned everything that O'Brien wants as a head coach and, more importantly, brought his ideas to the table. 

The biggest factor is that O'Brien has trusted Kelly for nearly a decade to be on his staff earning his trust. Now, after passing the trial by fire, Kelly's time is to show what he has learned up O'Brien. 

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