By Brien O’Donal
Saturday was the one and only cut down to the final 53 man roster. This is quite a change from previous years that involved two cuts prior to the final roster being decided upon. It feels a little weird, but honestly; I think it works for both the players and the league. Those men that were on the bubble had a little more time and at least one more game to make the coaches notice them. It may have worked for a lot of players, or maybe it didn’t. Either way, it gave the teams more time to decide on who would be the best players to have going into week 1.
I am not a general manager. I don’t profess to be. If I was, then I wouldn’t be writing this column. Since I am not a general manager, but only a lowly amateur sports writer; I am glad to be able to express my opinions on the Houston Texans final roster. And let me tell you, I am not entirely pleased with it.
Let’s start with the biggest and the baddest. As much as I like what Tom Savage showed during the preseason, he has a propensity for being broken. It’s kind of his thing. I know; we all think Deshaun Watson is the savior. But if Savage leaves because of injury and then the porous offensive line forces Watson to twist his ankle; who plays quarterback? It has to be Braxton Miller, right? Is that what wins the ball game? I know Weeden wasn’t great (if he ever has been) but with Savage’s injury history I’m surprised 3 quarterbacks weren’t retained on the final roster.
And speaking of missing depth… 4 receivers? Are you kidding me? I don’t count Andy Jones because he is just a place holder for Duane Brown. But if ever a team wanted to telegraph “run first” the Texans just did it. Deandre Hopkins and whatever possession receiver they throw out there will pretty much tell any defense to put 8 men in the box. I’m not saying they had a lot of options but if you go that thin at the position then you don’t plan on wearing them out.
I have said in multiple instances that special teams can make or break a player. That has to be the reason they chose to go heavy at running back. Tyler Ervin and Jordan Todman must have been lights out in that department for the Texans to keep 6 running backs. Personally, I would have coached up the extra receivers because I don’t really see them going beyond 3 deep at running back during regular offensive possessions. When looking at the roster holistically, it’s clear there were only a set number of spots that would be available to offensive players in order to ensure that a defensive rotation could be maintained.
And that is one of the things I like about the make-up of this roster, defensive depth. It may not be the greatest of depth, but it is depth. The Texans settled on 8 defensive lineman for a 3-4 scheme. That may be a bit of overkill, but really; beyond the starters and 1 or 2 backups there isn’t a quality player remaining. However; if you plan on playing a lot of downs on defense because you aren’t sure your offense can maintain long drives, then it is probably best to have a couple of guys who can go in for 10 or so plays a game and give your starters a rest.
Whoa, wait a minute…they have plenty of defensive lineman to give starters a rest? Why then only keep 7 linebackers on the roster? Those must be the most in shape players on the field. When I think of a 3-4, I think of the play-making linebackers being free to roam because of the block eating lineman. I have to shake my head and wonder why more of those lineman were kept than the linebackers who should be flying all over the field making plays. Maybe they are counting on the 10 defensive backs who will be as fresh as those lineman to make a lot of plays. But then again; I’m not a GM.
While I think the Texans chose a lot of good players out of what they had in camp, I find it strange that they prioritized the depth the way they did. I think that they are not only aware of what their identity is, but they are ready to declare it full force on week 1.
That has to be a mistake. No team should have an identity set before at least half way through the season. There is no way they can know what will work on either side of the ball until the games start being played. If Tom Savage plays well and the offense can both run the ball and pass; it would be detrimental to not have the depth at receiver to threaten through the air every play. Defensively, the proper balance of depth is also necessary. Why have so many lineman if the starters are good enough to get off the field quickly while linebacker type talent would be useful on special teams?
All I can do is shake my head and tell myself: “that’s why they’re 9-7 every year.” Part of getting past that record is not only talent evaluation, but roster construction. Unless something changes in the next week I think the Texans have settled on just another 9-7 roster.
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