The Texans are one of the deepest teams in the league, something that few people would’ve expected even before last season. However, being deep doesn’t mean that the team will have no problems whatsoever, it just means that their problems will be more desirable. One such problems is having more than 53 players good enough to make the roster. Thus begins our newest daily series in which we will assess the players on the Texans roster by position and their likelihood of making the team.
The most important position on any team, even a team with a phenomenal defense and run game, is quarterback, so it only makes sense that we begin our journey there.
Depth Chart: Starter
Likelihood of Roster Spot: 100%
Schaub has been the Texans field general since the 2007 season. Many thought the Texans overpaid for the former Atlanta backup when they swapped first round picks and gave up their second rounder along with a six-year, $48 million dollar deal. Those people were proven wrong when Schaub instantly developed a report with wide receiver Andre Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels and lead the league in passing in 2009.
While he’s had his bright spots he’s also had some problems staying healthy. Last season was no exception as the Texans saw their hopes of a Super Bowl vanish when Schaub went down with a foot injury. Many will argue that his injuries are freak occurences but flukes don’t happen that often and it may be time to slap him with the “injury-prone” sticker.
That being said Matt Schaub has arguably the easiest job in the NFL given that he has the best running game, a top three defense and, when healthy, Andre Johnson still represents one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. The Texans expect nothing less than Super Bowl greatness this year and should see that dream realized if their quarterback can stay on the field and lead the offense the way he did at the beginning of last season.
Depth Chart: Backup
Likelihood of Roster Spot: 100%
T.J. Yates was taken in the fifth-round of the 2011 draft and was not expected to see significant time for several years given he entered the season as third string. The NFL is an unpredictable place however, and instead he saw himself as the starter of a playoff football team with only a few weeks left in the season. Yates handled the pressure admirably and was a sponge when it came to listening to his teammates and coaches. Last season when the offense left the field it was a common occurence for Yates to not only have head coach, Gary Kubiak and former quarterbacks coach, Greg Knapp in his ear, but also Matt Schaub, Matt Leinart, and backups Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia giving him advice as well.
A lot should be said for Yates ability to not let the moment consume him and being a student of the game, however, there was plenty of ugly in the rookie’s first year as well. In his six games last season Yates commited six turnovers and was sacked fifteen times. More worrisome, however, was the fact that the offense looked completely stale with Yates in the game. Defenses stacked the box against the run and were completely unafraid of Yates beating them with Andre Johnson taking the top off of the defense. Long runs after the catch that seemed commonplace when Schaub was at the helm vanished when Yates was under center.
There were many backup quarterbacks in the NFL that would’ve had similar problems to what Yates faced last year and they have been in the league for years. Yates was a rookie that was put into the starting lineup in his first season, without a training camp. With another year under his belt and more experience than a majority of his counterparts, Yates stands to be one of the better backups in all of the NFL this year. Hopefully Houston won’t again need to turn to Yates amidst a playoff run this year, but if so fans can rest assured that the team is in capable hands.
Depth Chart: Third String
Likelihood of Roster Spot: 50%
John Beck is entering his sixth season and fourth different team. Initially drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins, Beck was thought to be the guy Miami had been waiting for since Dan Marino retired. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, that hope was disproved and Beck began his trek as a journeyman. Last year Beck was given the opportunity to fight for the starter position in Washington, which should be good news to Texans fans as even though former offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan left the Texans for the Redskins, Kubiak still runs a very similar offense to his predecessor and Kyle’s father, Mike Shanahan. Beck started only four games last year but found himself out of a job when the Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins.
Players don’t achieve a journeyman title without teams deciding that they would be better without them than with them. Beck appears to be no different as he was given the starting job in Miami, only to have them eventually cut ties with the BYU product. The Ravens gave him a chance as their backup, only to cut him a year later. He then joined the Redskins and was given a chance to start with more weapons than he’d ever had in his career, but was let go for players with more youth and potential. Beck was awarded more playing time than his competition, undrafted free agent Case Keenum, in the first preseason game against Carolina but received no snaps in the home opener against San Francisco. While Beck played better against Carolina than Keenum did against the 49ers, Keenum has had a significantly better camp by most accounts and has a higher upside.
While Beck may not have the most prestigous background, he is a more than capable third string quarterback. Between Beck and Yates the Texans would have one of the more experienced quarterback stables in the NFL and both quarterbacks understand the offense very well. If Beck does stick on the roster he is comparable in stature and skill set to Yates and thus the offense shouldn’t miss a beat if the fates are as mean to Houston as they were last season.
Depth Chart: Fourth String
Likelihood of Roster Spot: 50%
Case Keenum received another year of elgibility at the University of Houston after an unfortunate injury cut his senior season short just before he could obliterate a majority of the college quarterback records. After another season of being an accurate gunslinger in a spread offense many thought that Keenum could have helped his draft stock, however, he still found himself without a team after the draft concluded in April. The Texans called shortly after and the idea of staying in Houston was too much for Keenum to turn down and he signed that day. The most exciting thing in regards to Keenum is his accuracy and work ethic. While many people ripped him for his size and style of offense in college, the comparisons to Drew Brees can’t be overstated. Both don’t have the prototypical size to play the position but both can sling the ball all over the field with extreme accuracy and a beautiful deep ball.
The upside is definitely there for Keenum, but there is also the chance that he doesn’t pan out and his size and injury history catch up with him. A guy doesn’t tend to slip through seven rounds of an NFL draft to go undrafted and turn into a productive member of a team. The Texans have a few on their roster but fans shouldn’t look for gems in every year’s undrafted free agent crop. While the Browns looked past Brandon Wheeden’s age and drafted their quarterback in the first round, Keenum’s age was certainly a factor in his not being drafted as he played college ball for six years. He was a phenomenal quarterback and put up other-worldly statistics, but it was done in a spread offense which tends to come with a pretty steep learning curve into the NFL. Finally, Keenum’s size is something that can’t be overlooked. While there has been a recent renaissance for undersized quarterbacks it’s a trend that shouldn’t be expected to continue.
The main thing that Case Keenum brings to the table for the Texans third string quarterback position is his great accuracy and upside. While the Texans know exactly what they will get from John Beck, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Beck does most things well, but nothing he does is great or remarkable. Keenum on the other hand is certainly a work in progress but he brings a fearlessness when he steps on the field and trusts his arm strength and accuracy enough to make any throw on the field. Keenum has every opportunity to grow and learn behind Schaub and Yates and should win the position battle against John Beck.
The Texans have one of the better quarterback situations in the league as they have a top-12 starter and a backup with extreme potential. When pitted against the other teams in the NFL, I would grade Houston at a B+ in the quarterback department with room to grow as the season progresses.