Houston Texans training camp battles: Cornerbacks
The Houston Texans started training camp Thursday with the same goal as every other team — to win a championship — but there are several roster spots up for grabs.
At last, football is back! Well, not quite, but close enough. Training camp serves as the reminder that football is around the corner, which is a welcoming sight for the Houston Texans.
The Texans are a team that is likely eager to get back on the field to redeem themselves after their underwhelming playoff loss. But like every other team, the Texans have roster spots up for grabs. For the purpose of this article, I’ll focus on the cornerback spot.
This is a position the Texans have had depth in over the years, but this past offseason saw them lose Tyrann Mathieu to the Kansas City Chiefs and Kareem Jackson to the Denver Broncos. Yes, I know Mathieu technically played safety, but he had versatility to play nickel and cover the opposing slot receiver.
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So where does that leave us now? Johnathan Joseph has been a staple in the defensive backfield since arriving in 2010, but the reality is Joseph is a year older and much slower.
Although he plays with great technique, which can somewhat neutralize his declining speed, can we really expect the 35-year-old Joseph to cover the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver? I’m not exactly encouraged at the sight of him covering T.Y. Hilton the two times the Texans face the Indianapolis Colts.
At least we know Joseph has a solidified spot on the depth chart. Behind Joseph, the cornerback position is wide open. Sure, it would seem like Bradley Roby was brought in to start on the outside, but how do we know what we’re getting or what to expect?
Although it’s early in training camp, it’s not very encouraging hearing what Bill O’Brien had to say about him. He’s also used to playing on Broncos teams that always had good corners. In fact, he’s always played alongside All-Pro Chris Harris and has also benefited from playing alongside five-time Pro Bowler Aqib Talib in four of the past five seasons.
That’s not to say Roby won’t play great, but it is to say we don’t know what to expect. For Texans fans, we have to hope Roby is ready to “man the island” because I think we likely will have to let him cover the best receivers we’ll face. At 27 years old, Roby is in his prime and has the speed to keep up with the Hiltons of the world.
We still have Aaron Colvin, who many have forgotten about after his disappointing first season. Colvin is actually somewhat of an example of what I described with Roby. Colvin played in Jacksonville alongside All-Pro corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye and never quite had to be “the guy.”
Although Colvin struggled, I’m sure he will be eager to rebound and show what he can do. Maybe the competition and status of being on the bubble will be what he needs to step up.
There is also incoming rookie Lonnie Johnson Jr., who I believe will prove to be a great pick. Johnson will surely be raw and have to adjust to the pro speed and the pro game, but it bodes well that he played in the SEC while with the Kentucky Wildcats.
The tape of Johnson at Kentucky was actually really impressive. At 6-3, Johnson has the size to line up with the games’ bigger receivers. Johnson also has the hands, as in high school he was a five-star wide receiver who initially signed to the Ohio State Buckeyes.
These are great problems to have as the Texans have great depth, so this should make for a great position battle, but we’ll have to see how it plays out.