We take a look at the possible roster the Houston Texans will take to the 2020 NFL regular season on defense.
The Houston Texans are expected to take the practice field soon as the NFL has scheduled teams to start training camp towards the end of the month. Players have begun to undergo testing to clear them to start training camp, according to NFL reporter Kevin Patra.
We discussed the best players the Texans could carry on their roster on offense and special teams last week. Without further ado, here are the best-projected selections the Texans can make on defense towards their final roster before the start of training camp.
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Houston Texans Defense:
Defensive Line (6):
J.J. Watt DE, Ross Blacklock DE, Angelo Blackson DE, Charles Omenihu DE, Brandon Dunn NT, Eddie Vanderdoes NT
Watt, Blacklock, Omenihu, and Dunn’s spots are secured for this upcoming season on the defensive line.
Blackson and Vanderdoes get the nod after forming part of the roster last season, but it’ll be interesting to see how they’re viewed by the Houston Texans’ new defensive coordinator, Anthony Weaver.
It wasn’t long ago that Vanderdoes was selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Injuries resulted in only a two-year stint in Oakland, but his upside remained tantalizing enough for the Texans to sign Vanderdoes to their practice squad for the 2019 season. Vanderdoes’ time on the practice squad was short-lived though after earning a promotion to the active roster and recording eight tackles through three games.
The Texans are tasked with finding a nose tackle to back up Dunn as he steps into the starting role, and Vanderdoes fits that billing on paper if he can build on his quick ascension through Houston’s ranks last season.
On the other hand, keeping an experienced player like Blackson is an ideal move for the defense. However, it’ll be important to factor in that another experienced player on the roster like Carlos Watkins is slated to earn exponentially less than what Blackson will earn this season.
Blackson has beaten out Watkins for the majority of the snaps in the last three seasons, but his $12 million three-year deal extension he struck with the Texans occurred while Brian Gaine was the general manager.
The $8 million remaining in Blackson’s final two years are not guaranteed moving forward. Hence, his spot is uncertain if he doesn’t secure one of the starting spots on the defensive line with the overhaul occurring in Houston’s front office.
A contract restructuring similar to Zach Fulton’s could be on the horizon to give Blackson some guaranteed money and open some cap space for the Texans. Blackson remains one of the favorites to maintain his spot on the roster before the start of training camp.
Now, this sentiment could very well change depending on how Omenihu and Blacklock look throughout training camp. Blacklock’s selection in the second round showed Houston’s intent to upgrade the defensive line heading into this season. The Texans also had an agreement in place to sign Tim Jernigan before both sides mutually moved on.
Blackson started 15 games for the first time in his career last season, but he didn’t have his best statistical season with Watt being sidelined with an injury for the second half of the season to attract the attention of opposing offenses. Blackson played in 40 percent of the snaps in each of the last two seasons after arriving with Houston in 2017, where he played 19 percent of the snaps as a rotational defender.
Omenihu played 40 percent of the snaps in his rookie season, but part of that had to do with Watt’s injury. Still, Omenihu is a player the Texans are high on moving into this season. He showed his ability as a pass rusher, but he could see more playing time if he proves to also be able to contribute against the run.
The players the Texans take on the defensive line can change several different ways depending on how the younger guys show up to camp.
Outside Linebackers (4):
Whitney Mercilus, Jon Greenard, Jacob Martin, Duke Ejiofor
Mercilus, Greenard, and Martin seem sure locks to make the final roster.
Outside of the top three, the Houston Texans have Duke Ejiofor, Davin Bellamy, Brennan Scarlett, and Jamir Jones vying for the potential fourth and final spot. Ejiofor faces the tallest task after missing the entirety of last season with a torn Achilles, but he remains one of the most intriguing pass rushers on the Texans roster.
For what it’s worth, Coach Weaver mentioned Ejiofor various times when he met with the local media in how he would be tasked with utilizing pass rushers for this upcoming season.
Inside Linebackers (4):
Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, Dylan Cole, Peter Kalambayi
No surprises here: The Texans move forward with the same group from last season. Although it’s fair to point out that Tyrell Adams could be a player that could put himself in contention for a roster spot after being promoted from the practice squad twice in each of the last two seasons.
Bradley Roby, Gareon Conley, Lonnie Johnson, John Reid, Keion Crossen, Vernon Hargreaves III
The only real question here is whether Houston Texans will go with five or six cornerbacks heading into this season. The talent is there for Houston to take six cornerbacks into 2020. Roby, Conley, Johnson, and Reid are all locks to make the final roster. Crossen makes the most sense as the ideal fifth cornerback on the roster with his prowess on special teams, but Hargreaves III’s overall talent is intriguing for the Texans to continue to explore also.
The truth of the matter is that NFL teams really can’t have enough talented cornerbacks on the roster, and the Texans can attest to this after the cornerback group was rebuilt on the fly with injuries taking a toll on the secondary last season.
Justin Reid, Eric Murray, A.J. Moore, Michael Thomas, Jaylen Watkins
The safety position is essentially already set in stone for this season after the Texans brought in Murray, Thomas, and Watkins in free agency. The Houston Texans usually carry four to five safeties on their roster, and it appears they have a new group in place.