he Texans have wrapped up an OTAs and Mini Camp session that consisted of 13 practices on the field along with work within the facility, which included meetings and weight training. Now, nearly over a month before the Texans get back to the field for training camp, all will be silent.
Getting a closer look at what the Texans were able to put together, we take a look at the top 10 rookies coming out of the off season work heading to training camp. All of the following rookies should be pushing for roles either on the 53-man roster or practice squad.
The Rookie Free Agents
Ka'imi Fairbairn, Kicker
Most do not like discussing kickers, but Fairbairn will get his chance to win the position if he can put together a solid training camp. The 2015 Lou Groza Award winner and former UCLA kicker possesses a strong leg and already has that advantage over his counterpart, Nick Novak. Being consistent with kick offs and accurate with field goals will be the primary goal. It will take a perfect camp for Fairbairn to be the week one kicker.
Eric Lee, Outside Linebacker
At 6'3" and 260 lbs., Lee fits the prototype frame that the Texans want for the outside linebacker position. Like many rookie free agents, there will be some holes in his game and getting Lee to turn his plus athletic skill set into a technical football player will be the key. The steps will include getting Lee to become a run defender first, and then work on his pass rushing. Lee has a chance to win the fourth spot on the depth chart and he has the ceiling to do it.
Duke Thomas, Cornerback
The Texans like keeping young cornerbacks in the pipeline when it comes to their active roster. With a few spots open due to departed players, Thomas has been getting steady work during practices so the coaching staff has been able to get a clear look at what he can do. Veterans sitting out during OTAs helped Thomas get an extended look and he has taken full advantage, deliberating an understanding of the defensive system. His confidence has only grown with each practice and by the end of Mini Camp, he was turning heads with nice plays in coverage.
Tevin Jones, Wide Receiver
It is easy to get lost at the wide receiver position, especially with the amount of new faces and speed the team added to the position group. Jones, a playmaker at Memphis, has done everything the coaches have asked. Runnibg crisp routes, catching the ball at a high level, and, most importantly, making sure the moment is not too big for him. Body control and his ability to high point footballs should also not go overlooked. Jones' best shot is to impress enough to make it onto the practice squad and that is a good scenario for players working to make a NFL roster.
Stephen Anderson, Tight End
If Stephen Anderson would have been a draft pick, most would have been pleased with the selection. The fact the Texans were able to land him in the mad dash of signing rookie free agents after the draft is a bigger plus. Anderson remains the only rookie free agent who has a fast track to the 53-man roster if everything goes right. He offers enough as a pass catcher but he will have to show he is a willing blocker when training camp arrives. If Anderson keeps on the path he established during OTAS and Mini Camp, he should be part of the team when the season rolls around.
The Drafted Class
Nick Martin, Center
It is a matter of when Nick Martin takes over the center position, not if, and he could easily receive the most playing time of the drafted rookie class. He is as close to NFL ready that the draft class has to offer and he is already catching up to the curve with the demands of the position to help out in calling out pass protections. The Texans need consistency and a long term answer at center. Martin could be just the player needed.
D.J. Reader, Nose Tackle
Vince Wifork is not getting any younger and the miss on Louis Nix makes D.J. Reader that much more important. Reader should get time on the field this year and he could free up Wilfork to move to other spots along the defensive line, if needed. Reader moves very well for his size, which is a plus for a defensive lineman, and he is a key piece for the future of the defense. Romeo Crennel’s defense is based around a solid defensive line and Reader learning under one of the best to do it all time could prove vital for his development moving forward.
Braxton Miller, Wide Receiver
It is hard not to see that Braxton Miller is one of the most gifted players on the field for the Texans when it comes to total skill set; his quickness, acceleration, and speed are off the charts. Miller has really only played the position for one full season as a wide receiver on the field. The learning curve is real, however, in the last week of Mini Camp, Miller looked comfortable in the offense. It is tough to project where Miller will be heading into the season but the ceiling on what he can be for the offense in the future is plenty to like about him.
Tyler Ervin, Running Back
The only real look for Ervin came during rookie mini camp because a quad issue kept him out all of OTAs and the full team Mini Camp. Ervin looks to factor in for the return game and how he gets his snaps on offense will be interesting, especially with Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue as the odds on favorites to carry the running game. It might be the case for Ervin to concentrate on a specific role for the team in year one and then let him grow as he gets further into his career.
Will Fuller V, Wide Receiver
The one factor most have to remember when it comes to Fuller is that he is a piece of this offense that the Texans needed. He fits well opposite of DeAndre Hopkins, which allows Fuller to do what he is good at as a wide receiver, stretch the field. One thing that stood out is how well he runs routes, which is all based off of defenders being uneasy of his over-the -top speed. That talent allows Fuller to be a solid route runner and snap off routes to get underneath coverage in a hurry. He needs to work on catching the ball more consistently and that aspect has already improved since his arrival in rookie mini-camp. Fuller will get work in the season and expect him to be a key rotational piece at the wide receiver position.
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