The final preseason game is upon the 2016 Houston Texans and, like all teams across the NFL, players are pushing for one final showing to impress their coaches and scouts across the league. The Texans have some work to do to line up the bottom end of their roster and the final preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys is proving ground to show they belong.
Bill O’Brien is well aware of what it at stake for players this coming Thursday.
“I think it’s significant,” said O’Brien of the final preseason game. “I think, first of all, any time you go out there and play a game it’s significant. I think there’s a number of guys that will be playing in this Dallas game that really are fighting for a spot on our team. There’s some really tough decisions that are going to have to be made over the next five, six days. This game will play a part of it. It’s not the only part, but it will be part of the decision process.”
Let’s take a look at those players who appear to be part of the decision process, fighting for a final roster spot.
The wide receiver position is coming down to Cecil Shorts III and Keith Mumphery. At this point, it feels the Mumphery has upper hand in locking up one of the bottom spots on the receiver depth chart. The Texans could be playing a game of cat and mouse with Shorts, trying to gauge his value these final days much like they did with Keshawn Martin last season. Shorts is clearly the odd man out throughout all of the camp practices and preseason games, which has cleared up the receiver picture moving forward.
The safety position features a battle between Corey Moore and Eddie Pleasant which will take center stage in the final preseason contest. With the roster moves of Lonnie Ballentine and Kurtis Drummond, the door has all but been held open for Moore to make the team. Pleasant, who has been playing into the later parts of preseason games, is one to watch. That is not the best look for a veteran to be playing that late into games especially after being one of the team’s top three safeties last season. Pleasant’s situation is worth monitoring, especially with Ballentine now on the PUP list and his potential to return to the roster after six weeks.
It might take a small amount of work for outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett to lock up his spot after some strong work the past two preseason games. The Texans might have found another diamond in the rough with Scarlett, who looks like a solid fit for that position. Scarlett has been making plays and most importantly, creating a pass rush with good technique, both of which are good indicators of a player who has an even higher ceiling than what has been shown so far.
Akeem Hunt’s speed is something to marvel at and where the Texans see him fitting is the next question. Three spots appear to be set, leaving Hunt to battle it out for the final spot at running back if the team chooses to keep four backs. There is some dynamic to his game but he is limited as a player on exactly what he does offensively and in coverage. Hunt can return kicks but he is not best suited to run between the tackles. There has to be a plan for Hunt in place for him to make a team but bottom end of the roster players who specialize are becoming phased out.
Can Reshard Cliett close out his preseason with another strong showing? Cliett is trying to beat out Akeem Dent for a spot with the inside linebackers. Cliett is finally hitting his stride after an ACL injury took away his rookie season during training camp. His biggest hurdle to climb is to show he understands how to make plays as a linebacker on defense. He is still working on that part of his game especially in run support. He has to show he can cover and run down on special teams and now he has to put together a solid game late.
The million dollar question comes down to the status of Brandon Weeden and whether the Texans decide to keep him going into the season. Value is still being gauged on what Weeden could bring back to the Texans, a draft pick or maybe another player to fill out their roster. Weeden has been used sparingly behind the other two quarterbacks. How the Texans feel about Weeden might not line up what other teams see him as so there will be some decisions going down to the wire concerning his status with the team.