This weeks mailbag on the Houston Texans and wrapping up OTAs with the team now heading into Mandatory Mini-Camp.
I think there are two different groups that pop into our minds, the depth at safety and who ends up being the five that stay between Eddie Pleasant, Andre Hal, Corey Moore, Lonnie Ballentine, Kurtis Drummond and K.J. Dillon. The group is real young and has a trio of players coming back from injury and I would also add the interior of the offensive line. Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jeff Allen, Nick Martin and Greg Mancz appear to have the top spots locked down then you have lineman like David Quessenberry, Josh Walker, Kyle Fuller, Jake Simonich and Chad Slade who all could push for a spot. The most versatile of the second group has a real shot of being on the roster.
Xavier Su'a-Filo and Jeff Allen barring injury.
The most important thing right now is to realize it is Tom Savage’s show until further notice. However, if Deshaun Watson did end up on the field, or Brandon Weeden for that matter, Bill O’Brien will try and take advantage of each of their skill sets. That is what good coaches do and something that George Godsey could not capitalize on the past few seasons as offensive coordinator. O’Brien has a better idea on how to make the offense work based on personnel.
I think there are two ways to look at this situation regarding Tom Savage.
1. Command the Offense: Much like last spring, Savage has a good understanding of the offense and where the ball needs to go. He is the only holdover throughout the musical chairs of quarterbacks in the Bill O’Brien era.
2. Command of the Huddle: This has been a work in progress but that comes with the territory of Savage getting used to the idea that he is the one getting the 1st team reps against the top end defenders. The first week of OTAs, he was uneasy and it showed in how he threw the football. The second week, he looked much more under control, his body language confident in his role of being the starter.
It will take actual game reps during the regular season to if things have changed for Savage on the field.
Eddie Pleasant is the veteran of the safety group and with his role in sub packages, he was a plus player covering backs and tight ends. It is hard to see Pleasant as the odd man out right now but that is what training camp is for.
As for K.J. Dillon the medical staff is not going to cut him loose until training camp. One thing the training staff does is they ensure each player is 100% healthy before he is allowed back on the field. OTAs is not the time to put any player who had a surgery since last season on the field.
The I.R. stash is a little soon to be discussing but the Texans make it a habit to take five safeties to the season. Starters Andre Hal and Corey Moore return and Pleasant is back as well, while Dillon, Lonnie Ballentine, and Kurtis Drummond are coming back from injuries they sustained in 2016.
Jaelen Strong is one of the more interesting players of the wide receiver group. Here is what we know with Strong: when he touches the football good things happen. Going back and looking at film, he has been productive with the football in his hand. He is almost a better outside target but after Braxton Miller was nicked up with injuries, Strong bumped to the slot. That move demonstrated just how much he handled duties in the run game where Strong is particularly effective.
Once again, this season will be based on opportunity and finding a spot for him remains the bigger question. He can help inside or outside the formation when needed.
Braxton Miller has been one of the bright spots during OTAs and he worked hard to add some NFL muscle and improve as a wide receiver during the off-season. Add in the help he is receiving from coach Wes Welker and it is clear that Miller is understanding the offense and how his role is set up to be played in the Texans scheme.
Miller is the starting slot wide receiver and that is exactly why the Texans drafted him in the 3rd round in the 2016 NFL Draft. This will not be an overnight fix for Miller as he is still adapting to his position change, but he has looked much more comfortable in his role with the offense so far.
Related Links: Quick Hitters from Houston Texans OTAs | Digging Deep from Week Two at OTAs | Braxton Miller Returns | Texans to Waive Max Bullough and Keith Mumphery | OTAs Update from Week Three | Extended Cut from OTAs