This week, the Houston Texans cut their roster back to the NFL’s 53-man limit. The team waived several young players and released a few veterans. How did the changes reshape key positions for the team, and what more will they need to do to prepare for the regular season?
Texans’ Roster: Offensive Cuts
More players ended up being cut from the Texans’ roster on offense than defense. Veterans QB Jeff Driskel and RB Marlon Mack struggled during the offseason, unable to compete with others for the position. Altogether 5 receivers were cut or released. Jalen Camp, Conor Wedington, Drew Estrada, and Johnny Johnson III were all put on the waiver wire due to having played in the NFL for under 4 years. The Texans also cut veteran receiver Chris Conley.
The most consequential cuts of all were made to the Texans’ offensive line. Although they held onto their new first-round guard Kenyon Green, they ended up waiving offensive linemen Tre’vour Wallace-Simms and Jordan Steckler as well as center Jimmy Morrissey. Additionally, the Texans cut offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and dropped tight ends Seth Green, Antony Auclair, and Mason Schreck.
What the Texans are left with on offense is a little difficult to figure out. 4 running backs is plenty, even too many if Dameon Pierce really has the breakout year some are expecting. But while Marlon Mack didn’t quite have an outstanding preseason as a whole, he did start heating up in week 3. Rex Burkhead would have been the more logical choice to cut, as he performed consistently under par throughout August. But perhaps money played a factor in that decision.
Davis Mills and Kyle Allen both played well in week 2 of the preseason, and Mills was fantastic in week 3. Although they probably won’t put up elite numbers every week, both are safe, conservative leaders. They’ve proven they can work well with a grinding, grueling offensive scheme. But both of them were also hit quite a few times, which could be a disastrous trend if it continues into the regular season.
The wide receiver room definitely seems small right now. The 5 wide receivers left are Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, Chris Moore, Tyler Johnson, and Phillip Dorsett. These guys are good, some of them with pro bowl potential. But there may be times when 4 out of 5 of them could all be on the field at the same time. As it stands, this is not a helpful strategy when preparing for injuries. Wide receivers inevitably get tackled all the time – if one can avoid injuries for a whole season that’s a minor miracle.
And if the wide receiver room seems small, then prepare to enter the cupboard where the offensive line now lives. The Texans’ sole left tackle, Laremy Tunsil, will be entering his 7th year in the NFL, while the team’s only right guard, A.J. Cann, will be starting his 8th NFL season. Altogether the team only has 2 centers, 3 guards, and 4 tackles. After the last season, the Texans seem to be playing with fire. In 2021, Texans players altogether missed 108 games from the IR list alone. Laremy Tunsil himself missed 12 games due to injury.
Texans’ Roster: Defensive Cuts
The Texans’ roster moves on defense were far less dramatic, in terms of both number of players cut and their quality. They cut defensive end Demone Harris, linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, and cornerback Isaac Yiadom. The Texans also waived safety Grayland Arnold and defensive back Jacobi Francis. But again, with the roster cuts it’s really more about what the Texans have left than what they’ve lost.
The Texans right now have 8 linebackers, after only cutting one player from that position. That more than covers the risk that some of them will be injured and need replacements. They also have 6 defensive ends when they can only really use 2 at a time. The Texans have balanced most of their defensive positions, but these two are clearly a little overloaded.
The other big remaining issue on the Texans’ defensive roster is the preexisting injuries. Defensive end Derek Rivers and cornerback Kendall Sheffield are still on the IR list. Starting tackle Roy Lopez and starting linebacker Christian Harris are currently listed as questionable. Also questionable are backups Garrett Wallow, Tavierre Thomas, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Hopefully they can get healthy again soon, especially considering the week off they’re currently enjoying.
The injury deja vu here is real. If the Texans’ roster is already this banged up when the regular season starts next week, they will be walking a tightrope for sure. Any additional injury is going to exacerbate an already precarious situation.
Still Time to Prepare?
Of course there is still plenty of time for the Texans to adjust their roster. They’ll probably be doing so deep into the 2022 regular season. They can look for teams in need of linebackers or defensive ends to trade with, or they can sign free agents. The Texans will definitely be looking to make good use of their waiver wire position. Because they were 3rd in the 2022 NFL Draft, they’ll also be 3rd on the waiver wire.
But after the first 3 weeks of the regular season, those positions will all be changed to reflect the teams’ actual standings. So if the Texans lose repeatedly, they may stay near the top of the waiver wire up until the trade deadline on November 1. Let’s hope they make good use of it in those first three weeks, and lose their waiver position after that.
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