Tag:Houston Texans
Posted on: August 31, 2010 10:49 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2010 11:50 pm
 

Five breakout NFL players

On draft day each year, amid the excitement and bustle, I always find one aspect of scouting to be, well, bittersweet.

Follow along with me a moment.

It is impossible in this business to not develop favorite prospects through the course of a year. Often, I've characterized some of these favorites in an article that we, NFLDraftScout.com, affectionately refer to as Rang's Gang .

The players featured in Rang's Gang aren't supposed to be the best. In fact, the only real rule is that they aren't supposed to be first round prospects. Considering I write each year's article a month or so before the draft, sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised that a club feels as highly about the player as I do and my "rule" is broken.

Typically, however, these are mid-round players who have legitimate NFL talent and have demonstrated some intangible (e.g., instincts, determination, physicality, technique, etc.) that caused them to stand out (at least to me) from their peers.

Now the bittersweet part.

Unfortunately, on draft day, I sometimes see these "favorites" placed into tough situations. There are prospects, for example, who I feel are best suited to one scheme but are drafted into another. Or, talented players drafted behind starters in their primes, potentially meaning limited playing time. Or, players, who after interviewing them, I've felt might do best working for a "player-friendly" coach -- and then are drafted into a team with a strict disciplinarian.

Some players are so talented all they need is an opportunity.

Others, toll in relative anonymity until a change in scenery, scheme, coaching staff or a veteran moving on give them a freer lane to NFL success.

Here are 5 players I think find that lane this year.

CB Josh Wilson, Ravens: A second round pick by the Seahawks in 2007, Wilson has started 23 games the past two seasons, demonstrating true playmaking ability on a struggling defense. His lack of height (5-09) made him an immediate tough fit in Pete Carroll's scheme that prefers taller corners, so his trade to the Ravens, however, wasn't shocking. Wilson has returned three of his six INTs the past two years for touchdowns and is the Seahawks' all-time leader in kickoff return average (25.76) with a TD scored his rookie year. His height is obviously an issue -- especially considering the big receivers of the AFC North. Wilson plays bigger than his height due to physicality and pure speed. He was "officially" clocked at 4.39 seconds at the 2007 Combine. Here's the thing. If Wilson was able to make this many plays for the Seahawks' anemic pass rush (more on this later), imagine how much more effective he could be with the Ravens' defense around him. 

RB Peyton Hillis, Browns: Characterized by some as little more than a throw-in for the Browns in the trade that made Brady Quinn a Denver Bronco, Hillis, I believe, will emerge as one of the league's best young fullbacks this year. Hillis' overall athleticism and versatility intrigued me back when he played at Arkansas. This guy played fullback, tailback, H-back, tight end and wide receiver in the SEC. Not only that, the 6-2, 250 pounder was the Razorbacks' punt returner at a time when Darren McFadden and Felix Jones were the supposed future NFL stars. In fact, Hillis already has seven touchdowns in only two NFL seasons. Seven not so impressive, you say? Jones has scored six touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys, thus far. McFadden, for the Raiders, has only five.

DE Chris Clemons, Seahawks: Clemons, entering his seventh NFL season, is older than the others on this list. He is an example of a player whose new environment is going to help him tremendously. Clemons, originally an undrafted free agent out of Georgia who signed with the Redskins, has flashed as an outside pass rusher with the Raiders and Eagles. Those two defenses featured other talented pass rushers during Clemons' tenure, limiting his opportunities for production. He was fast off the edge; just not fast enough on teams featuring Derrick Burgess, Warren Sapp and Trent Cole. Clemons has had success before. He, opposite Burgess in 2007 with the Raiders, collected 8 sacks. He's never topped four any other year of his career. Unless injured, he should have no problem rejuvenating his career this season with Seattle. Clemons is quicker upfield than anyone else on Seattle's front four. With the noise generated at Qwest Field, Clemons could push his career numbers simply because someone, sometime has to register a pass rush for the Seahawks.

WR Jacoby Jones, Texans: Some of you will claim I'm jumping on the bandwagon with Jones, as it is no secret he's been a preseason star this year for the Texans. In reality, I've been driving the bandwagon (as well as changing the oil and fixing the brakes ) with Jones long before he ever teamed up with Matt Schaub. Jones has been making big plays as the Texans' third wideout, but his production this year could rival most team's No. 2.

QB Kevin Kolb, Eagles: This is what it comes down to for me in regards to Kolb. Sure, it was a risk by Andy Reid to trade Donovan McNabb, but consider this. Mike Holmgren, who was Bill Walsh's QB coach from 1986-1988, knew Matt Hasselbeck could run his offense when he left Brett Favre and Green Bay for Seattle. Andy Reid, Holmgren's QB coach in Green Bay in 1997-1998, obviously feels that it is Kolb's time. That's good enough for me -- (especially when I scouted Kolb in the preseason ). Kolb's poise, accuracy and quick release could make him a quick star in this offense.




Posted on: August 15, 2010 1:03 pm
 

Ben Tate most critical rookie loss so far

The physical nature of the game means that there will always be injuries. Considering that they are making the greatest jump in talent of their lives, often the players most susceptible to injury are rookies.

Despite the hype of the draft, only a small portion of rookies are expected by their respective clubs to provide a true immediate and consistent impact.

The Houston Texans, however, were certainly hoping to gain exactly that from second round pick Ben Tate.

Unfortunately, after only his second carry of the game -- a 12 yard burst on the Texans' first drive of the second half -- Tate suffered a severe lower leg injury and had to be carted off the field.

The injury, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter) is believed to be a broken ankle , which would end Tate's season.

The Texans had hoped that Tate would solidify a running game that has struggled with inconsistency throughout the franchise's nine-year history. Veterans Arian Foster and Steve Slaton had most recently flashed in a starting role for Houston, but in investing the No. 58 overall choice in Tate, clearly Gary Kubiak and his staff were hoping the former Auburn star would provide some consistency to the position.

Unfortunately, there have already been some ugly injuries to highly-drafted rookies. The Ravens and Giants may have lost their second and third round picks, OLB Sergio Kindle and S Chad Jones for the year (and more) with scary off-field incidents. The Jaguars lost third round DT D'Anthony Smith to an Achilles tear. Tennessee lost undrafted free agent running back Stafon Johnson to an dislocated ankle just last night.

None of these players, however, were in Tate's position to compete for a prominent role immediately.
Posted on: August 10, 2010 8:36 pm
 

NFL Breakout Sophomores -- my picks

Chris Steuber is a new addition to the NFLDraftScout.com family and has already done a fantastic job of helping Chad Reuter and I keep new content on the site even though the season hasn't yet even begun.

His most recent article, "Second Year Players From The 2009 Draft Who Could Take Off" is an interesting read. Chris highlights a player from each of the 2009 draft's seven rounds that he feels could enjoy significantly better "sophomore" seasons than their rookie campaigns.

It is an interesting enough idea that I thought I'd jump in on the conversation. I mean no disrespect to Chris. Quite the opposite, actually. As they say, imitation is the best form of flattery.

I just have some different opinions as to some second year players who may "breakout" in 2010 and thought the group would make for an interesting blog post.

Feel free, as always, to comment...

First Round: Chris Wells, RB, Arizona -- I strongly considered several others for this role. I anticipate big second seasons from several players who, quite frankly, were disappointments their rookie seasons. Chris picked OLB Aaron Maybin for the Bills. The same logic he uses for Maybin I believe could be used to argue for fellow OLBs Aaron Curry (Seattle), Robert Ayers (Denver) and Larry English (San Diego). I'm going instead with Beanie Wells, however. I don't even necessarily expect that the former Buckeye star will start early in the season as I'm among those who feel Tim Hightower rarely gets his due. That said, there is no denying the impact Wells made as the Cardinals finished their season. With Arizona moving to a more run-heavy offense this year, I expect Wells to emerge as one of the NFC's better young backs.

Second Round: Patrick Chung, S, New England -- There were few players I raved about more frequently than Chung prior to the 2009 draft. The former Oregon star hardly took the NFL by storm as a rookie, but let's be honest, adjusting to Bill Belichick's defense can take even the savviest of players a year to get comfortable. Just wait. I'm not wrong on this kid.

Third Round: Deon Butler, WR, Seattle -- Butler emerged as one of the few bright spots on an otherwise slow and unathletic Seattle receiving corps as a rookie. He's been a star in OTAs and training camp so far this summer. Rookie Golden Tate is getting all of the attention, but don't be surprised if this is the undersized speedster who emerges as the Seahawks' most consistent big play threat in 2010.

Fourth Round: Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville -- Thomas only started four games for the Jaguars as a rookie, but still shattered the team's record for rookie receptions (48) and receiving yards (453). Sure, his size (5-8, 198) isn't intimidating, but Thomas has the agility and toughness to play well despite a less than ideal frame. He's also been lighting up practices thus far in training camp. Perhaps most importantly, he's already earned David Garrard's trust.

Fifth Round: Javon Ringer, RB, Tennessee -- Ok, for this one Chris and I agree. The Titans decision to trade away LenDale White and yet not aggressively pursue another big back in the draft or free agency gives me the impression that Jeff Fisher and his staff realized the same thing I did when reviewing Ringer: while he may lack size, he certainly doesn't lack for toughness. Ringer isn't going to take away too many of Chris Johnson's touches, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him emerge as the club's primary backup to their superstar.

Sixth Round: Brice McCain, CB, Houston -- I fully recognize that the Texans weren't so overcome with McCain's talent that they ignored cornerback early in the draft. Their first round pick, Kareem Jackson, is a terrific talent who I believe will quickly help erase the negative feelings left behind by now-Atlanta Falcon Dunta Robinson. However, I'm a sucker for quick feet and McCain certainly has those. He may never emerge as a standout starter, but I think he has the agility to be a heckuva nickel corner for a long time.

Seventh Round: Lance Louis, OG, Chicago -- Disrespect Mike Tice's ability as a head coach all you want. For my money, there aren't three better offensive line coaches in the NFL than the former starting NFL tight end. Louis was graded by some as a tight end or H-back coming out of San Diego State, but the Bears took a chance on him last year. Now, Tice believes Louis has a real chance at earning the starting right guard position. With his athleticism and the Bears' focus on the passing game under Mike Martz, Louis could surprise.
Posted on: July 29, 2010 9:52 pm
 

Tebow signs the headline; LBs the real story

July 29, 2010 may someday be recognized in pro football annals as the day that Tim Tebow officially entered the NFL by signing his first-round contract with the Denver Broncos, but several other rookies who signed today will almost certainly make a bigger impact as a rookie -- though few, nationally, will recognize the importance of their deals.

Fellow first round picks Rolando McClain (Oakland) and Sean Weatherspoon (Atlanta) each signed their contracts today. Despite the fact that McClain (No. 8 overall) and Weatherspoon (No. 19 overall) were each selected higher than Tebow and will almost certainly see the field in a more substantive role sooner than the former Florida superstar, only fans of the Raiders and Falcons, respectively, are likely to be giving the signings much thought.

And that is a mistake.

McClain's signing continues a surprisingly effective off-season for the Raiders. His selection with the No. 8 overall pick was lauded on draft day as a coup for the shabby run-defending team. Now, by signing McClain on the day the team's training camp workouts officially begin, they are giving the reigning Butkus Award winner a chance to help immediately.

Weatherspoon's deal is just as important given that the Falcons, like the Raiders, enjoyed a strong off-season and appear to be on the verge of breaking into the upper echelon of the NFL. The addition of free agent cornerback Dunta Robinson gives the team the shut-down cornerback they've been missing to pair with pass rusher John Abraham and young star linebacker Curtis Lofton. With Weatherspoon's speed and playmaking ability, the combination of he and Lofton should give the Falcons as athletic a duo of young linebackers as there is in the league -- a critical advantage considering the team has to contend with Drew Brees and the explosive New Orleans' offense in the NFC South division.
 
One could even make the argument that Miami signing outside linebacker Koa Misi, Houston signing running back Ben Tate or even the Kansas City Chiefs signing offensive guard Jon Asamoah will end up being at least equally as important to their club's 2010 success as Tebow.

But then again, Tebow is the headline. Everyone else makes up just the details.

So, what else is new?
Posted on: May 10, 2010 10:38 pm
 

Steroids or not, Byrd deserves DPOY over Cushing

The news that Houston outside linebacker Brian Cushing failed a drug test last September and, after losing his appeal, could now lose his Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, as well as be suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season has generated plenty of attention.

Too much attention, in my opinion -- at least in terms of the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

The reality is, Cushing won the award in a landslide, but was outplayed -- apparently too quietly -- by Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd.

Now, don't get me wrong. Cushing was spectacular last season. In starting all 16 games, he provided the Texans' with the playmaker in the back seven that this team has been lacking. His 134 tackles, four interceptions, four sacks and two forced fumbles showed the all-around game that scouts had seen him flash throughout his career at USC. Cushing's play was critical in several of Houston's victories this past season -- the team's first winning season (9-7) in franchise history. For his exploits, Cushing received 39 of the possible 50 votes by AP writers and broadcasters for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl, though he was unable to play due to various injuries.

All of that said, Byrd's impact on the Bills was even more rare and deserved greater attention.

Byrd, who only played in 14 games due to suffering a torn labrum in his hip that required off-season surgery, nonetheless tied for the league-lead with nine interceptions. Like Cushing, Byrd was voted to the AFC Pro Bowl -- the first rookie defensive back to be honored since Charles Woodson burst into the NFL with the Oakland Raiders... in 1998.

For his play, Byrd only received six -- yes, six -- first place votes as the top defensive rookie of the 2009 class. Again, Cushing received 39.

Whether he wins it in his second attempt or not, one thing is clear: Byrd will get a helluva lot more consideration now that voters will have to take into account Cushing's failed drug test.

And that is a shame.

Byrd was better in the first place...




Posted on: April 23, 2010 2:13 pm
 

AFC South First Round Comments

Following the conclusion of the draft, I'll be providing grades for all 32 teams. I've begun the process of writing these grades up based on what transpired in the first round yesterday. I'll be posting comments for each team, by their division, in the blog over the next few hours.

Here is how I saw the action from the AFC South perspective:


Houston Texas:
Many forecasted that the Texans would take a cornerback in the first round to replace free agent defection Dunta Robinson, but the team surprised by adding Alabama’s Kareem Jackson over other highly touted prospects. Jackson is a good fit for Houston’s scheme, however, possessing similar physicality in coverage and against the run that Robinson had shown.


Indianapolis Colts:
For all of the talk that the Colts might change their defensive style under Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis made a very Tony Dungy-like pick with the undersized pass rusher Jerry Hughes with the second to last pick of the first round. Hughes has an explosive first step as a pass rusher, but at only 6-2 is considered a bit of a ‘tweener. Funny, that ‘tweener label hasn’t seemed to hurt Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis’ production.


Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Jaguars will be blasted by some for making the biggest reach of the draft and in terms of value, perhaps Tyson Alualu was a reach. He likely would have been available at least 10-15 picks later. However, considering the number of busts seen each year from first round athletes, spending a high pick on a versatile, blue collar player that fits your scheme well shouldn’t be questioned. I don’t believe Alualu will ever go to the Pro Bowl, but he’ll earn a starting role immediately and won’t give it up for a decade.


Tennessee Titans:
The Titans had to be pleased to see defensive end Derrick Morgan, rated by many as the best at his class, still on the board at No. 16 after three other pass rushers had already been selected. Considering that Tennessee needed help in the pass rush immediately after the loss of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth in successive years, the pro-ready Morgan is an ideal fit. 

Posted on: February 26, 2010 9:54 am
 

Today's Player/League Personnel Schedule

The media is hunkering down inside Lucas Oil Stadium today for what promises to be an active day of interviews, as quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are coming in, as well as a full slate of high profile NFL head coaches and front office executives.

The league does not prove the time table for when individual players will arrive in the media room for interviews, but does provide this information for the NFL personnel.

For those of you of interested, here is the schedule for those men:

Chicago Head Coach Lovie Smith -- 10:00
St. Louis General Manager Billy Devaney -- 10:15
Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson -- 10:30
Washington Head Coach Mike Shanahan -- 10:45
Cincinnati Head Coach Marvin Lewis -- 11:00
Minnesota Head Coach Brad Childress -- 11:15
Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith -- 11:30
New York (Jets) General Manager Mike Tannebaum -- Noon
New York (Giants) Head Coach Tom Coughlin -- 12:15
Houston General Manager Rick Smith -- 12:45
Green Bay Head Coach Mike McCarthy -- 3:00
Cleveland President Mike Holmgren -- 3:30
Tennessee Head Coach Jeff Fisher -- 4:00

All times are Eastern.



Posted on: February 26, 2010 9:20 am
 

Coin Tosses Over, Official Draft Order Finalized

Three coin flips took place this morning to determine the official order of the 2010 NFL draft.

The Jaguars won the first coin toss over the Chicago Bears. The Bears had previously sent their 2010 first round pick to the Denver Broncos as part of the Jay Cutler trade. Therefore, the Jaguars will be picking 10th overall. The Broncos will have the Bears' pick, 11th overall.

The Tennessee Titans will pick 16th overall after winning their coin toss with the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers had previously traded their 2010 first round pick to the San Francisco 49ers, so the 49ers' second pick of the opening frame will come at No. 17. San Francisco also has the 13th pick of the draft.

Finally, the Atlanta Falcons won the rights to the 19th overall pick by winning a coin flip with the Houston Texans, who will pick 20th.

The coin flip to determine order was put in place by the league to separate teams that finish the season with identical records and opponent winning percentages.

Regardless of the winner of the coin flip, teams that finished tied, will alternate each round. For example, the Falcons, by winning the coin toss, will draft 19th in the first round, to be followed by the Texans at #20. Houston, however, will get the 19th pick in the second round, with the Falcons next.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com