Houston Texans: Early takeaways from initial 53 man roster

The Houston Texans have made the necessary moves to get their 53 man roster ready for Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs.


The Houston Texans had a lot of positive news after announcing their four-year extension with quarterback Deshaun Watson that will keep under contract for six more seasons. Texans went into the roster cutting mode with no longer having the thought at the back of their mind of extending their franchise quarter. Not to mention they re-signed inside linebacker Zach Cunningham to a respectable four year deal worth up to $58 million with nearly $24 million guaranteed.

Texans went with 24 players on offense and 26 on defense but the overall breakdown was different than in previous seasons.

Offense (24):

QB(2): Watson, McCarron

RB/FB (4) Johnson, Johnson, Howell, Gillaspia

TE(3): Fells, Akins, Warring

WR (6): Fuller, Cooks, Cobb, Stills, Carter (KR/PR), Coutee

OT (4): Tunsil, Howard, Johnson, Heck

G (3): Fulton, Scharping, Qvale (G/T)

C (2): Martin, Kelemete (G/C)

Defense (26):

IDL (6): Watt, Blacklock, Omenihu, Watkins, Dunn, Hall

OLB (4): Mercilus, Greenard, Martin, Scarlett

ILB (5): McKinney, Cunningham, Cole, Kalambayi, Adams

CB (7): Roby, Conley, Johnson, Reid, Crossen, Armstrong, Hargreaves

S (4): Reid, Murray, Moore, Thomas

ST (3): Fairbairn, Anger, Weeks

Takeaways on offense

There was an outside shot the Houston Texans took four tight ends into the regular season, but it turned out to only be wishful thinking after the Texans officially announced Jordan Thomas being released shortly after the deadline. Thomas' absence won't hurt the Texans in the short term, but he was an intriguing player that could have been a natural successor to Darren Fells.

Texans have a solid tandem at that position with Fells, Jordan Akins, and Kahale Warring waiting in the fold. Houston ultimately decided to keep Warring, who they selected with their third-rounder in the 2019 NFL Draft.

The only head-scratching move of moving on from Thomas is that they could have afforded to keep him on the roster to continue to develop under Fells' tutelage. There remains the opportunity for Houston to bring him back on the practice squad or re-sign him to the active roster with the initial roster still far from complete. However, that isn't a guarantee; there are 31 other NFL teams that could use a young talented player like Thomas.

Houston also ended up waiving backup center Greg Mancz in what seemed to be an interesting turn of events after being a reliable reserve for the offensive line for the past few seasons. There existed the opportunity for the Texans to part ways Mancz given how Houston had restructured their offensive line in the offseason.

Aaron Wilson of the Houston reported how Qvale was spoken highly of by O'Brien. His familiarity with offensive line coach Mike Devlin also played a part in a smooth transition. Devlin and Qvale both reunited after spending time together with the New York Jets. Qvale offers valuable versatility as a player that can play guard and tackle.

Meanwhile, Kelemete is a player that O'Brien has had high praise for as a lineman that can lineup almost anywhere on the offensive line. He is just a reliable backup that can do anything that is asked of him from the coaching staff.

Texans wanted him around, and it made it easier when he restructured his deal to open up some cap room. Texans are going without a traditional backup center as of now, but Kelemete could see snaps at center with Mancz no longer here.

The only other noticeable takeaway on offense is that Houston opted to bring six wide receivers onto the initial 53 man roster. Patrick Storm reported that the Texans were shopping Coutee ahead of the deadline, and it remains possible they kept on him on the roster to try to salvage his trade value with other NFL teams.

Coutee is indeed a talented player, but there is no real role for him here with Carter as the returner on special teams and Cobb being the primary slot receiver.

Takeaways on defense

The defense had a lot of surprises in terms of what the initial outcome is after cutdowns. The cornerback remains relatively crowded for a second consecutive season with the Texans taking seven cornerbacks after initial cuts,

Houston took Johnathan Joseph, Bradley Roby, Lonnie Johnson, Jr., Aaron Colvin, Xavier Crawford, and Cornell Armstrong to start the 2019 season opener.

Texans are now bringing seven again in 2020 with Roby, Conley, Johnson, Reid, Crossen, Armstrong, and Hargreaves. It's still quite early and it's possible they trade or waive a cornerback if they claim a player on waivers. However, don't be surprised if they keep all seven cornerbacks ahead of Week 1.

Houston opted to part ways with defensive back Jaylen Watkins after signing him to a two year $3 million deal with only $300,000 guaranteed. Texans normally carry four safeties so this was a possibility, and it seems Houston puts more stock into carrying cornerbacks on the roster over more safeties.

Another move that shouldn't be taken lightly is that P.J. Hall made the initial roster. Time was ticking from the moment he was signed for him to prove to the coaching staff that he could contribute to the defense.

His efforts weren't taken for granted as he made the roster over Angelo Blackson. Hall will still have to prove he can continue to be on the coaches' good side after he wore out his welcome with the Oakland Raiders.

A similar surprise on a smaller scale can be made of Carlos Watkins making the initial roster considering all the additions on the defensive line in the offseason. However, he was resilient in his approach and earned a roster spot for a fourth straight year.

Watkins is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and with a lot to prove after not being able to break into the rotation for a consistent role since being drafted in 2017. It's still important to have veteran players on the roster and Watkins fill that role on the defensive line.

Watkins has worked with Anthony Weaver since his arrival, and Weaver must have trusted him enough to put in a good word for him after taking the promotion of defensive coordinator.

Last but not least, Tyrell Adams has finally made a the initial roster since Houston promoted him in the middle of the 2018 season from their practice squad. Adams has bounced back and forth from the active roster to the practice squad in the last two seasons, so this is particurlaly good news for him.

Texans had taken four inside linebackers in the past, but Adams ability to contribute on special teams pushed them to bring a fifth inside linebacker. Adams could take some more snaps on special teams with Dylan Cole shaking off the rust from his ACL injury last season, and they work on involving Cole more on the defensive gameplan.

This roster still isn't complete with waiver claims happening today. Texans have brought in the likes Gregory Howell and Cornell Armstrong in the past, so moves are very likely to be made. Also have to account for the 16 players the Texans can bring back to form part of their practice squad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.