Roster cuts are coming. The Texans must reduce their roster to 75 players on Monday and to 53 by Friday afternoon.
There are always going to be a few surprises during cuts but this one seems fairly straightforward. There are some obvious questions which we'll get to in a minute.
Last season the Texans roster settled in at 5 wide receivers, 9 offensive linemen, 3 tight ends (Casey being considered a fullback), 2 fullbacks, 3 running backs, 3 quarterbacks, 6 defensive linemen, 8 linebackers, 11 defensive backs, and 3 kicking/long snapper specialists
These numbers aren't cast in stone of course and can fluctuate depending on injuries and other situations but it's a reasonable model for estimating purposes.
So here's my semi-dusty crystal ball look at what the Texans roster and practice squad might look like one week from today:
Wide Receiver (5) - Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey.
The obvious thing here is that I didn't include Trindon Holliday on the final roster. The upside with Holliday is obvious. He's fast. The downside is that he's tiny and can't play any other position. With roster spots at a premium, the Texans can't afford to give it to a player who can be completely neutralized on kickoffs deep into or out of the endzone, or directional/good hang time punts. The Texans already have a one-trick pony on the roster in Jonathan Weeks. To carry two guys like that is a luxury that most teams can't afford. Holliday's turnover in New Orleans demonstrates another element of risk in keeping him on the squad. One aw-shit eliminates a bunch of attaboys when it comes to return men as we learned with #12 last year. Like coach says, Holliday has to be special to make this team as he hasn't been consistently special. Sporadically special ain't gonna cut it.
The obvious question then becomes who gets kick/punt return duty? The Texans have had others working returns in practice and you could see guys like Keshawn Martin, Quintin Demps, Shiloh Keo, Justin Forsett or Sherrick McManis fill that role. And yes, Martin needs to learn how to hang on to the ball too and yes, you're exposing a good young player to more injury risk, and yes, Demps, Keo and McManis aren't going to remind anyone of a human joystick any time soon. But that's the way it goes. Forsett returned kicks in Seattle which sets up another discussion below.
Conspiracy theorists and readers of tea leaves think that Posey may be getting set up for IR. We'll find that out in the next few days.
Offensive lineman (9) - Duane Brown, Wade Smith, Chris Myers, Antoine Caldwell, Derek Newton, Rashad Butler, Ben Jones, Brandon Brooks, Andrew Gardner
The Texans desperately want Newton to win that right tackle job. He's signed through 2014 and is cheaper than Rashad Butler who's a free agent next year. The Texans carried four tackles last year and Gardner was one of them after Butler went down for the year. Shelley Smith doesn't make the cut.
Tight end (2) - Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham
The world must be turning upside down for Kubiak to keep only two tight ends but it's really 2.5 when you add James Casey to the equation. But with Neil Armstrong dying and Snooki reproducing, the world is going to hell anyway so just lay back and enjoy it. Keeping only 'two' tight ends doesn't fit the model but given Casey's versatility you can use that spot elsewhere. You'll see in a minute.
Fullback (2) - James Casey, Moran Norris
Derrell Smith is an intriguing prospect but I'm guessing Kubiak goes for the veteran over the linebacker conversion project.
Running back (4) - Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Justin Forsett, Jonathan Grimes
Here's where I veer off track a bit from the model. Most will say Forsett is RB3 and Grimes is practice squad but Grimes has enough on tape now to make me think he doesn't clear waivers. There are a bunch of RB3 hungry teams out there and Grimes has what it takes to fit the bill. In other words, I'm scared of losing Grimes so I'm keeping four RBs, which isn't unheard of but both Forsett and Grimes will have to contribute on third downs and teams to make it roster smart. Another option would be to cut Forsett and keep Grimes but I think that would be a longshot.
Quarterback (3) - Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum
There I did it. I'm not doing this to pacify my UH homer brethren, far from it, because I still think Keenum would benefit more from a year on the practice squad running scout team (and no I don't think anyone would claim him off waivers to stick him on their 53) but I haven't seen enough out of John Beck or Glenn Beck or whatever his name is, to give him the QB3 job.
Defensive line (6) - Antonio Smith, J.J. Watt, Earl Mitchell, Shaun Cody, Tim Jamison, Jared Crick
One thing that could throw this completely out of whack is if Cody's back problem is a lingerer. Back problems can be tricky and the Texans may hedge by keeping Loni Fangupo. If that happens, you would kiss the 4 RB thing goodbye, unless of course they keep only two QBs or four WRs.
Linebacker (8) - Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing, Bradie James, Connor Barwin, Bryan Braman, Mister Alexander, Tim Dobbins, Whitney Mercilus
Darryl Sharpton starts the season on Reserve-PUP which doesn't count on the 53. Sharpton hasn't gotten any work in over the past month or two so he's not ready. What to do with Jesse Nading? He missed the cut last year but was re-signed a short time later. The Texans could go either way with him.
Defensive back (11) - Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Danieal Manning, Glover Quin, Brandon Harris, Quintin Demps, Troy Nolan, Brice McCain, Sherrick McManis, Shiloh Keo, Roc Carmichael
That's a lot of DBs but that's what the Texans kept for much of last year. But it's an area that could be trimmed if need be. It's not like the Texans will be facing Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers every week and having to run nickel and dime all the time. If they go with 10, the last spot would most likely come down to Keo or Carmichael.
Kicker/Punter/Long Snapper (3) - Shayne Graham, Donnie Jones, Jonathan Weeks
Randy Bullock hasn't shown enough leg on kickoffs to win the job and Graham has done nothing to lose the job. It probably won't happen though since Bullock is Kubiak's beloved fellow Aggie and a draft pick. Brett Hartmann could replace Jones and handle kickoffs if he's healthy enough when he comes off suspension in October. Weeks is another one-trick pony that makes me ask the question, why can't they teach Ben Jones (or someone like that) to long snap?
Practice squad (8) - Some tough choices here. Should they all clear waivers, leading candidates should be Eddie Pleasant, Mitch King, Loni Fangupo, Jeff Maehl, Nate Menkin, Nick Mondek, Logan Brock, Davin Meggett, Derrell Smith and D.J. Bryant
Standard disclaimer. This could all be shot to hell with injuries the minute after this article is published.