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Vandermeer's View: The Challengers

Posted May 20, 2014

We haven’t even seen them practice with the vets yet. But so what? Let’s take stock among which newcomers might rise quickly to the top line on the depth chart.

We haven’t even seen them practice with the vets yet. But so what? Let’s take stock among which newcomers might rise quickly to the top line on the depth chart.

Let’s start with the easy one: Jadeveon Clowney. The number one pick will start at outside linebacker. A lot of people have already mentally delivered Brooks Reed to inside linebacker. That might happen but the thinking here is that, if so, Reed will still find a way into the OLB rotation in certain pass rush situations.

Remember when Reed and Conner Barwin were so happy to get Whitney Mercilus in the fold because it would lessen their snaps? And remember when Mario Williams started the Wade Phillips era with five sacks in less than five games? Well, a rotation of Clowney, Mercilus and Reed might be just the thing Romeo Crennel wants as he goes after the quarterback.

With two thirds of last year’s defensive line working elsewhere, jobs are available and Louis Nix will be looking for the gig at nose tackle while Jeoffrey Pagan, if healthy, could be a factor at end.

There’s an open spot next to Brian Cushing at inside linebacker and Max Bullough might just find a way to grab it. Incumbents Justin Tuggle, Mike Mohamed and Jeff Tarpinian are fighting to stay on the team. Bullough looks like he belongs and comes from a line of Michigan State players that includes his Grandfather, Hank, who once coached the Buffalo Bills.

The secondary could be tough to crack but Texans Radio Analyst Andre Ware and Sideline Reporter John Harris tell me that Dre Hal will at least challenge at nickel corner.

Offensively, the player that’s making everyone’s eyes pop out is former Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. At 6-5, 265, he’s the largest pass catching threat at tight end in franchise history. You can call catching 91 career passes for one of the least potent passing attacks in the Big Ten a dubious honor. I call it impressive. Yes, the Texans have Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin coming back. And maybe Fiedorowicz doesn’t start but he will somehow find his way onto the field. A lot.

We saw the previous Texans regime sometimes go with a platoon approach at certain offensive line positions. But we don’t know how Bill O’Brien and Paul Dunn want to handle a young talent like Xavier Su’a-Filo. Let’s just say you don’t draft a player 33rd overall to sit on the bench for a long period of time. If he’s healthy, he starts soon. And don’t think that pick position didn’t get the undivided attention of every offensive lineman. Competition makes everyone better.

We don’t know how and much this regime will utilize the fullback position but because they drafted one, it’s likely he’ll have a good shot to get on the field. There’s no Vonta Leach or Greg Jones here so Jay Prosch could be a safe bet to make it to the top of the depth chart.

Now onto the big one: quarterback. Tom Savage throws hard and appears to have a high ceiling. Bill O’Brien could have had any quarterback he wanted and chose Savage. Now, that sentence might be a bit misleading in that the Texans didn’t take Savage number one, of course.

But they would not have picked him at all if they didn’t think he could potentially win the job. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown almost 2,600 passes in this league. Savage has a lot of learning to do.  It’s likely he sits and observes for a while. But how quickly he closes the gap is entirely up to him. We’ll be watching.

Content on HoustonTexans.com does not necessarily represent the views of the Houston Texans front office staff, coaches or executives.

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