Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith added nine rookies to the club during the 2010 NFL Draft.
Five Texans questions in the aftermath of the 2010 NFL Draft:
1. Who returns kicks and punts?Jacoby Jones has excelled in the return game. He averaged 10.9 yards on punt returns and 26.6 yards on kickoff returns in 2009. Against the Raiders in Week 4, he broke off a 95-yard touchdown on a kickoff return.
But head coach Gary Kubiak thinks 2010 sixth-rounder Trindon Holliday can help the Texans on special teams. Holliday, who clocked a 10.00 100-meter dash at the 2009 NCAA National Outdoors Meet, took back a pair of punts and a pair of kickoffs for scores in his career at LSU.
"We think we have a returner that can change the field for us," Kubiak said. "As punt and kick returner, we think he could do wonders for our football team."
That's high praise considering what Jones did last season. It looks like Holliday will be in the kick returner mix for the Texans when OTAs begin on May 16, with Jones and veteran André Davis as the other options.
2. Why wasn't a safety drafted?
The Texans picked nine players last weekend in the draft, but none of them played free safety in college. General manager Rick Smith intimated that fifth-round pick Sherrick McManis will remain at cornerback and not be moved over to safety, and Smith also pointed out that the Texans return the duo of Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson from the 2009 season.
"I think our safety position is a good one," Smith said after the draft. "We have two starters returning."
Wilson started eight games at free safety, while Pollard started the final 13 at strong safety. Smith said Wilson is "recovering well" after surgery on his left foot, and that the veteran played well for the team in 2009.
Dominique Barber also gained starting experience in Wilson's absence and made a good impression on Smith.
"I think Dominique Barber is a good one," Smith said. "I think he has a lot of promise."
Troy Nolan, a 2009 rookie, also will have a chance to bolster the safety rotation. Nolan was a seventh-round draft pick out of Arizona State but spent last season on injured reserve.
3. Why so many tight ends?In rounds four (Garrett Graham) and seven (Dorin Dickerson) the Texans picked players who played tight end in college. They joined a roster already loaded at the position with Pro Bowler Owen Daniels, Joel Dreessen and second-year tight ends James Casey and Anthony Hill. Also, the team signed veteran tight end Michael Gaines April 26.
But you can't simply say, "The Texans now have seven tight ends." For one, Daniels, Dreessen and Hill are all rehabbing injuries and likely won't be available for OTA's, which means Casey will be the lone holdover on the practice field May 17.
Also, the Texans don't plan on using Dickerson at the position he played at Pittsburgh.
"We're going to play him as a wide receiver, that's where he's going for us," Kubiak said. "I just think he has a great deal of ability, and we're going to line him up behind Andre (Johnson) and he's going to learn from the best. We've got a long way to come with him, but he's going to be a great project for us."
Graham joins Casey as the only drafted tight end who will practice in May. The Texans are intrigued to see what the former Wisconsin Badger can do.
"He does a lot of things well," Kubiak said. "He's played a lot of football, he was the team captain, he's very respected--just the type of kid we're looking for. There is a great opportunity for him here as we head into the offseason because we've got some guys that won't be working. We'll see how far he comes."
4. Which running backs will stick around?
Second-rounder Ben Tate will challenge Steve Slaton and Arian Foster for the starting job in 2010, and the team also has Ryan Moats, Chris Henry and undrafted free agent Jeremiah Johnson under contract as well.
Tate is highly regarded not only for his physical abilities, but also for his football smarts.
"When you're interviewing kids and you start talking football, you start talking about pass protection, you start talking about reads and stuff like that, you can find out real quick if somebody's way behind you, or if they can catch up pretty quick," Kubiak said. "This kid talks our language. He'll catch up mentally in the National Football League real quick, which makes his talent come out a lot quicker, so we feel good about him from that standpoint."
5. Who will be the long snapper?Bryan Pittman replaced Dreessen late last season as the team's long snapper, but the club hasn't re-signed the unrestricted free agent.
Dreessen continues to rehab is shoulder. Casey was a backup long snapper last season, but Kubiak has said that he wants to keep the versatile tight end at one position this season.
The Texans signed former Baylor long snapper Jonathan Weeks on Friday. Weeks hasn't played football since leaving college after the 2007 season, but the unrestricted free agent is now front-and-center on the depth chart at that position for the time being.