The Texans added two undrafted rookie linebackers to their 53-man roster: Willie Jefferson and Justin Tuggle.
Willie Jefferson spent two years as a wide receiver at Baylor before transferring to Stephen. F. Austin and becoming a defensive end. A fan of the Texans, Jefferson did not focus on any other teams once he learned that Houston was interested in him.
"I was a Texans fan before I came here," Jefferson said. "I knew a lot about the defense. While I was training for my combine and after my pro day, they told me the Texans were interested in me. After that, I was just locked in doing the 3-4 defense, so I was just watching film on them. When I came in, I found out that I was going to be with the Texans for training camp and all of that, I was just locked in."
Jefferson received more reps in practice after outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus strained his hamstring during training camp. In preseason, Jefferson was named starter and came up with five tackles, one sack for a loss of nine yards, three quarterback hits, and one pass defensed.
Despite making the 53-man roster, Jefferson knows what he needs to do to improve at his position.
"My goals for this year in the run defense, I know I need to get better," he said. "Me personally, I get into the weight room a lot more, do a lot more drills after practice, a couple of drills before practice. I've talked to a couple of the offensive linemen. I've talked to veteran defensive linemen like (DE) Antonio Smith, (NT) Earl Mitchell. I've talked to some of the offensive linemen like (T) Duane Brown, (C) Chris Myers and stuff like that, trying to learn some moves that will better me help me out knowing that I'm not as strong."
Justin Tuggle also started out as a skill player. After playing three seasons as quarterback in college, Tuggle made the switch to an inside linebacker late in his junior year at Kansas State, which ran a 4-3 defense.
With the Texans, Tuggle has played both inside and outside linebacker and offers the linebacking corps versatility with his skillset.
"I like that I can move around, anyway that I can help this team, inside or outside," Tuggle said. "I mostly was outside since I've been here. Now, I'm just getting to the inside. I just know I've got to keep on working. I sort of played inside last year in the 4-3. We played 4-3, so I played Sam linebacker. It's not something that's totally new to me. It's different in a 3-4. Now, I've just got to put some extra work in and get it down."
His keen ability to play multiple positions may have been his key to making the roster. Tuggle, relatively unknown at the start of training camp, was hard to ignore once he became starter in preseason.
"I saw those opportunities for me to make a mark, just to get more film out there and let them see me more with the different sets, with the first team, with the second team," Tuggle said. "When I came in, I was rotating with the third team. It took a lot for me to get to where I was at and a lot of things happened, but that's just the way it goes."