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Houston Texans

John Harris Twitter Mailbag

This is the first time I've ever done a Texans mailbag article.

Quite frankly it's the first time I've done a mailbag, which is just a major mistake. I get questions all the time and try to answer those as soon as possible. But sometimes I get some good questions that I wish I could share with those who might have the same or a similar question.

The mailbag should be a requirement, no?

That said, I always read other authors' mailbag articles and I'm a huge fan of them.  Promise to keep that our little secret?

Either way, let's dive right in with this week's mailbag, which is also the inaugural one.

*Q: From Patrick

Do you have an early prediction as to who may start at Right Tackle this season? Lots of early predictions leaning towards David Quessenberry as the favorite but heard all last year he was better suited at guard. Also, is Brennan Williams still in the conversation? See a lot of noise that coaches are down on him and injury is still an issue.


A: I got this particular question (or form of) from multiple people. Without doing my advanced Daryl Morey metric study, I surmise that it was the most asked question from everyone, including those pertaining to the quarterback quandary.

I've been a huge fan of Quessenberry dating back to his days at San Jose State. I talked with his former head coach at SJSU Mike MacIntyre (current head coach at Colorado) and he said Quessenberry is the best leader he's ever coached. That was music to this former coach's ears but the injury that shelved him last year before the season started was not. Obviously.

With the way the OL played last year, Quessenberry would've seen some time on the field, more than likely at left guard when he was penciled in behind former starter Wade Smith. Now, with the change in scheme, it may make more sense to keep him at right tackle.

Does he unseat Derek Newton? Not yet, but in my estimation, it's going to be the best competition in training camp, not including the quarterback situation. Furthermore, don't count out the undrafted free agents Bryan Witzmann, Matt Feiler and Anthony Dima in the competition either. It's a stretch to think

The Houston Texans took part in the first Organized Training Activities (OTA's) this morning at the Houston Methodist Training Center.

a rookie can take that job and start vs. Washington on September 7, but then again, everyone is learning a new scheme and one of those three may fit this scheme best.

As it pertains to Brennan Williams, it's a shame that he hasn't been healthy but I don't think the coaching staff is down on him because of it. Injuries are what they are and the type that Williams endured isn't one that's easy to return to 100% form. The coaching staff is frustrated that he's not there but that's to be expected when a guy that you want to compete is felled by injury.

Q: From JMay

*It's been awesome having you at the Mothership dispensing knowledge. *

A: Thank you sir!

Q:My question: With the drafting of Jadeveon Clowney, it's been oft suggested that Whitney Mercilus will move to the strong side. While that makes sense from a #1 draft pick investment standpoint, it seems to be playing to Mercilus's weakness, i.e. setting the edge vs the run, rather than his strength of pass rushing.  Do you think he will be on the strong side on 1st and 2nd downs and can he hold up against the run?  It seems a Brooks Reed/Mercilus combo strong side with Max Bullough and Jeff Tarpinian splitting the run/pass downs on the inside might be more of a fit.**



A: Fit is an interesting word and glad that J used it. I say this because there are going to be a number of different situations for all players to fit.

1st down v. power run

1st down v. up-tempo throwing team

3rd down v. long yardage

3rd down v. short yardage

Even front

Odd front

…and on and on and on. It would be great to have a player that can "fit" every single defensive situation. Luckily, the Texans have one and his name is J.J. Watt. As it pertains to Mercilus, he must prove that he can be more successful against the run on first down, in particular, or he'll only fit a few of those situations. We've all seen that he has pass rush skills, for the most part, but his ability to hold and set the edge against the run is paramount in this scheme.

After seeing Clowney numerous times in college, I'm fairly confident that he can set the edge, in addition to have immense burst off the ball rushing the quarterback. Whether that skill set fits on the strong side or the weak side, we'll know more during camp when the pads go on. But in the end, Mercilus' improvement against the run is a necessity for this defense. I think the staff will experiment with each on weak/strong side throughout OTA, mini-camps and on into training camp.

As far as on the inside, Bullough will push hard for time at inside linebacker, no questions asked. But again, some of his playing time will depend on Mercilus' ability to stop the run. If he can, Brooks Reed can perhaps transition inside next to a healthy Brian Cushing and away we go. If he can't and Reed has to stay at OLB, the depth next to Cushing is sparse, allowing Bullough to shoehorn his way into the competition at that inside linebacker spot as an undrafted rookie. I spoke with him during rookie minicamp and it was clear that Bullough came to Houston because he saw opportunity. He'll get that shot. Tarpinian is a perfect third inside linebacker with enough versatility to play on both run and pass downs.

That all said, let's be clear about the fact that the Texans need No. 56 back on the field when it's time to go or all of this is moot, honestly.

Q: From Richard (@bubbagus73)

Keenum, after studying under O'Brien AND Fitzpatrick for OTA's = Starter, if not lethal, QB with near college like stats? #TeamKeenum

A: I would've never guessed that Richard is a Case Keenum fan. You know what? I am too. Case is one of my favorite football players for a number of different reasons but this is going to be a tough

four-quarterback quagmire to work through.

Marc Vandermeer, Drew Dougherty and some others are convinced that the NFL book on Case Keenum hasn't been closed, and I tend to agree with them. Look, the number of quarterbacks that were forgotten, fired, released, cut or kicked to the curb is plentiful. The number of quarterbacks that fought back isn't. But if anyone has the chutzpah to do just that, I'd put money on Keenum.

I do think that there were unrealistic expectations placed on Case last year by many and when he made a few huge plays early in his starting career, the expectations became a runaway train. Being the local college hero is an immense burden, especially for the all-time leading passing yardage leader in college football history.

The jist of it was that Case was probably not 100% ready to completely take over last year. In a year or two, in that system? Perhaps. Last year wasn't that year. How does he "take" to O'Brien's scheme? Better than people think. Enough to be the starter? Let's circle back in August.

Q: From Todd (@asleepT)

First: I've heard Texans would have drafted Garoppolo at #65/3-1. True? That would mean their QB board was Blake Bortles, Jimmy Garoppolo and Tom Savage?

A: I've heard that same thing but then again, I hear voices at night, so perhaps I'm not the best to

speak for what I hear. For weeks leading up to the draft, I said often that I thought Garoppolo and Savage were the two quarterbacks that had piqued the Texans' interest. They couldn't be more polar opposites in playing style, but, gut feeling, I just thought it was those two. In a few years or so, Texans fans will crow about the guy they got at No. 65 C.J Fiedorowicz more so than the guy they didn't get (Garoppolo).

Q: Second: Can you talk about possibility of Clowney over RG, Louis Nix over C, and JJ over LG alignment? Don't think Tom Brady would enjoy that. ;)

A: ALRIGHT! Finally, some X's and O's talk. What Todd is describing is a bear 46 front, which some old school Oilers fans will remember from Buddy Ryan's one year as defensive coordinator in 1993. I could see this as a possibility but I'd like for Clowney to stay on the perimeter as much as possible. I could see a handful other guys playing the 3-technique opposite Watt. The great thing is that there's some versatility to work with to throw different looks at teams, including Todd's Bear 46 alignment. Not to mention, if the Texans are facing Tom Brady, it means it's playoff time!! I'm down for those prospects as I'm sure you are too.

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