Texans Rumors

Biggest Roster Weakness: AFC South

The 2019 regular season is right around the corner, but every NFL team still has at least one position on its roster that could use improvement. And there’s still plenty of time to address those areas of need! Free agents are readily available on the open market, while preseason trades provide another avenue of player procurement. 19 NFL trades were executed between August 1st and September 1st of 2018, and that number could increase this year.

Let’s take a look at the weakest positional group — and a potential solution — for each NFL club. Today we’ll examine the AFC South:

Houston Texans

  • Weakness: Offensive line. The Texans made a number of notable additions to their offensive line during the offseason, but it’s unclear how much those reinforcements will actually help. New left tackle Matt Kalil is seemingly always injured or ineffective, while first- and second-round rookies Tytus Howard and Max Scharping both come from small schools and could take some time to develop. Houston’s offensive line was one of the NFL’s worst in 2018, ranking 27th in adjusted line yards and dead last in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders.
  • Solution: Sign Ryan Schraeder. Even if Kalil, Howard, and Scharping find success along the Texans’ front five, the club could still have a gaping hole at right tackle. Seantrel Henderson is going unchallenged on the right side, but he hasn’t played more than 47 offensive snaps since the 2015 season. The former seventh-round pick has never been all that productive even when he has been on the field, so Houston could look for a late upgrade. The Texans were reportedly interested in Schraeder in March, but it’s unclear if he ever actually met with the team’s staff. With 73 starts under his belt, Schraeder would bring experience to a Houston offensive line that desperately needs it.

Indianapolis Colts

  • Weakness: Defensive line depth. This almost feels too nit-picky: the Colts have one of the best rosters in the NFL, so it’s difficult to pinpoint a weak area. Indianapolis has a number of interesting pieces along its defensive line, but veteran defensive end Jabaal Sheard could potentially miss regular season action.
  • Solution: Trade for DeMarcus Walker. I don’t think the Colts should necessarily go out and sign a street free agent to take snaps away from their intriguing young defensive line prospects, but trading for Walker would represent a buy-low on an intriguing defender. Walker posted 16 sacks during his final season at Florida State and has flashed during his time with the Broncos, but he simply hasn’t been able to secure any real playing time (121 career defensive snaps). That’s probably not going to change any time soon in Denver, so the Colts could send a late-round pick in exchange for a player who could theoretically line up at outside linebacker, defensive end, or defensive tackle.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Weakness: Inside linebacker to play opposite Myles Jack. Telvin Smith‘s unexpected retirement put the Jaguars in a bind at inside linebacker, and no recent developments have added clarity at the position. Third-round rookie Quincy Williams was expected to fill the void left by Smith’s absence, but he’s dealing with a torn meniscus and will miss the start of the regular season. Free agent addition Jake Ryan, meanwhile, suffered a July setback in his recovery from a torn ACL and hasn’t practiced since.
  • Solution: Trade for Reggie Ragland. Ragland has already been traded once is career, going from Buffalo to Kansas City in 2017 in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Given that he has only one year remaining on his contract, the former second-round pick shouldn’t cost that much to acquire this time around. The Chiefs acquired fellow linebacker Darron Lee from the Jets this offseason to team with Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson, so Ragland could be expendable.

Tennessee Titans

  • Weakness: Offensive line depth. The Titans have some question marks along their offensive line, and those questions begin at left tackle, where Dennis Kelly will start the first four games in place of the suspended Taylor Lewan. Jack Conklin is back at right tackle after suffering a torn ACL in 2018, but right guard is a battle between Kevin Pamphile and rookie Nate Davis. Pamphile is currently listed as the starter on Tennessee’s depth chart, but the veteran was well below-average in two seasons as a Buccaneers starter.
  • Solution: See if Austin Corbett is (already) available. Browns general manager John Dorsey has been more than willing to get rid of players brought in by ex-GM Sashi Brown, but would he trade his own disappointing draft picks? It’s far too early to call Corbett, a 2018 second-rounder, a bust, but his career isn’t progressing as Cleveland had hoped. Expected to take over at right guard after Kevin Zeitler was dealt to the Giants, Corbett has struggled in training camp and the preseason, and journeyman Eric Kush now looks like the favorite to start. Corbett played tackle at Nevada before being shifted to guard in the pros, so he could potentially offer depth at both positions for the Titans.

More posts in this series:

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/19/19

Here are Monday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day.

Chicago Bears

Green Bay Packers

  • Released from IR via injury settlement: LB Kendall Donnerson

Houston Texans

Philadelphia Eagles

Tennessee Titans

Tytus Howard Suffers Broken Finger

Drafted to be the Texans‘ hopeful left tackle of the future, Tytus Howard has since been relocated to left guard (with Matt Kalil winning the left-edge job) and has now broken a finger. The rookie blocker suffered the break in Houston’s preseason game against Detroit on Saturday night, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Coming from a Division I-FCS program, and tasked with learning one of the most difficult positions at which to acclimate in the NFL, Howard needs all the reps he can get early on in his career. But this malady is not expected to keep him out of the Texans’ Week 1 game against the Saints, Wilson adds. Howard is in line to be the team’s starting left guard. This injury, in theory, could force the team to adjust those plans.

Matt Kalil Named Texans’ Starting LT

Earlier this month, it was reported that Matt Kalil was the frontrunner to open the season as the Texans’ starting LT. However, the fact that Roderick Johnson started in Kalil’s place in Saturday’s preseason contest led some to wonder whether there was still an open competition for the job.

Head coach Bill O’Brien unequivocally shot down that notion, telling reporters that Kalil will be Houston’s starting left tackle, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. Kalil did not practice on Thursday after getting his foot stepped on during practice on Wednesday, but O’Brien said that did not have anything to do with his decision to keep Kalil on the sidelines. Rather, the Texans’ HC said Kalil would play in the team’s third preseason contest and that he is simply trying to manage the 30-year-old’s snaps.

Indeed, Kalil missed all of last season with a knee injury and he played just two games in 2016, so it’s understandable that the Texans would want to be cautious with him. The team’s O-line was its biggest weakness in 2018, and while Houston also added tackle Tytus Howard in the first round of this year’s draft, Howard is expected to begin his pro career at left guard.

Kalil’s injury history and Howard’s status as a small school rookie make it fair to wonder whether the Texans’ offensive front will actually be improved this year, but the club appears to be confident in that regard. Their performance will go a long way in determining Houston’s 2019 fate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Witten, 49ers’ QB Trades, Kessler

Jason Witten made his return to the Cowboys after one year away from the club. As a former locker room leader of the franchise, integrating himself back into the fold could have been tricky, as new leaders have emerged in his absence. However, according to coach Jason Garrett, Witten has had no issues rejoining the team.

“Witt has been very mindful of that coming back,” Garrett said of Witten’s locker room role (via ESPN’s Ed Werder on Twitter). “He doesn’t want to be a guy the younger guys are constantly deferring to. He wants to integrate himself back into it, and he’s done that beautifully.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • It appears the 49ers will hang on to both Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard rather than trading one of the quarterbacks. “We haven’t had talks at all,” GM John Lynch said of the possibility of trades (via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports’ Twitter feed).
  • Jimmy Ward was in full pads for the first time this week since he fractured his collarbone, Maiocco tweets. The 49ers gave him a one-year deal this past offseason.
  • Cody Kessler remains in the concussion protocol, per the EaglesTwitter feed. The franchise signed Josh McCown earlier today to add depth at the QB spot.
  • While the Texans may want picks if they are going to trade Jadeveon Clowney, Eliot Shorr-Parks of WIP (Twitter link) contends that the Eagles should offer Derek Barnett straight up for him. Barnett, who was a first-round pick back in 2017, has two years remaining on his deal.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/16/19

Today’s minor moves will be posted here:

Baltimore Ravens

Houston Texans

  • Claimed off waivers from Steelers: CB Jermaine Ponder
  • Waived/injured: CB Jermaine Kelly Jr.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Waived: CB Jay Liggins

San Francisco 49ers

Tennessee Titans

  • Signed: LB Josh Smith
  • Waived: LB James Folston

Latest On Texans' Offensive Line

While it’s still unclear exactly how the Texans will configure their offensive line in 2019, the front five does appear to be rounding into form. At recent practices, Matt Kalil has been taking first-team reps at left tackle while rookie first-round pick Tytus Howard plays left guard, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Zach Fulton is filling in at center for the injured Nick Martin, but once Martin returns, Fulton will continue to battle second-rounder Max Scharping for time at right guard, and the veteran holds the edge in that battle, per Wilson. Seantrel Henderson, who hasn’t started more than one game in a season since 2015, is the top man at right tackle. Houston’s offensive line was one of the NFL’s worst in 2018, ranking 27th in adjusted line yards and dead last in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders.

Jadeveon Clowney Trade Still In Play?

Two franchise-tagged edge defenders changed teams this offseason, with Dee Ford leaving Kansas City and Frank Clark arriving. Trades for tagged players after the July 15 extension deadline are obviously rarer, but John McClain of the Houston Chronicle expects the Texans to deal away Jadeveon Clowney before the season (Twitter link). NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo agrees but wonders (Twitter link) if the talented defender’s Houston departure will instead come in 2020. The 26-year-old edge presence plans to return to his current team in late August.

Clowney is tethered to a $15.9MM cap number, which is a point of contention for the outside linebacker’s camp because of his greater usage as a defensive end, and cannot be extended by any team until after the regular season ends. The Texans discussed a Clowney trade with the Chiefs, but they opted for a Clark deal soon after. McClain cites the team, despite drafting Tytus Howard in Round 1 and signing Matt Kalil, needing a left tackle as a reason Clowney has a better chance of being traded than suiting up for Week 1.

Clowney’s trade value will not be as high as it was before July 15, however, so the Texans would have to factor this into the equation. They could tag him again in 2020 and continue this long-drawn-out process, potentially revving up the tag-and-trade scenario at that point — when they would likely have a GM again.

Torn Pec Feared For Packers LB Oren Burks

Packers starting linebacker Oren Burks is believed to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky writes. More tests are expected to determine the next course of action, Demovsky hears. 

The second-year linebacker sustained the injury, originally believed to be a shoulder injury, in the first quarter of Green Bay’s preseason opener vs. the Texans. When asked on Thursday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur did not provide an update on whether the injury would cost the linebacker significant time.

“Honestly, I don’t really know anything right now,” LaFleur said. “It’s kind of wait and see, but I hope not.”

A third-round selection in 2018, Burks appeared in 14 games as a rookie, starting four. He logged 24 tackles and was expected to take over as a starting inside linebacker alongside Blake Martinez in 2019. Though Burks was slated as a starter, it is essentially a part-time role in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme, which calls for a hybrid safety at times to fill the role.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/10/19

Here are Saturday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day.

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

  • Signed: C John Yarbrough

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

New York Jets

New Orleans Saints

  • Released: TE Jake Powell

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks