Entering the Houston Texans Mini-Camp (June 12-14), the wide receiver position was the most worrisome for most Texans fans. Apparently, it worried head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison enough that they brought in veteran Mike Sims-Walker for a three-day tryout.
Last week Kubiak expressed concern for the youth and inexperience in the receiving corps during OTA’s; understandable considering only Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter have caught an NFL pass in a regular season game. Johnson, who is recovering from knee surgery performed last month, is expected to return for training camp in August, and Walter missed time last week due to illness. Two wide receivers, Jeff Maehl and Juaquin Iglesias, have a combined four games NFL experience.
Maehl was signed as an undrafted free agent in July 2011, but was waived by Houston September 3rd and signed to the Texans practice squad the following day. After the release of veteran wideout Derrick Mason in December, Maehl was signed to the active roster and played in three games, never recording a reception.
Iglesias was drafted out of Oklahoma by the Chicago Bears in the 2009 NFL Draft, primarily thought to become the team’s kick returner. Unfortunately for Iglesias, Danieal Manning (S, Houston Texans) remained the Bears’ KR, and Iglesias appeared in only one game – a January 2009 match-up against NFC North Division rival Detroit Lions. The numbers were not on his side and Chicago released Iglesias in September 2010. After a stint with the Minnesota Vikings from January-September 2011, Iglesias was signed, then released, then re-signed to the Texans’ practice squad.
Trindon Holliday, drafted by the Texans in the sixth round of the ‘10 draft out of LSU, was put on injured reserve in August 2010 after suffering a thumb injury, and was released and re-signed to the practice squad throughout October 2011.
Signed by the Texans in July 2011, undrafted rookie Lestar Jean (Florida Atlantic) was put on IR a month later with a knee injury.
The Texans are loaded with rookies, most notably 2012 third round pick DeVier Posey (68th overall) out of Ohio State and Keshawn Martin from Michigan State who was selected with the 121st overall pick (fourth round). The interesting point about both drafted rookies is that neither was the top target for their schools in 2011. Posey was the third leading receiver for the Buckeyes recording just 12 receptions for 162 yards and two scores and Martin was second behind BJ Cunningham (6th round, Miami Dolphins) with 66 receptions for 777 yards and four touchdowns for the Spartans.
Houston signed three undrafted free agents: Mario Louis from Grambling State, Jerrell Jackson out of Missouri, and North Carolina Tar Heel Dwight Jones.
Jones, who told Houston’s SportsRadio 610 he was “the next Andre Johnson”, has reportedly quit the team. No official word has been given by the Texans, (Jones is still listed on their roster) but Kubiak told the team’s website “Hopefully, he’ll get home and things will feel a little better about it and he’ll come back and give it another try someday. He’s a very good athlete” after Jones missed OTAs last week.
Jones was thought to be a second round draft pick during the 2011 season, but was red-flagged before the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl after his likeness was used in a New Year Eve birthday party club promotion in his hometown of Burlington, NC. One of the premier wide receivers in the ACC, Jones was declared ineligible by the university, but was reinstated by the NCAA the following day under the premise that the party would be cancelled. Shortly after the 41-24 bowl loss to Missouri, the promotional flyers were back up on his Facebook page and the party was held, although Jones said he did not attend.
It seems as Jones just couldn’t shake the flags, having been accused of not having passion for the game after a lackluster Senior Bowl week and not participating in all wide receiver Combine drills in Indianapolis. Because the New Year Eve party in Burlington took place, UNC did not allow Jones to participate in the school’s pro day held in March. Hours after his former teammates worked out in front of at least 50 NFL scouts at the Tar Heel practice facility Jones, his agent, family members, and 200 fans took to East Chapel Hill High’s football field and waited for scouts to show up. Eventually one did, a Denver Broncos area scout, and his personal pro day began.
With such an inexperienced receiving corps (aside from Johnson and Walter), it should be no surprise the Texans would bring in a veteran free agent.
Sims-Walker was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, but was sidelined for the entire season with a knee injury he sustained in a preseason game against the Washington Redskins. In 2008 he played in nine games, catching 16 passes for 217 yards and led the Jags in receptions in 2009 with 63, while posting 869 yards and seven touchdowns. The following year the Orlando native was less productive, largely due in part to the emergence of Mike Thomas as Jacksonville’s number one receiver.
After the season ended, Sims-Walker left during free agency and was signed by the St. Louis Rams. He played in four games, and after dropping three passes in the fourth contest, was inactive for the week five matchup against the Green Bay Packers. A week later, the Rams welcomed WR Brandon Lloyd and bid Sims-Walker adieu.
He was signed once again by the Jags in October 2011, but after two games was sent to the IR and later released.
Now he has been given another chance to prove he is the receiver we saw in 2009 and the Texans desperately hope he shows them just that.
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