It’s never easy for an undrafted rookie to make a 53-man roster, especially one as talented as the Houston Texans. If there’s one worth rooting for, though, it’s safety Jawanza Starling, who is quickly proving that he belongs in the NFL.
A definite longshot to make the Texans’ roster, Starling shined during rookie minicamp and OTAs. According to reports, he soaked up advice from his positional coaches and made marked improvement in his play. While there’s still a long way to go for the rookie safety, the progress Starling showed in spring is a promising sign heading into training camp.
Starling is a phenomenal athlete who is still struggling to grasp the finer points of playing the safety position. While he does a great job of closing to the ball and covering a lot of field in a short amount of time, the USC product hasn’t fully transitioned his athleticism to the on-field aspects of the game. His football IQ is still a work in progress, but the relentless effort has always been evident.
Before he can find a place with the Texans, Starling will have to overcome some stiff competition for the backup strong safety gig. With Daniel Manning currently slated as the starting strong safety, the No. 2 gig will be up for grabs. During training camp, Starling will go head to head with Eddie Pleasant, a 2012 undrafted rookie, for the right to hold that backup spot. Fellow undrafted rookie Orhian Johnson could also be in the mix.
After losing Glover Quin to free agency, the Texans need a new safety who can step in and make an impact in the secondary. While Starling might not be the ideal candidate, the former Trojan has all of the physical tools to get the job done. The determining factor is if he can figure it out mentally.
Training camp will determine where Starling is in his progress. If he can continue to take significant strides, a spot on the 53-man roster isn’t completely out of reach. If not, the practice squad is always an option.