With another preseason upon us, Houston Texans fans are already filling out their depth chart, predicting who will be on the final 53-man roster and telling themselves that preseason games are meaningless.
For the most part, that’s true. Honestly, as fans, the euphoria of seeing the team back on the field lasts until about five minutes before half time. By the time the guys will be applying for jobs at the local automotive shop in a month are in the game, we’ve pretty much tuned out.
In that regard, yes, preseason is meaningless. There aren’t very many NFL veterans out there that sweat the preseason. But for the younger guys who aren’t guaranteed a roster spot, the preseason is something. In the opinion of undrafted free agent Willie Jefferson; it’s everything.
A former wide receiver out of Baylor that was dismissed from the team because of his affinity for a certain herb, Jefferson realizes now may be the only shot he gets to fulfill his dream of playing professional football.
After Jefferson left Baylor, he transferred to Stephen F. Austin and switched positions to play on the defensive line. With Whitney Mercilus battling a sore hamstring and Sam Montgomery doing whatever he can to get deeper and deeper into Gary Kubiak’s doghouse, Jefferson has seized the opportunity and is trying to find a way onto the final roster as a linebacker.
There is a ton of uncertainty at outside linebacker for the time being and if he has a realistic chance to force his way onto the roster, then a game like the one tonight in Minnesota is like the Super Bowl for him.
Jefferson is very likely to get the starting nod this evening and will play a large chunk of plays. This team isn’t the type to hand anyone anything because of their draft status. They’ve kept undrafted guys before and they’ll do it again. But as good as Jefferson has seemed in practice, he needs to keep that up in the preseason and show that he belongs at the next level.
This doesn’t just include rushing the passer, but stopping the run and playing well in special teams. I always say that for any undrafted prospect to have a shot at the final roster, he has to love playing special teams. It’s the only thing that has kept Bryan Braman here this long as a guy who might be in a battle for his roster spot should Jefferson succeed in preseason.
Even if Jefferson can’t make the final 53, the team will definitely attempt to stash him on their practice squad. But if he plays well enough in the preseason, he could make an NFL roster outside of Houston.
So go ahead and tell a guy like Willie Jefferson that the preseason is meaningless.
Mike Kerns is a Houston Texans writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” his page on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also subscribe to his Texans podcast on iTunes.