With just two games left in the Houston Texans‘ 2013 preseason, things are starting to materialize at each position between who is becoming a safe bet to stick on the final 53-man roster and who is likely to be unemployed the first week of September.
With this in mind, I’ll be monitoring the progress of numerous positions this week to gauge who is in the lead to win a job and who could be looking at having theirs stolen. Today, we continue with the inside linebacker position.
The city of Houston let out a deep, collected sigh of relief at the sight of Brian Cushing back on the field and looking every bit himself in his preseason debut. The drop off in defensive performance after Cushing’s injury in 2012 was more than just a coincidence. If J.J. Watt didn’t have a season for the ages, it would have went from a mediocre defense to a very poor one. A team doesn’t lose their All-Pro captain in the middle and not miss a beat. Teams can survive off of emotion for a little bit, but that early in the season, it’s always going to fade.
With Cushing back and looking strong, the conversation of who will be his battery mate is now the dominant discussion at the position. I’ve been steadfast in my belief that Joe Mays would end up with the nod ever since it was indicated that the team would be bringing him in. Most still think Darryl Sharpton has the inside edge due to time in the scheme, but as most of us have learned by now, counting on Sharpton is usually met with disappointment. Probably the only guy on the field more injury prone than Ben Tate, Sharpton seems to pull up lame every time he ties his shoes. This is unfortunate, as I think a healthy Sharpton could wreck in this scheme next to Cushing.
If those three are already in the plans to break camp as the leaders on the depth chart, this leaves several fighting for one spot, two at the most, on the roster. I think the team will ultimately carry only four on the inside as there are much bigger questions on the outside. At the most, five would be the number if they’re wanting to be cautious about Cushing and Sharpton and injury concerns.
If it ends up only being four, then there are going to be a lot of disappointed youngsters come cut day, as Tim Dobbins is almost certainly the fourth guy. Wade Phillips loves him and he has the experience in the system. This will be his third year with the Texans, and he has never really played poorly enough not to get the benefit of the doubt on being assured a roster spot when he re-signed on the cheap.
Still, the injury concerns might make it possible for a fifth guy to squeeze in there. If that happens, I’d keep my eye on Mike Mohamed. He has that Denver connection and really never got much of an opportunity with the Broncos, or the Jaguars last year, before being stashed on the practice squad. It’s a very outside chance, but I’d put my faith in him sticking around over Elliot Coffey, Ja’Gared Davis or Cameron Collins.
I wrote earlier in the offseason that the team needed to be cautious with a Brian Cushing extension, and I still believe that. Rick Smith does not do new deals during the season, and I don’t see one getting done in the next two weeks. Yes, he looked good in a dozen preseason snaps but not multi-million kind of good. The team will exercise patience with that one, and I believe it’s the right move.