Five positions of competition for Texans

Five positions of competition for Texans
May 26, 2014, 11:00 am
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The Texans will be on the field Tuesday for the start of OTAs and that's when the competition will begin.

Now, OTAs are technically voluntary but the Texans are expecting near-perfect attendance. They'll notably be missing Andre Johnson.

There are a few rounds of OTAs, then a mandatory minicamp. After that minicamp in June, they'll have some time off before training camp in late July.

It's way too early to decide who will win these competitions but here are five spots where there will be some serious competition:

Kicker
The returning kicker is Randy Bullock, who struggled mightily at times in 2013 but finished the year strong. He ended the season making 26 of 35 field goals (74.3 percent). He has a strong leg but his accuracy left something to be desired. He was a draft pick in 2012 but had to sit out his rookie season with injury.

The challenger is from Rice. Chris Boswell was signed as an undrafted free agent after being considered one of the best kickers in this draft. Boswell hit 65 of his 88 attempts at Rice (73.9 percent) and hit three field goals from 55 yards or farther in his career.

Inside linebacker
Brian Cushing will occupy one of the inside linebacker spots and will be a three-down player. But the spot next to him is one that still needs to be filled. Last year, it was occupied by Joe Mays, who left this offseason in free agency.

There are several guys who could end up winning this job. The returning player with the best shot is probably Jeff Tarpinian, who filled in nicely in the later part of 2013. Then, Mike Mohamed and Justin Tuggle also return. Tarpinian took a starting job because of other injuries last season but if Mohamed wasn’t injured himself, he might have had a shot. Tuggle was an undrafted rookie last year and split his time between inside and outside linebacker.

Max Bullough is also a possibility. He is one of the most intriguing undrafted free agents. He had a good career and Michigan State and has a family football background. Some off-the-field concerns might have led to his slip in the draft.

And then, there’s always the possibility of moving Brooks Reed inside, something the Texans have flirted with over the years. He’s capable of doing it and might need to if Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are the starters outside. The problem with that duo, though, would be pass coverage.

Right tackle
This position was the weak link on the offensive line last year. The rest of the line might already be determined. Sure, Xavier Su’a-Filo is just a rookie but he should be plugged into the starting left guard slot immediately. So here is the line from right to left: Duane Brown, Su’a-Filo, Chris Myers, Brandon Brooks, ?

The incumbent is Derek Newton but he struggled last season. He’s actually not bad in the run game but wasn’t good at all in pass protection. So who might take the job from him? Well, David Quessenberry might have had a good shot last year but he got hurt before the season began. He’ll have a chance to fight for a job this year. So will Brennan Williams, if the third-round pick from a year ago is healthy. That’s a big worry because he had microfracture surgery last year.

Slot cornerback
Brice McCain is gone after a bad 2013 season. It’s kind of surprising he was allowed to keep his job throughout the year. But now, the Texans have to find that all-important Nickel corner. The frontrunner is Brandon Harris, who was a second-round pick out of Miami a few years ago. He’s seen mixed results during his time in the NFL but should get an opportunity now.

The Texans drafted Andre Hal in the sixth round, so he’ll get a chance. They also bring back A.J. Bouye, who made the team after going undrafted a year ago.

The team also brings back Elbert Mack, Josh Victorian and brought in undrafted free agent Marcus Williams from North Dakota State.

Defensive end
The Texans lost Antonio Smith in free agency but added a big nose tackle in the draft. So, J.J. Watt, Louis Nix and then one of these guys: Jared Crick, Ricardo Matthews, Julius Warmsley or Tim Jamison, will start.

Crick has been with the team for the last two seasons. Matthews was a free agent pickup and has more NFL experience. And Warmsley was a sixth-round pick who isn’t quite healthy enough to compete just yet.

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