With training camp starting at the end of July, we take a closer look on what to expect from a crop of players the Texans signed to improve their team.
Here is a look at the veteran group who have been brought back or added to a roster in need of help.
Bringing back Garrett Graham was the only potential free agent that made sense to return to Houston from last year's class. Graham is well liked by Head Coach Bill O'Brien and will be used in an H-Back role or move tight end role. He will line up where needed and chip in when blocking, but the way he will be used will be nothing like he was in Houston last season. Expect a bigger role in the passing game with his sure hands and understanding of defensive coverages.
Getting a Chance
The Texans brought back restricted free agent Ricky Sapp based on potential alone. Sapp has struggled with injuries since entering the league and the Texans took a chance on him claiming him off waivers in 2013 from the New York Jets. Sapp has the opportunity to take control of the 3rd outside linebacker spot for the defense and be a situational player off the edge. His athletic ability is not the issue, but staying healthy and getting a real chance to stick with an NFL team is.
Both tight end Zach Potter and outside linebacker Paul Hazel have a tough task to make the roster coming out of camp. Free agent Potter with his sheer size at 6-7 and 265 lbs. might have the best chance of the two to be on the team. He has the potential to move defenders off the line, but keeping four tight ends coming out of camp doesn't seem like a sound roster move.
As for Hazel, he was claimed by the Texans from the Cleveland Browns off of waivers. Hazel produced on special teams for the Browns but he has work to do as an edge rusher in the NFL. He has the speed and quickness that teams want for a pass rusher, but his small frame does not hold up well against the run. Hazel will be pushing to find a spot as the defense's fourth outside linebacker.
The Texans took a chance on two of Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel's former players from Kansas City in Jerrell Powe and Kendrick Lewis. Both Powe and Lewis are in line to be key players in the Texans 2014 defense and they have the trust of Crennel to carry out expectations on the field. The two have provided leadership within the defense and have helped get the system in place.
Elbert Mack was also brought back to help the Texans secondary who needs a mix of veterans who have been around the game. Mack was an integral part of a special teams unit that improved after the bye week. His work on special teams should not be overlooked and his ability to play inside and outside as a cornerback will hold value for the roster.
The Texans have always lacked a solid third safety but they have added him with veteran Chris Clemons, who can play either free or a box safety when needed. Clemons will see plenty of work with the amount of passing in the NFL and with the Texans defense needing three safeties to play on the back half of the secondary. He will be trying to unseat Kendrick Lewis from the starting spot, but Clemons is in position to see his fair share of snaps as a key depth player for the upcoming season.
Low risk and high reward are what the Texans are looking for with running back Andre Brown and offensive tackle Will Yeatman. Brown has been dealing with injuries and a suspension since he entered the NFL with the New York Giants. Brown's talent is not the issue and if he can stay healthy he can help take some pressure off of Arian Foster's workload, when needed. How he fits into the offensive system will be something to watch especially with his inconsistent hands catching the ball.
As for Yeatman, he is coming off an ACL injury he suffered with the Miami Dolphins and he is coming in to compete for the swing tackle position. He is currently working to get back on the field and should be ready to go by training camp, but his status is unknown for the most part.
There has been little discussion on defensive tackle Ricardo Mathews, but he too should be a situational piece for the Texans in 2014. There will not be much talk of Mathews and he will not get the publicity as some of the others on the defensive line. Mathews, at 300 lbs., moves well and can generate a pass rush with his quickness in the trenches. He has a place in the lineup and trusting what Romeo Crennel will do with him in his sub packages will help with that big body in the game to help against the run and generate a pass rush.
Mike Thomas signed a Reserve/Future Contract in late December of 2013 and is in the mix for the slot wide receiver in Bill O'Brien's offense. The veteran has been out of football since 2012 and looks more determined to find his place in Houston. The Texans worked him out on multiple occasions before finally signing him to a contract and he has made the most of it with these early practices. Thomas is proving he can be a viable option for the offense from the slot wide receiver position and looks to be growing into a vital piece for the offense.