AFC South: Houston Texans

The Texans admitted another defeat from the 2013 draft on Monday. They released third-round pick Brennan Williams, thus officially going 0-2 in the third round last year.

Williams wrote this on twitter:

"I want to thank the Texans and the city of Houston for the great opportunity! It didn't work out how anyone planned, but I am still the same player who was drafted last year. Right now the key is getting healthy and getting back on this horse--don't worry about me I'll be back soon! Thanks for your prayers and support I am truly blessed. You can't keep the the GBO down."

Williams
There were a few red flags that came with both of the Texans third-round picks in 2013.

Sam Montgomery had been singled out by one of his college coaches as not being a hard worker. His interviews during the combine led many NFL personnel people to stay away from him. On the field, Montgomery couldn't manage the transition to outside linebacker and was moved to defensive end. His maturity was always in doubt, and proved to be insurmountable for the defensive end/linebacker who was released in the middle of last season.

Williams didn't have off-the-field concerns. But there were some on-field question marks. He had shoulder surgery and missed the final four games of his senior season at North Carolina. It's a different injury than the one he suffered in the pros, but for some players that's how it goes. His play -- for the small part of the 2013 offseason in which he participated -- left some members of the former coaching staff wanting to release him before that season began. There was talk of releasing Montgomery that early as well.

Today the Texans released Williams after he failed his pre-camp physical. He had hoped to be ready for organized team activities, but instead spent the whole of them rehabbing an injury that required microfracture surgery last year.

A glance at that draft offers plenty of questions once you get past the first and second rounds. First-round pick DeAndre Hopkins and second-round pick D.J. Swearinger aren't game-breakers yet, but they have talent and the potential to be very good players for the Texans.

Then, things get muddy.

We've discussed the third round. Fourth-round pick Trevardo Williams is on the physically unable to perform list. Sixth-round pick Chris Jones was released and wound up with the New England Patriots eventually, where he played more snaps than any Texans draft pick.

Their three other sixth-round picks that year were offensive tackle David Quessenberry, tight end Ryan Griffin and receiver Alan Bonner. We'll remove Quessenberry from this discussion as he fights for his life at MD Anderson, a much more important fight than a mere position battle. Bonner and Griffin have shown promise, but only Griffin has played. Bonner spent last season on injured reserve.

That means just three of nine 2013 draft picks have played any NFL games for the Texans.

And that third round wasn't good. That's a place where you can still find starters and the Texans got nothing out of their picks. The blame gets shifted between the former coaching staff and the front office depending on who's doing the blaming. To me the bottom line is this: The final say for that draft rested with Texans general manager Rick Smith. Ultimately, he should shoulder that responsibility.
Examining the Houston Texans' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

They traded T.J. Yates to the Atlanta Falcons and brought in the veteran Fitzpatrick as the starter and drafted Savage in the fourth round in May. Savage isn't ready to start yet, but they didn't draft him expecting that. Keenum is the only quarterback on this roster who was not brought in by new coach Bill O'Brien, but I think he keeps him. Having three quarterbacks prevents you from being forced to start an unprepared rookie in case of injuries. Savage's development is paramount.

RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS (4)

Blue, a sixth-round pick, and Brown, a free-agent pickup, will battle during camp to be Foster's backup. That's an important role, given the questions about Foster's health. Prosch, another draft pick, blocked well during the offseason. He'll stick around as the only fullback on the roster.

RECEIVERS (5)

In my first version of the 53-man roster, I opted not to choose between Posey and Keshawn Martin. Martin was the Texans' returner last season and their primary slot receiver, though they didn't use a true slot receiver often. I think the Texans keep five here and there's absolutely a chance Martin fights his way back onto the roster, displacing Posey or Bonner. And, yes, like the Texans, I am expecting Johnson back for the season.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

The Texans kept only three tight ends for most of last season, but they'll need more for this offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

The only remaining battle on the offensive line is between Jones and Su'a-Filo at left guard. Drafted with the first pick of the second round, Su'a-Filo has starting level talent, but he missed most of the offseason. Now he'll have to play catch-up; Jones has a head start. Elsewhere: left tackle Brown, center Myers, right guard Brooks and right tackle Newton.

DEFENSIVE LINE (5)

This is assuming Pagan, a sixth-round pick, recovers from his injury and does enough to remain on the roster. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Pagan had shoulder surgery after college. Powe's speed and size were really impressive during OTAs, as was Crick's athleticism. And, of course, there's Watt.

LINEBACKERS (9)

This will be a much-talked about position because of the addition of Clowney, the first overall draft pick. The Texans get versatility from Reed and Tuggle, who can play both inside and outside, and return Cushing, the heart of this defense who hasn't finished the past two seasons. He's confident he'll stay healthy this season. Bullough could make the team as an undrafted rookie.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Jackson suddenly found himself the elder statesman this offseason, with Joseph working to the side as he recovers from offseason surgery. Joseph expects to be back by training camp. Hal is tentatively on this list, but the seventh-round pick could be usurped during training camp. Bouye was a promising undrafted rookie last season and has drawn compliments from O'Brien. Slot corner is another question mark for the Texans.

SAFETIES (5)

Lewis started next to Swearinger during the offseason and should be competing against Clemons during training camp to be the team's starting free safety.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Bullock's kicking and confidence improved at the end of last season. He's competing with undrafted rookie Chris Boswell to be the Texans' kicker, but that competition won't really ramp up until training camp and the preseason games.

Camp preview: Houston Texans

July, 17, 2014
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NFL Nation's Tania Ganguli examines the three biggest issues facing the Houston Texans heading into training camp.

Johnson's absence: Texans receiver Andre Johnson already has lost his $1 million roster bonus because of his absences this offseason, and he reportedly has asked for a trade. It could get worse. The Texans can fine him up to $30,000 for each day of training camp he misses. Johnson has made a lot of money during his time with the Texans; that investment is part of why they aren't interested in letting him go right now, either by trading or releasing him. They also would take a pretty significant hit to their salary cap. Moving Johnson now would stick the Texans with $12 million in dead money. But Johnson's perspective is sympathetic. He has played on a lot of bad teams and talked frequently before last season about the difficulty of doing so. It shocked him that the Texans went 2-14 during the 2013 season, and his outlook on the 2014 season isn't rosy. Imagine this scenario from Johnson's point of view: He spends 2014 toiling through a rebuilding year at age 33, then gets released or traded next year as his salary rises and cap hit falls. He'd much prefer spending 2014 with a contender.

Return of the wounded: Three important players had surgery during or after the 2013 season, and their progress will be something to follow. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph had foot surgery, inside linebacker Brian Cushing had knee surgery and running back Arian Foster had back surgery. It was the second season in a row that Joseph and Cushing had surgeries. Last offseason Joseph had two sports hernia surgeries, and last season Cushing had surgery on his other knee to replace a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Foster was back for organized team activities and the Texans' minicamps. Cushing and Joseph weren't fully practicing, so their health will be important to watch. And, of course, one very important rookie also had surgery in June. Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in May, had surgery to repair a sports hernia he might or might not have been dealing with during his final season at South Carolina. Clowney's progress will be key for the Texans, who weren't expecting him to need surgery upon his arrival. They need him to start at outside linebacker and help bolster their pass rush. The good news for Houston is the recovery time for sports hernia surgery -- about six weeks -- lines up perfectly with the start of training camp.

Fitzpatrick's learning and teaching: Texans coach Bill O'Brien announced Ryan Fitzpatrick as the team's starting quarterback on the first day of the team's mandatory minicamp. He said Fitzpatrick earned the position with his ability to pick up the Texans' offense and his steady improvement in it. Fitzpatrick's past includes spots of brilliant mobility, but there also are overextensions and too many turnovers. His responsibility this season will be twofold. First, he's to guide the Texans offense, protect the football and manage the game. Second, he's to help teach rookie Tom Savage the craft of an NFL quarterback. Savage spent his college career with three different programs, lacking the stability needed to really learn and get better. The good news for the Texans is that makes Savage a fairly blank canvas. He shouldn't have habits that make it difficult to learn a new system or be so set in his ways that the learning process gets stuck.
J.J. WattTroy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports
We have a winner.

You fans got it right. With an overwhelming percentage of the vote, Houston Texans fans selected J.J. Watt's famous pick-six as the most memorable play in franchise history.

Watt's play competed against two other finalists: the "Rosencopter" in 2008 and Billy Miller's 2002 touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys. Rosencopter, of course, was the play in which quarterback Sage Rosenfels fumbled the ball as he twisted like a helicopter, propelling the Indianapolis Colts in a comeback. Miller scored the first touchdown in franchise history against the Cowboys, a score that led to the first win in franchise history during what was the team's first regular-season game.

Score: Texans 31, Bengals 10

Date: January 7, 2012; Site: Reliant Stadium

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Which is the most memorable play in Texans' history?

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    74%
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    12%
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    14%

Discuss (Total votes: 25,024)

What makes a play memorable is how it makes you feel. One fan on Twitter said Miller's touchdown gave fans in Houston a sense that the NFL was truly back. Rosencopter's devastation in that 2008 game stirred strong emotions as well. And, as we talked about earlier this week, humans tend to remember negative experiences more intensely than positive ones.

Ultimately, though, the winner was a play that meant something on a grander scale. Watt's pick-six came just before halftime during the wild-card round of the playoffs following the 2011 season. Houston faced the Cincinnati Bengals and was tied when Watt got in the way of an Andy Dalton pass. He tipped it to himself and returned the interception for a touchdown.

This is a young organization. Its first season was just in 2002, so there isn't a lot of history here yet. It's being created year by year; you get to be part of it. Rivalries and team folklore are created during the playoffs. That's when it means more. Watt has already secured a special place in the story of the Texans.

Texans' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
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Fitzpatrick
I suspect this answer will be the same for all the teams that lack the following.

Consistency at quarterback is the biggest key to the Houston Texans' success over the next three years.

Our Insiders have compiled a project in which they provide future power rankings. To accompany it, each of us is offering our thoughts on what the biggest key for future success will be to the team we cover. Houston has pieces in place to be a solid team soon. That doesn't mean things won't change a lot over the next three seasons -- in 2016 the Arian Foster and Andre Johnson eras will likely be over -- but replacing them won't be nearly as difficult as finding a consistently reliable quarterback.

You either have one, or you're looking for one. And they aren't always easy to find.

For a few years there was an overemphasis on this, given the success of men such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. But all of them got beat in the playoffs this past season. The quarterback isn't the only thing that matters, but your chances for success increase significantly if you have a QB who won't cost you games.

He might be on the roster now. Perhaps Ryan Fitzpatrick will prove to be one of those late-blooming quarterbacks whose on-field decision-making improves this year. Fitzpatrick has never had a winning record, in part because of the teams around him, in part because of a preponderance of turnovers. Perhaps Tom Savage, finally staying put with one team, will develop into a long-term starter. Savage attended Rutgers, Arizona and Pittsburgh, never having a chance to get comfortable and develop. It could even be Case Keenum, who struggled mightily in his first shot at it last year, going winless in eight starts.

The point is, he hasn't been identified yet. And for the Texans to return to the top of the AFC South, he'll need to be.
Billy MillerJames Nielsen/AFP/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Houston Texans history. On Monday, we featured J.J. Watt's pick-six against the Cincinnati Bengals, which helped propel the franchise to its first playoff win. On Tuesday we featured a downer -- the Rosencopter. Please vote for your choice as the Texans' most memorable play.

Score: Texans 19, Cowboys 10
Date: Sept. 8, 2002. Site: Reliant Stadium

Few franchises have a fan base that can still remember watching the organization's most important firsts. For the Texans, several came in this play.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Texans' history?

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    74%
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    12%
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    14%

Discuss (Total votes: 25,024)

It was the first regular-season game in the franchise's history. They were facing the Dallas Cowboys, an instate rival they rarely face. A fan in the stands had a sign that said "1-15 is OK, just win this one."

Expectations and hopes were high for the success of No. 1 overall pick David Carr, the quarterback expected to guide them for many years to come. With the help of a solid kickoff return and a hefty penalty against the Cowboys, the Texans began the first drive in franchise history at the Cowboys' 21.

Carr threw the first pass attempt in franchise history, but it fell incomplete. James Allen rushed for 2 yards on the first carry in franchise history. Then Carr completed his first pass -- a 19-yard touchdown to Billy Miller. The Texans beat the Cowboys for the first win in franchise history.

In choosing this play, some suggested to me that while this was a very big game, the most important play came much later. Seth Payne sacked Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter in the fourth quarter for a safety. That play didn't literally end the game, but it sealed the teams' fate.

It was a tough call, but ultimately I went with the touchdown pass because of its unprecedented nature. The first time something happens, it leaves a mark for better or worse.
Sage RosenfelsJames Lang/USA TODAY Sports
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Houston Texans history. On Monday, we featured J.J. Watt's pick-six against the Cincinnati Bengals, which helped propel the franchise to its first playoff win, and tomorrow we'll feature Billy Miller's touchdown against the Cowboys in 2002, the franchise's first touchdown, leading to its first win. Please vote for your choice as the Texans' most memorable play.

Score: Colts 31, Texans 27
Date: Oct. 5, 2008 Site: Reliant Stadium

Some studies have shown that the human brain tends to remember negative events more than positive ones. Naturally, the most memorable moments in a franchise's history won't always be the happiest ones. For a 13-year-old franchise that has had only three winning seasons, that's especially true.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Texans' history?

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    74%
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    12%
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    14%

Discuss (Total votes: 25,024)

And so here we are with the Rosencopter as a nominee for one of the most memorable plays in franchise history.

It took a 21-point fourth quarter for the Indianapolis Colts to rally for this Week 5 road divisional win. It started with the Rosencopter.

The Texans were up 27-17 with 3:54 remaining in the game. Quarterback Sage Rosenfels had a simple task: gain a few yards and slide, bringing the game closer to its conclusion. Instead Rosenfels tried to hurdle a Colts defender. He didn't quite make it. Grasping the football in one hand, Rosenfels' body spun around in the air like the propeller atop a helicopter.

He fumbled the ball, Colts linebacker Gary Brackett grabbed it, returning the fumble 68 yards for a touchdown.

The Texans dropped to 0-4 to start a season they finished 8-8.

"For one play I made a really stupid mistake, and that started the downward spiral," Rosenfels told reporters at the time. "I feel like I let those guys down."
J.J. WattTroy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Houston Texans history. In the next two days, we’ll feature the "Rosencopter" and Billy Miller's touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in 2002 -- the franchise's first touchdown, which led to the franchise's first win. Please vote for your choice as the Texans' most memorable play.

Score: Texans 31, Bengals 10
Date: Jan. 7, 2012 Site: Reliant Stadium

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Texans' history?

  •  
    74%
  •  
    12%
  •  
    14%

Discuss (Total votes: 25,024)

People walk up to J.J. Watt and just call it "The Play."

With less than a minute remaining in the second quarter of the Texans' wild-card playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton dropped back and released the ball. Watt jumped in the air, intercepted the pass and ran it back for a touchdown to break a 10-10 tie. It was a watershed moment for that game, the franchise and the burgeoning career of their 2011 first-round pick.

The Texans shut out the Bengals in the second half and went on to notch their first playoff win in franchise history.

The momentum from that season carried into the 2012 season, which the Texans began 11-1. They fizzled late in 2012, though Watt remained a force.

The play was the start of something special for Watt. He played even better in the Texans' next game during the 2011 postseason despite the loss, sacking Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco 2.5 times. During the offseason that followed, Watt's then-defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, said he thought Watt would one day wind up in the Hall of Fame. The 2012 season marked one of the finest seasons any defensive end has ever had. It was doubly impressive considering Watt did it as an interior defensive lineman. Watt had 20.5 sacks (which lead the league), 23 tackles for loss and 16 batted passes.
 
The Bill O'Brien regime has begun its transformation of the Texans, but there's still a lot we don't know about them.

After organized team activities (OTAs), here are my top five remaining questions about the team. Feel free to chime in with your own.

[+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
AP Photo/Aaron M. SprecherRyan Fitzpatrick has had 44 turnovers (28 INTs, 16 fumbles) over the past two seasons.
1. Will Ryan Fitzpatrick throw fewer interceptions? We're going a little broken record here that turnovers have been an issue for him throughout his career. There is a huge difference between protecting the ball in practice and protecting the ball during games, so this is a question for which we won't truly get an answer until games begin.

2. Who will back up Arian Foster? The Texans currently have Dennis Johnson and Jonathan Grimes returning from last year's squad, plus free-agency pickup Andre Brown and draft pick Alfred Blue. I think this will come down to Brown and Blue. Brown has an edge on starting experience. Blue has an edge on youth and lack of mileage. Evaluating the status of the running game requires seeing the backs and the linemen blocking for them in pads.

3. Who will start at inside linebacker next to Brian Cushing? Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel was asked if he now sees Brooks Reed as an inside linebacker and he said no. Crennel insisted Reed was simply learning inside linebacker to increase his versatility. Reed is one option to start next to Cushing. Akeem Dent, for whom the Texans traded quarterback T.J. Yates with the Falcons, is another option.

4. Who will return punts and kicks? It's my view that special teams aren't a full third of the game, as is sometimes extolled, but they can give a team a boost in the right circumstances. For the past couple of seasons, the Texans' special teams haven't been great. That led to former special-teams coordinator Joe Marciano's firing during the season. He was the only assistant who lost his job before the season was up. The team's search for a returner or returners has included several players who are challenging incumbent Keshawn Martin.

5. Will Foster and Cushing stay healthy this season? In May CSN Houston's Twitter account asked Texans fans how confident they were Cushing would play in all 16 games. They weren't banking on Cushing's own reply of "pretty damn confident." His presence is a stabilizing force on the Texans defense. They've historically been better with him than without him. His injuries in the past two seasons were not related to each other, so there's no reason to think he won't stay healthy this season. As for Foster, his absence last season was a big reason why the Texans' offense struggled so much. I have more concerns about Foster's health than Cushing's, as I addressed in yesterday's reasons for pessimism.
The Texans got bigger all over the field this offseason -- most notably in the front and center of their defense.

"Because of the way we play the technique, generally we’ve had bigger guys to be along that front," defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said. "Then we try to put the more athletic guys on the edge of the defense to let them make plays there."

[+] EnlargeRomeo Crennel
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsRomeo Crennel wants a big nose tackle surrounded by athletic guys who can make plays.
The Texans completely reconfigured their nose tackle position this offseason -- mainly because Crennel asks for a different kind of body type and skill set than Wade Phillips did as not all 3-4 schemes are alike. When it works well in Crennel's system, it works like the way Vince Wilfork has worked in New England.

As part of their makeover, Houston let the relatively svelte Earl Mitchell, last year's starter, walk in free agency. By the start of free agency the Texans had no nose tackles on the roster. Then Houston drafted Louis Nix and added Jerrell Powe and Ricardo Mathews in free agency, all of them 300 pounders -- at least.

"Hopefully you can get a guy that commands double teams because if he commands double teams, then someone is going to be free," Crennel said. "We tell them that you have to command the double team and then beat the double team at the line of scrimmage to get somebody free because if you get double teamed and get knocked 5 yards back, chances are someone is not going to be free and there is going to be a big hole in the defense."

Nix has been limited by a knee injury. Powe has looked incredibly agile for his 331 pounds. He's also familiar with Crennel's system by a previous union in Kansas City.

Powe understands his position like Crennel does. He bases his success on what others around him are able to do. The linebackers and the free safety thrive off of a nose tackle who can successfully absorb blocks.

"When those guys are eating good that's always good because we’re doing our job," Powe said. "You’re not going to make too many plays at the nose guard position, but when Cush and all those guys are doing well, I feel good. When I look back and they're getting (tackles for loss), I know I'm doing a good job. Even when I'm doing bad and they make a TFL, I know it's good.”
J.J. Watt chuckled a little bit as he started to answer a question about his position coach.

They are two people with fiery personalities who can clash in the heat of game day. They did on Thanksgiving two years ago in Detroit and cameras caught the exchange. At the time Watt and Bill Kollar both insisted attention paid to their heated exchange was overblown. It is true, though, that Kollar's style can grate young players.

Watt
Watt
His style, though, is something Watt has learned to appreciate.

"As a rookie coming in it took me a little while to figure Bill out and for him to figure me out," Watt said. "But then what I figured out was you work your tail off every single day and give him everything you have, you’re going to have a good relationship. I think that’s why our relationship has been so good over the last couple years."

Kollar is the only position coach holdover from Gary Kubiak's staff. Texans coach Bill O'Brien also retained special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky. Kollar has coached NFL defensive lines with Buffalo, St. Louis and Atlanta. He's coached college defensive lines at Purdue and Illinois. He was a first-round draft pick in 1974. And one time he wrestled a bear.

"He’s so experienced, he’s so knowledgeable and if you give him everything you have, he’s going to give you everything he has and he’s going to turn you into a great player," Watt said. "I’m very fortunate to have a coach like him."

He's also fortunate to no longer be a rookie experiencing the fiery baptismal provided by Kollar.

"It’s nice not to be a rookie, that’s for sure, but it’s fun to kind of watch it happen, it’s fun to look back and remember what it was like for you to be a rookie under him," Watt said. "The thing about Bill is no matter what kind of player you are, no matter how talented or not talented you may be, he’s going to get every ounce of effort out of you. That’s a great thing. I respect him a lot."
David QuessenberryHouston TexansDavid Quessenberry (No. 77) surprised his teammates with a visit at the end of practice.
HOUSTON -- Shane Lechler and Jon Weeks spotted him first. They jogged toward him, grinning, thrilled at his appearance. David Quessenberry was back, if only for a few moments, with his team.

For the first time since he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins T Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, Quessenberry visited the Texans' practice field. And everyone loved it.

"That's a special thing," said Texans coach Bill O'Brien, who greeted Quessenberry shortly after the specialists did. "Twenty-three-year-old guy who's going through that. Very special guy. Impressive guy, how he's dealing with it. ... It was great to see him out there."

Today was the end of a long series of offseason practices. Players will technically have one month off until training camp starts. They'll have time to let their bodies recover but will be expected to keep their bodies in shape.

For Quessenberry, though, his focus will be on fighting a deadly illness. He started chemotherapy two weeks ago.

O'Brien said Quessenberry's white blood cell count was at the right level, so doctors allowed the visit. As practice ended, sealed with a wobbly punt by a kicker and a comical catch by goofy guard Ben Jones, the team rushed toward Jones in a roar of delight. They then circled around Quessenberry to hear his words.

"Just that he appreciates all of us coming to visit him and he's going to kick cancer's butt," defensive tackle Jerrell Powe said.

When he finished speaking, center Chris Myers affectionately grabbed the top of Quessenberry's head. His parents have been with him at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center as he fights for his life.

His football family is with him, too.
Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien was certainly right about this:

Yates
"I'm sure he'll land somewhere," O'Brien said after a detailed explanation about why the Texans were releasing quarterback T.J. Yates.

Only, while they waited to make the transaction official, other teams realized Yates was available. They also realized that he'd have to go through the waiver wire, meaning that order would determine who had the first shot at Yates. Before long, Texans coaches were contemplating who on the Atlanta Falcons they'd like to add to their team. Now linebacker Akeem Dent is a Texan.

Dent is an inside linebacker who played high school, college (Georgia) and pro football in the state of Georgia. The Falcons had hoped he'd become a solid starter, but he never really developed into that for them. He started seven games last season and dealt with a foot and ankle injury. When healthy, Dent was a good blitzer. To replace Dent, the Falcons signed Tim Dobbins, a player the Texans released last season.

As for Yates, he once again backs up a Matt with as many playoff wins as he has (1).

And he's taking to his new team's slogans quite well.


Ever since the Houston Texans signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, my presumption was that he would be the team's starter.

Officially, coach Bill O'Brien kept the quarterback competition open until this week. But to be the starter was the Texans' reason for signing Fitzpatrick the day before trading away Matt Schaub. They weren't enamored enough with any of the quarterbacks in the draft to expect a Day 1 starter.

Fitzpatrick
Now it's official. The Texans have a starting quarterback, and he's coming in quietly, unassumingly and with something to prove.

"Personally for me, this is kind of where I wanted to be," Fitzpatrick said. "I wanted another shot at it. I wanted another chance to be the guy."

His chance comes with less drama and smaller expectations than the last two times the Texans declared a starter during camp. David Carr was the first overall pick, expected to guide a new franchise for a decade or more. Schaub was acquired in a trade, a steal some thought, to be the next guy expected to guide a then-adolescent franchise.

Those kind of lofty expectations aren't attached to Fitzpatrick, and they shouldn't be.

Over the past six seasons, he has started at least eight games each year and never had a winning record. In the right system, a quarterback's limitations can be managed -- Fitzpatrick's most glaring one is his penchant for throwing interceptions. It's a problem that came with forcing throws his arm couldn't make.

He has been on some bad teams and hasn't always had the help he's needed. Some think this could be Fitzpatrick's best year given the way O'Brien runs his offense.

Finding a great quarterback is hard. There are only four teams in the league with unquestionably great quarterbacks -- Green Bay, New Orleans, New England and Denver. There are tiers beneath Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

The Texans aren't expecting greatness from Fitzpatrick. But they are giving him a chance to do enough of what they need.
Johnson
Andre Johnson has made a lot of money during his career and will make a lot of money this season -- unless the Houston Texans cut him, which they aren't going to do.

So here's a rundown of what Johnson has lost and what he will lose financially this week.

Johnson has a $1 million roster bonus that he's already lost. It's conditional on not only his being on the roster, but also his fulfilling other contractual obligations and participating in workouts. Generally that means attending 80 or 90 percent of offseason workouts, which Johnson won't fulfill even if he suddenly changes his mind and shows up to minicamp on Tuesday.

Of course, for Johnson, that's a relatively minor loss in a contract that has already ballooned due to escalators. When he signed this deal, he was scheduled to make $6.5 million in 2014 as a base salary. He has his escalators, though, and will now make a base salary of $10 million.

The Texans can also fine him for each day of mandatory minicamp he misses. They don't have to, but they can if they choose. Those fines are on a rising scale and will total nearly $70,000 for all three days, according to the collective bargaining agreement.

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