[TABLE=20]UPDATE: The Texans have now cut center Chukky Okobi, reaching a injury settlement after putting him on injured reserve last week.
Just in time for the final part of this preview, the Texans signed free agent center Mark Fenton today. After Chukky Okobi was placed on IR, the Texans presumably needed another warm body for OTAs. Fenton is – you guessed it – a former Denver Bronco. He’s only 24 years old, and did not see the field last season in his rookie year, where he spent most of the year on the practice squad before being signed to the active roster late in the season.
So what about the rest of the centers on the roster? Greg Eslinger (another ex-Bronco) will be going into his third year as a pro. Along with the Broncos, he also played for the Browns last year before the Texans signed him to the practice squad in December.
Chris Myers, thought by many to be the Texans’ best free agent acquisition, was traded to the Texans for a 2008 6th round draft pick. Not much to lose for a guy is only 26 years old, and started all 16 games for Denver last season, both as a guard and center. He is of course familiar with the Zone Blocking Scheme, and could hold down that center position for many years to come.
Chris White turned some heads last season with his play, and he’s another versatile lineman – another guy who can play both guard and center. White went down late last year and landed on Injured Reserve, but can definitely stick with this team as a back-up center or guard. Circumstances gave him a chance to crack the lineup last year, and he took advantage, playing in six games.
For the bulk of 2007, the Texans kept 10 offensive linemen on the active roster. Assuming that is the plan again this season, the safe and conventional thinking would suggest those ten players would be:
Centers - Chris Myers, Chris White.
Guards - Chester Pitts, Fred Weary, Mike Brisiel, Kasey Studdard.
Tackles - Eric Winston, Duane Brown, Ephraim Salaam, Rashad Butler.
The two biggest omissions there are Charles Spencer and Brandon Frye. Frye still has some practice squad eligibility left, and we all know Spencer’s story. Because it’s been generally accepted that Spencer will line up as a guard (whenever it is he actually gets back on the field to practice) the situation becomes dicey. Of course, the Texans could simply carry an additional offensive lineman, but I don’t see Gary Kubiak coddling to injuries anymore. There’s also the possibility that Spencer could (again) start the season on the PUP list, but I really think the staff is finished waiting around for his leg to get better.
So, if Spencer somehow makes it as a guard, who’s the odd-man out? The coaches are high on Brisiel and Studdard. Pitts and Weary have been solid, if unspectacular. They provide veteran leadership on what is a very young offensive line. Who do you get rid of if that situation presents itself? Let’s all wait and see if Spencer can do more than jog around on the sidelines before we take it that far.