Here are the previous Roster Rundowns if you aren’t familiar with the series:
Mario Williams – So what if he’s not a leader? So what if he doesn’t play like every single snap is his last? Sure, I’d LOVE it if that were the case, but this team has leaders on defense, so as long as Mario continues to improve and becomes a little more consistent, he’s doing his part. He was dominant against the run at times in 2009, and from all accounts played with a shoulder injury most of the year. That’s two years out of four that he’s played most of the year with an injury – that might be more cause for concern than any nonsense about him “not being intense” enough. Mario is intense – he’s just not off the charts intense like Brian Cushing or Bernard Pollard. Let’s focus more on his QB pressures and run defense, shall we?
Antonio Smith – He got off to a slow start last year but once he got going, he really got going. He was getting good pressure on the QB in the last third/last quarter of the season, and he along with Cushing and Pollard has brought a nasty attitude to the defense. Like all the other defensive linemen on the team, he could be more consistent… but Smith did wreak some havoc in the late part of the season. I guess I wasn’t completely aware of his skill set when he came to the Texans, as I thought he was purely a power player who lacked elite quickness – but there were plays last year where he blew his man/men up and was in the backfield before the QB was into his third step. Hopefully his slow start last year was a chemistry issue that is now fixed and will allow him to hit the ground running in September.
Connor Barwin – We’re all hoping for the big “year two jump” from Barwin. He had a very solid rookie year in 2009 with a limited amount of situational snaps. It would be a great problem to have if Barwin improves enough to force Gary Kubiak to consider making Barwin more than a situational pass-rusher, but that seems a bit pie-in-the-sky to me at this point. Barwin still has a LONG way to go when it comes to defending the run, but if he puts up the sexy sack numbers, it’s going to be hard to keep him at bay.
Tim Bulman – We all know the score with Bulman. He’s high on effort, low on talent. Not that he’s not talented – but it’s his motor that has kept him in the league. Kind of the poor-man’s Kyle Vanden Bosch, but, you know… poorer. And without those SUPER INTIMIDATING pink contacts. Also, without the sacks and snaps. Okay, it’s a bad comparison. Anyway, like Jeff Zgonina, we keep expecting Bulman to be the odd man out when the rosters are finalized, but he hangs around. He’s a guy you certainly want to root for, but at the same time – you want to see more talented guys get a shot as well. Bulman is certainly a good guy to have around for the young guys to look up to, as he’s made it this far on effort and hard work almost exclusively.
Jesse Nading – Nading has only seen action in seven games in his first two years in the league, but he’s one of those guys that the coaches seem to think has a lot of potential. He actually saw a lot more action in his rookie season than he did last year, and he seems like a likely practice squad candidate unless he outperforms fellow DE Tim Jamison.
Tim Jamison – I swear this guy showed some flashes both last preseason and in a couple of situations during the regular season. It was at least enough for me to want to see more of him. Last year as a rookie, Jamison got in to six games but didn’t do much damage… except for the few times I swear I saw him get some good pressure on the QB. I can’t quite figure out exactly how or when, it’s like something from a half-remembered dream…
Pannel Egboh – You’re on your own. I did make sure I spelled his name correctly, though.
Amobi Okoye – Seems like by now everyone has put their two cents in on Amobi. With different D-Line coaches not exactly having him playing to his strongest abilities, one can certainly make the argument that he’s been set up to fail, and I don’t completely disagree with that – but I just see a guy who doesn’t seem to want it that much. He came into the league very young, and maybe he’ll mature but it seems kind of unlikely that he’s going to suddenly wake up and do what it takes to be a complete pro after three full seasons. The worst part is, in interviews the guy seems to think he’s doing everything the coaches have asked of him, and that people are relying too much on statistics. Uh, no. Not buying.
Shaun Cody – Here’s another DT with a lot of potential who has never come close to reaching his draft status. Cody has been average at best his entire career and I can’t imagine that he would be starting for any other NFL team (and the same might be said for Okoye). Cody would be a solid depth player but if he’s still starting at the beginning of the year… ugh.
Earl Mitchell - Lots of positive things are being said early on about Mitchell. For a position group that is in DESPERATE need of an attitude and talent transfusion, I sure hope the early returns are true. The problem is, even if Mitchell sets the world on fire and becomes a starter – whoever plays next to him is still going to be below average, unless something completely unexpected happens. Mitchell is supposed to be a lightning-quick first-step defensive tackle, perfect for Bill Kollar’s system… but how much can you really expect for a third-round rookie? I want to be excited about him, but the position as a whole is SO weak on this team, it’s tough to get too up about it.
Frank Okam – There isn’t a defensive player on the Texans’ roster that smart fans want to see improve more than Okam. We’ve all wanted that wide-bodied DT for so long, but right now it just seems like a matter of time before Okam is sent packing. First, because he just hasn’t panned out, plain and simple. Secondly, because he doesn’t fit the mold of what Kollar likes in his DTs. It’s like the Texans are hanging on to him on the off chance that he reaches the potential that NFL and college people have always said Okam has. Officially, let me say that I am rooting HARD for Okam, and hope that he somehow comes out of nowhere to shoot up the depth chart. We saw him look almost dominant in the preseason last year, but as soon as he was in for more than a few snaps – he came back to earth. When he played in the regular season, he failed to impress, and couldn’t stay on the field for long. For big guys, that’s not unusual – but you’ve got to have a serious impact when you ARE in there.
DelJuan Robinson – Robinson seemed poised to take a starting spot after his impressive 2008 season, but he battled injuries and never got back to that level of play. Maybe it was the new position coach, maybe it was the injuries, or maybe he just wasn’t the guy that he had started to make us think he was becoming. Either way, Robinson is going to be in a fight to keep his roster spot, along with Okam. With the addition of Mitchell, I doubt there’s going to be room for both Okam and Robinson in 2010.
What I expect
If last year was a “down year” for Mario, I like him to have a big year in 2010. His sack numbers will improve, his run defense will remain great-to-dominant, but people will still complain when he doesn’t pump his fists and headbutt the nearest teammate after every play. Amobi Okoye will show modest improvement, but not enough to get people off his back. Earl Mitchell will have a decent year, but won’t blow anyone away. Connor Barwin WILL make the year-two jump, and challenge Antonio Smith for his starting spot… but Smith will remain the starter. Jesse Nading will have some entertaining Tweets.
*Denotes a reported Undrafted Free Agent signing.