There are bad teams, clearly rebuilding, maybe tanking teams, and then there's the Houston Texans. We all witnessed their offseason, quite possibly the worst any franchise has had in NFL history, with mouth agape. And now, we're rubbernecking at what's become of that offseason.
The Texans currently have the second-worst point differential in the NFL (-49). Their lone win came against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that has only been outscored by 41 points through four games. Houston lost 40-0 in Week 4, in a rain-soaked road game against the Bills that featured three passing yards from quarterback Davis Mills in the first half. Houston crawled to 109 total yards by the end of the contest and 68 of those were amassed in the fourth quarter.
I know they're bad. You know they're bad. And sometimes, a club has to be really bad to morph into a contender. But I'm perplexed as to what the vision is in Houston.
I'll spare you a ranty column on the Deshaun Watson saga and keep it short for the sake of this piece -- Houston should've traded him a long time ago. Trying to play hardball with essentially no leverage was extraordinarily see-through, and, clearly, netted the Texans nothing. Now they've reportedly "softened" on their compensation demands.
They'll eventually move him, but at a discount for the team acquiring him.
In the 2021 draft, Houston traded up for receiver Nico Collins. Then, in July, they inexplicably traded a fifth-round pick in 2022 to land embattled Bears wideout Anthony Miller (and a seventh rounder). The Texans cut Miller earlier this week. They even traded a 2022 seventh-rounder to the Packers for defensive back Ka'Dar Hollman.
Nothing against Collins, Miller, or Hollman. But a franchise standing in front of its roster, assessing the rubble as it begins its rebuilding process, should not be trading away future selections. It's right there, in the first chapter of the Tanking Textbook.
And then, before Week 1, Pro Football Focus analyst Mike Renner made mention that the Texans were starting no rookies. How is that possible?
Above all this, as the Practice Squad Power Rankings founder, what I'm about to tell you has me most perplexed. Houston signed Texas A&M blocker Carson Green as an undrafted free agent. Dude rocked out in the preseason. Four years starting for Jimbo Fisher in the SEC. And the Texans, not exactly the pillar of offensive line sturdiness, subjected him to waivers before the season.
Luckily for them, Green hasn't been claimed by another team. He's just sitting on Houston's practice squad today.
But they weren't so lucky with Hjalte Froholdt, another now former PSPR member. He was a three-year starter at Arkansas and, like Green, tested rather well at the combine. He was a fourth-round pick by the Patriots in 2019 and was impressive in the 61 snaps he played for them. A recurrence of injuries led to his release from New England. Also similar to Green, Froholdt was the man as a blocker in the preseason for Houston, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, did not make the initial roster.
And just this week, he was signed off the Texans practice squad by, of all teams, the Cleveland Browns. My word.
Houston is even having problems managing its practice squad. That's what most struck a chord with me. Oh, and the Texans saw Bills nickel corner Cam Lewis, a PSPR alum, register four tackles -- including a tackle for loss -- a forced fumble, and a pass breakup against them in Week 4.
With the Froholdt and Lewis signings, The CUT is now at three. We're chugging along. Derrek Tuszka, formerly of the Broncos and now in Pittsburgh, was smartly elevated to the Steelers' 53-man roster ahead of the club's Week 4 outing against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
If you hear of a PSPR member getting The Call, alert me @ChrisTrapasso on Twitter, and feel free to use the hashtag #PSPR. Thank you in advance. Your next drink's on me. As a refresher, teams can have up to 16 players on the practice squad with up to six "veterans" on it, players with no limitations as to their number of accrued seasons in the NFL.
In a sense, I'm running the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the NFL. That means, as was the case last year, I'm not going to feature "veterans." Telling you Le'Veon Bell might eventually be a useful call-up for the Ravens' run game was certainly not the fundamental intention of the PSPR.
To continue to maintain the PSPR's sterling integrity, I'll only be including practice-squaders who are rookies, second-year players, or third-year players. That's it.
And as you'll see below, I couldn't resist ranking more players, given the increase in practice squad sizes this season. To stay in line with the league's figure, I hope to write about 16 individuals every Friday: 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
1. Javian Hawkins, RB, Rams
In the preseason, he accumulated 97 yards on 20 carries with a score, and three of those 20 carries went over 10 yards. And it's not as if he's only a low-volume, scat back with fantastic speed. Hawkins toted the rock 264 times at a 5.8 yards-per-carry clip in 2019 at Louisville. He plays bigger than his size.
2. Carson Green, OT, Texans
I had a fourth-round grade on Green just a few months ago. He checked most of the boxes I have for a mid-round blocker who can come in and start right away. And he tested like a high-caliber athlete. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Green went undrafted. But he protected like a -- you guessed it -- early Day 3 pick in the preseason with one allowed pressure on 43 pass-blocking snaps. Naturally, the Texans released him on cutdown day, because Houston is completely set on its offensive line and doesn't need any young and talented blockers. Yeah right.
3. Phil Haynes, OG, Seahawks
Haynes was Seattle's fourth-round pick in 2019, and after beginning his rookie season on PUP due to a sports hernia surgery, he was thrust onto the field in the Seahawks' wild-card round win over the Eagles in Philadelphia. And he looked solid! He spent most of last season on IR with another injury, but he's healthy now and was dominant -- mostly against backups -- in the preseason. Plus, he tested like a highly explosive guard prospect at the combine.
4. Travis Fulgham, WR, Eagles
Placing Fulgham on the practice squad is no way to treat your reigning team leader in receiving yards. But here we are. The kinda-sorta rebuilding Eagles waived Fulgham at the end of August, which was weird to say the least. Sure, they've invested heavily in young wideouts of late but, umm, Fulgham is a young wideout who made the most of his opportunity in 2020 with 539 yards and four touchdowns at more than 14 yards per grab. Do I think Fulgham is the next DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin in Philly? No. He's probably not. But he's deserving of the top spot in the PSPR.
5. Cam Lewis, CB, Bills
The Bills grabbed Lewis from nearby University at Buffalo during the undrafted free agency frenzy immediately following the 2019 draft. And he's quietly gone about his business in two preseasons by allowing just 91 yards on 10 receptions, and he's clung to a practice-squad spot in Buffalo because he's a super-steady tackler in space. Head coach Sean McDermott loves that from his corners.
6. James Wiggins, S, Cardinals
Nothing against Deionte Thompson or Jalen Thompson, the Cardinals safeties clearly in the background of star Budda Baker, but let's get Wiggins some run, Kliff. Wiggins is a rocked-up 6-foot, 205-pounder who WAS ON THE FREAKS LIST THREE TIMES, REMEMBER?!
7. Jacoby Stevens, S, Eagles
Stevens is a 6-1, 212-pound safety/linebacker hybrid who plays faster than he tested at the LSU Pro Day a few months ago. On that amazing Tigers national title team in 2019, Stevens, who was a monster recruit, racked up 92 tackles with three picks and six pass breakups.
He's ready to be that versatile back-seven defender in Philadelphia's defense.
8. Ron'Dell Carter, EDGE, Cardinals
Carter has the girth, leverage, burst, and just enough pass-rush moves to be a productive contributor if he gets The Call in Arizona. I'm very high on him.
He's at No. 8 this week simply due to the veteran edge-rushing talent in front of him on the Cardinals' 53-man roster right now.
9. Dazz Newsome, WR, Bears
It's going to take more than a first-year cut for me to drop my #TrustTheTape draft crush from the 2021 class. Newsome looked electric on film but flopped at the North Carolina Pro Day. Then, in the offseason, he broke his collarbone. So things have gone sideways for Newsome after he stepped off the field in Chapel Hill. However, on the field, he's a slippery slot wideout with serious YAC juice who can be useful in today's separation/YAC based NFL.
10. Cade Johnson, WR, Seahawks
The Seahawks are the Patriots of the NFC in that they adore late-round and undrafted free agent receivers. Johnson will be the next against-all-odds story in Seattle, a small, crisp route-runner who's feisty after the catch and hauls in everything thrown in his direction. Sound like any recently productive Seahawks receiver?
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Moore is a mauler with a natural center of gravity offensive line coaches dream about during REM sleep. He was just under 6-2 and 330 pounds at his pro day before the draft. After a dazzling career at Grambling State, Moore got a Senior Bowl invite and thrived in Mobile. He's not going to be the most athletic blocker if you're running a zone scheme, but he's quick enough off the ball to be effective on gap runs, and he's very close to being NFL strong already. Plus, no defensive tackle is going to get up and underneath him to drive him into the quarterback.
Kenny Robinson, S, Panthers
Robinson is another safety -- like Wiggins -- with a rather unusual journey story. After starring at West Virginia with seven interception in his first two seasons playing for the Mountaineers, he was expelled from the school due to an academic fraud issue, but instead of transferring, he opted to play in the XFL. Robinson to take that road so he could get paid to help pay for his mother's cancer treatments. And he had two picks in five games for the St. Louis BattleHawks. Robinson was then picked by the Panthers in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.
William Bradley-King, EDGE, Washington
Bradley-King had four pressures on 40 pass-rush snaps in the preseason. That's not awesome. It's also not brutal, and the sixth-round pick made an impact against the run this summer. He also indicated his arrow is pointing up on the field in college. Bradley-King was a productive rusher at Arkansas State but transferred to Baylor, and the bright lights of the Big 12 weren't too big for him. He's a quick, relatively bendy and stocky rusher with long arms and a nice array of pass-rushing moves.
Broughton was a late-round pick by the Chargers in 2019, and he possesses the first-step quickness and flexibility to produce as a rotational pass-rushing specialist when called upon. He had 7.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss -- while playing a fair amount of his snaps out of position at defensive end -- during his final year at Cincinnati. The Chiefs smartly scooped him up after their most formidable division rival let him go this August.
Sullivan was buried on the receiving pecking order at LSU, and the Seahawks tried to morph him into a defensive end after picking him in the seventh round two years ago. Back to his natural position in Carolina, Sullivan has a chance to make a splash without a bunch of stars in front of him. He's 6-5 and 248 pounds with 4.66 speed and a catch radius the size of a Chevy Tahoe.
Probably the NFL's most egregious subsequent decisions from the draft to cutdown day, the Titans traded up in Round 4 to pick Fitzpatrick in April, and he didn't even make the team out of camp. Now, I can't tell you exactly why that happened. But it did. Fitzpatrick has good size, four years of solid production in college, sub 4.50 speed, keen route-running ability, and he caught three passes for 58 with a touchdown in the preseason. Can someone explain to me why the Titans didn't call him up for their Week 4 outing against the Jets when A.J. Brown and Julio Jones were both out? I can only help so much, guys.
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