NFL Nation reporter Tania Ganguli assesses which rookies on the Texans could earn a starting berth this season.
Why Jaelen Strong could start: The Texans traded up in the third round to draft Strong out of Arizona State because receiver was a serious need for them since they released Andre Johnson. Strong was not able to do much during the Texans' offseason. He was not allowed to be a part of the team's rookie minicamp because of an invitation to the NFLPA Rookie Premiere, and he suffered a hamstring injury on the first day of organized team activities that kept him out for the rest of OTAs and two of three minicamp practices. In the meantime, the Texans have liked what they've seen out of veteran Nate Washington, whom they signed in free agency. Coach Bill O'Brien has praised Washington repeatedly. The question at hand, though, is which rookies have a chance to earn a starting job, and I'd put Strong in that category. Though the "every job is open" mantra isn't really the truth, this position is more open than most for the Texans.
Why Benardrick McKinney could start: Here again we have a player for whom training camp will be of supreme importance, but this time for a different reason. The Texans also traded up to draft McKinney, who went to Mississippi State, and did so in the second round. There's some talk of McKinney as an outside linebacker, but he was primarily an inside linebacker in college. That was a position of need for the Texans during the draft. They'll get back a healthy Brian Cushing, but since trading away DeMeco Ryans back in 2012, they've tried a lot of different players at the inside linebacker spot next to Cushing. McKinney made some plays against the pass during organized team activities, but with linebackers it's hard to make too many determinations before pads come on. It's important to note, too, that this is not a slam dunk for McKinney. Akeem Dent started for much of last season beside Cushing and has been praised in the months since by O'Brien. The Texans acquired Dent in a trade with the Falcons that sent quarterback T.J. Yates there. He has missed the Texans' offseason practices with an injury and has been wearing a walking boot. Mike Mohamed and Jeff Tarpinian are also relative veterans in the competition there.