Texans will have QB competition with Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror, and organized team activities and minicamps in full swing, here’s a starting lineup projection for the Houston Texans:


QB: Tom Savage: For now, the starting quarterback job is Savage's, though he will compete with first-round pick Deshaun Watson in training camp.

RB: Lamar Miller: In his first season in Houston, Miller was a huge part of the Texans’ run-first offense but had a heavy workload early on. The addition of D'Onta Foreman in the draft should allow the coaching staff to spell Miller in 2017.

TE: C.J. Fiedorowicz: Savage might not rely on the Texans’ tight ends as much as Brock Osweiler did, but Fiedorowicz took a big step forward in the passing game last season.

LT: Duane Brown: The longest-tenured Texan was an anchor for the offensive line in 2016 when he returned from injury, and he will be a big veteran presence for the young unit again.

LG: Xavier Su'a-Filo: Su’a-Filo played with a finger injury for part of last season but still got into every game and should be the starter next season.

C: Nick Martin: Greg Mancz played very well last season after Martin went on injured reserve and could see time at other positions, but Martin, a 2016 second-round draft pick, will go into training camp as the starting center.

RG: Jeff Allen: Allen started all but two games in 2016, and if he continues to stay healthy, he should start at right guard in 2017, too.

RT: Chris Clark: Derek Newton is still recovering from the gruesome injuries he suffered to both legs midway through last season and Clark, who started at right tackle after Newton's injury, is one of the few options Houston has at the position.

TE: Ryan Griffin: Griffin was the lone player on offense the Texans re-signed during free agency. Like Fiedorowicz, he had by far his best NFL season, with 50 catches for 442 yards and two touchdowns.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins: Hopkins had a drop in production in 2016, but with Savage or Watson throwing to him, he should be get back into the neighborhood of his breakout 2015.

WR: Will Fuller: Head coach Bill O’Brien said he expects Fuller to take a big step forward in his sophomore season, and that starts with the 2016 first-round pick staying healthy.

DEFENSE (3-4-4)

DE: J.J. Watt: Having the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year back on the field will no doubt be a huge boost to the already impressive Texans defense, but it remains to be seen if Watt will return to that level after his two back surgeries in 2016.

NT: D.J. Reader: Reader had a year learning behind Vince Wilfork and will step into the starting role in 2017.

DE: Jadeveon Clowney: The Texans had success moving Clowney from primarily playing outside linebacker to seeing a lot of time on the defensive line, but moving around the line is also one of Watt’s calling cards, so it will be interesting to see how Houston balances having both players healthy and on the field together.

OLB: Whitney Mercilus: Mercilus was a big part of the Texans’ top-ranked defense last season and finished with a team-high 7½ sacks.

ILB: Brian Cushing: Cushing will start in 2017, but the Texans likely drafted his eventual replacement with second-round pick Zach Cunningham.

ILB: Benardrick McKinney: McKinney had an impressive second season, leading the team and finishing 11th in the NFL with 129 tackles. He was the only player in the NFL with at least 100 tackles and five sacks in 2016.

OLB: Brennan Scarlett: After the departure of John Simon, Scarlett is the front-runner for starting outside linebacker. The Texans did not sign or draft another outside linebacker, but after drafting Cunningham, Houston might try to get him on the field in different packages if he proves to be ready to see a lot of playing time.

CB: Johnathan Joseph: Joseph and Kareem Jackson have been the Texans' starting cornerbacks since 2011 and since then, Houston's opponents have the lowest completion percentage in the NFL. Joseph missed time with a major rib injury last season but was a big part of the group that finished second in the league in pass defense, allowing just 202 passing yards per game.

CB: Kareem Jackson: The Texans play the majority of their base defense with three cornerbacks, so Jackson will start alongside Joseph, but former first-round pick Kevin Johnson will see a lot of playing time as well.

FS: Andre Hal: The fourth-year player has been consistent for the Texans secondary and had seven passes defended last season.

SS: Corey Moore: Strong safety was one of the positions where Houston lost a starter on defense after Quintin Demps left in free agency, and Moore is the front-runner for the starting job.


K: Nick Novak: Novak finished tied for 12th in the league in field-goal percentage, but his 35 field goals made were second in the NFL. Houston relied on Novak last season as the offense struggled, particularly in the red zone.

P: Shane Lechler: Lechler averaged 47.5 yards per punt, good for sixth in the league and was a priority for O’Brien to bring back during free agency.

KR: Akeem Hunt: Hunt took over kick-return duties while Tyler Ervin was injured, and might have the edge to start here next season. Ervin will compete for the job, but he was unreliable in his rookie season, fumbling the ball five times in 12 regular-season and two playoff games.

PR: Will Fuller: Fuller was able to utilize his speed on punt returns in 2016 and had a punt-return touchdown in Week 4.