Texans' 53-man roster projection includes five running backs

The Houston Texans must cut their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 2. Here’s a final 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACKS (3): Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden

Savage beat out Watson for the Texans’ starting quarterback job during training camp, but he could be on a short leash if he struggles. Watson is the Texans' backup quarterback, but Houston will keep all three guys on their 53-man roster.

RUNNING BACKS (5): Lamar Miller, D'Onta Foreman, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, Akeem Hunt

The Texans probably won’t keep five running backs, and the extra roster spot likely would go somewhere on defense. The Texans like Ervin's versatility, and with the injuries at wide receiver, he could see time in the slot this season. Texans coach Bill O'Brien likes the energy Hunt brings, especially on special teams.

FULLBACK (1): Jay Prosch

O’Brien sees value in the fullback position and the job Prosch does for the Texans. He is the only fullback on the roster.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5): DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Jaelen Strong*, Braxton Miller, Bruce Ellington

Hopkins had a dip in production last season, and the Texans dealt with a lot of injuries in their receiving corps. Houston hopes with a new quarterback, the receivers will be more involved in the offense this season and the passing game improves. Ellington was a training camp addition for the Texans but impressed quickly in his two preseason games, leading the team with eight catches for 122 yards. Strong won’t be on the Week 1 roster because he is suspended for the season opener for his February 2016 arrest for illegal possession of marijuana. Dres Anderson could take his spot for the first game, or we could see the Texans use that spot at running back or on defense for the first week.

TIGHT ENDS (3): C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin, Stephen Anderson

Fiedorowicz and Griffin had career years last season thanks to quarterback Brock Osweiler's dependence on the tight ends; the 175 targets and 115 receptions were the second most in the NFL. That probably won’t be the case again this season, but the Texans like the group of three they had in 2016. Anderson could have a breakout year in his second season.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Duane Brown*, Jeff Allen, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Greg Mancz, Kendall Lamm, Nick Martin, Julien Davenport, Kyle Fuller, Breno Giacomini

With Brown's absence this offseason, Lamm, Giacomini and Chris Clark have seen the majority of the time at tackle. Clark is dealing with an injury and did not travel with the team on this road trip to New Orleans, and now Dallas. If the Texans keep only eight linemen, and since he’s the third center on the depth chart right now, seventh-round pick Kyle Fuller would be the odd man out. Brown still has not reported to training camp, but he could end his holdout for Week 1. The Texans could keep Chad Slade until Brown shows up.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6): J.J. Wattt, Christian Covington, D.J. Reader, Brandon Dunn, Carlos Watkins, Joel Heath

The biggest addition the Texans will get this season is Watt, who missed all but three games last year with a back injury. Reader will replace Vince Wilfork, and former Clemson teammate Watkins should get some playing time as well.

LINEBACKERS (8): Brian Cushing, Benardrick McKinney, Brian Peters, Zach Cunningham, Dylan Cole, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Brennan Scarlett

Along with Watt, Clowney and Mercilus will present a lot of problems for opposing quarterbacks. The Texans might have one of the best front sevens in the NFL. Houston drafted Cunningham as Cushing's eventual replacement, but think he still has work to do. The Texans also like Cole, an undrafted rookie.

SAFETIES (5): Andre Hal, Eddie Pleasant, K.J. Dillon, Corey Moore, Kurtis Drummond

The Texans will miss Quintin Demps, who had a team-high six interceptions last season. The unit finished second in passing defense in 2016 and could rely on Moore to fill his place, with Hal as the other starting safety. Dillon, a 2016 fifth-round pick, has returned from a torn ACL and is progressing well, O'Brien said.

CORNERBACKS (5): Johnathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson, Kareem Jackson, Robert Nelson, Treston Decoud

The Texans lost cornerback A.J. Bouye -- who was Houston’s best at the position -- to free agency, and he leaves a big hole to fill. Houston is counting on a healthy Johnson, who was the Texans' third corner until he suffered a broken foot last season, to make an impact in place of Bouye.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Punter Shane Lechler, kicker Nick Novak, long snapper Jon Weeks

The Texans brought back Lechler and Novak this offseason, so this trio likely will stay the same. The Texans have had Ka'imi Fairbairn competing with Novak during training camp, but after Novak's season in 2016, it should be his job this year.