Houston Texans depth chart: Tyrann Mathieu bolsters secondary

Versatile defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is expected to start at strong safety for the Texans alongside Andre Hal. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON -- With free agency and the draft completed, and OTAs and minicamps scheduled for the next month and a half, here's a closer look at the depth chart for the Houston Texans (Note: Starters in bold):

This does not take undrafted free agents into account, because it's too early to tell who will be impact players. There are certainly fewer spots open on the roster than in the past few years, but coach Bill O'Brien has had a lot of success finding talent in that area.


Quarterback (3): Deshaun Watson, Joe Webb III, Brandon Weeden

Watson is recovering from a torn right ACL but he is expected to be cleared to be back on the field this spring -- perhaps in time to do limited drills during OTAs. Webb III and Weeden are the backups, and general manager Brian Gaine said after the draft that the Texans "feel comfortable with the group that we have at the moment." The Texans could also keep just two quarterbacks, as they did last season.

Running back (5): Lamar Miller, D'Onta Foreman, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, Jay Prosch (FB)

O'Brien said he envisions using Miller and Foreman as a running back by committee so, at least early in the season, they will probably see similar playing time. Before Ervin tore his patellar tendon in 2017, he was seeing time in the slot, and could be used in both spots again. Blue was re-signed to a one-year deal and took snaps from Miller at the end of last season. He'll serve as a capable backup.

Wide receiver (6): DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, Bruce Ellington, Braxton Miller, Sammie Coates

Hopkins is the only consistent receiver the Texans have had the past two seasons, as others have struggled or dealt with injuries. If Fuller can stay healthy, he'll be a big part of the offense. The Texans drafted Coutee to play slot receiver, so Miller's job could be up for grabs during training camp.

Tight end (3): Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas

With the retirement of C.J. Fiedorowicz, Griffin could become the Texans' starting tight end and be even more involved in the passing game. Houston drafted two tight ends -- Akins (third round), who is expected to be more of a receiving threat, and Thomas (sixth round), whom the Texans want to develop into a blocking tight end. The Texans won't keep four tight ends, so it will come down to Stephen Anderson and Thomas during training camp. Gaine spoke highly of Thomas' potential and size, and with Griffin and Akins adept in the passing game, the Texans will hope Thomas becomes a capable blocker.

Tackle (3): Seantrel Henderson, Martinas Rankin, Julien Davenport

It still remains to be seen who will start at left tackle next season, but O'Brien said Davenport will get an opportunity to win the job. Rankin started nine games at left tackle in 2017 at Mississippi State and could start across from Henderson, an addition in free agency.

Guard (4): Zach Fulton, Senio Kelemete, Jeff Allen, Kyle Fuller

The offensive line is going to look very different from the group that started last season. Xavier Su'a-Filo, who started all 16 games at left guard in 2017, is gone and Allen will have a tough competition against Kelemete, who is a versatile addition to the group.

Center (2): Nick Martin, Greg Mancz

Martin is the one lineman who has earned a starting spot for next season, but he needs to stay healthy. The 2016 second-round pick played in 14 games last season but missed the last two with an ankle injury -- the same injury that caused him to miss the entire 2016 season. Mancz, Fulton and Kelemete can play guard and center, so there is some flexibility there if needed.


Cornerback (5): Johnathan Joseph, Aaron Colvin, Kareem Jackson, Kevin Johnson, Johnson Bademosi

The Texans upgraded the secondary by signing Colvin and re-signing Joseph, and that pair will likely start for Houston next season with Jackson seeing time at slot corner. Johnson has struggled since he was drafted, but the coaching staff hopes that if he can stay healthy he can turn it around. Bademosi was brought in to help improve the team's subpar special teams.

Safety (5): Tyrann Mathieu, Andre Hal, Justin Reid, Corey Moore, Treston Decoud

The biggest free-agent addition was Mathieu, who signed a one-year, $7 million deal after he was cut by the Cardinals just before the new league year. He will likely start at strong safety alongside Hal, but if Reid progresses quickly, the rookie could see a lot of playing time.

Linebacker (8): Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, Dylan Cole, Brennan Scarlett, Duke Ejiofor, Peter Kalambayi

The Texans drafted two outside linebackers -- Ejiofor and Kalambayi -- who give them some depth at a position that was thin at the end of last season. McKinney and Cunningham could be an impressive duo, especially if Cunningham, a 2017 second-round pick, can build off a solid rookie campaign.

Defensive line (6): J.J. Watt, D.J. Reader, Joel Heath, Carlos Watkins, Brandon Dunn, Christian Covington

This will be a big season for Watt, as he has played in just eight games over the past two seasons because of injury. Reader was impressive in his first season as a starter and was ranked 22nd among interior defenders in 2017 by PFF.


Punter (1): Shane Lechler

The Texans brought Lechler back on another one-year deal after he averaged 49.0 yards per punt in 2017, which was the second-best in the NFL.

Kicker (1): Ka'imi Fairbairn

The Texans will bring in a camp leg to compete with Fairbairn, who made 20-of-25 field goal attempts and 32-of-35 extra points in his first season as the Texans' starter.

Long-snapper (1): Jon Weeks

Weeks is entering the final season of the four-year contract he signed in 2015 and has maintained his job easily.

Kick returner: Coutee, Ervin

Coutee should see a lot of time on special teams, especially on kickoff returns, as he averaged 31.5 yards per kick return last year at Texas Tech.

Punt returner: Coutee, Will Fuller

If receiver Chris Thompson makes the roster, he could also be in the mix to return punts.