It is closing in on Houston Texans 2014 training camp and here at State of the Texans we will cover all of the position groups and players leading up to day one of training camp.
Penciled in Starters
Second year safety D.J. Swearinger and free agent acquisition Kendrick Lewis are set to be on the back half of the Texans secondary. Swearinger has been focused on his new role with the Texans as the day one starter and his focus was apparent when voluntary mini-camp arrived. He has been all business at practice and less about the “look at me” rookie version of Swearinger and this will not take away the passion he plays with on the field. A more controlled version of Swearinger on the field will be a good thing for a Texans defense that had below average safety play in 2013.
The addition of Lewis has been a two-fold positive for the defense to this point. Lewis has become a leader early for the defense helping install the Romeo Crennel scheme but being someone the defense can lean on when the defense takes the field. Also, add the fact that he has become a nice complement to Swearinger by giving him a true veteran next to him on the field to help him understand the game, which he did not have last season. Lewis is athletic enough to play centerfield or cover a receiver in the slot, but he has to prove he can stay healthy for the length of the season. Dealing with a shoulder issue in 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs slowed him despite starting 15 of the 16 games he appeared in. Lewis will be the finesse safety of the defense and trying to get him to his ball hawking early years of his career is what the Texans and Crennel are trying to do.
Third Safety Needed
Free agent Chris Clemons signed soon after Kendrick Lewis and adding him only improves the position in terms of depth. With the Miami Dolphins, Clemons showed he can be a solid safety that is a sure tackler, but his ball skills are limited since he has been in the NFL. Every defense needs three capable safeties and with three safety packages defenses need in the NFL today, the Texans feel they have that with Clemons. Clemons can play either position at safety, in the box or the deep player, for the defense. He is an instant plug and play player for the defense if something happens to Lewis or Swearinger. Either way, Clemons will see time with the defense and should be a key rotational piece for the defense.
Youth and Familiar Faces Lining up For a Camp Battle
This is really a toss-up for the safety position with the Texans drafting Lonnie Ballentine from Memphis plus the return of Shiloh Keo, Eddie Pleasant and Jawanza Starling. Ballentine is an imposing player at 6-3 but is raw in the sense of what he has to do as an NFL safety. More of a box player at Memphis, Ballentine’s biggest challenge will come with learning to play in coverage in the middle of the field. As for Keo, Pleasant and Starling, it is a mixed bag of safeties but their play comes down ultimately to their special team contributions. Keo is limited as a safety and that was on display last season, as was Pleasant being a flag machine on special teams which ended up being a real issue as the season carried on. Starling was a non factor in 2013, but the way the mentality has changed in regards to players under Bill O’Brien he should not be counted out to have a chance to make an impression.