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News » Houston Texans Inside Slant 2009-04-27

Houston Texans Inside Slant 2009-04-27

Houston Texans Inside Slant 2009-04-27

The Texans entered the NFL draft with a plan to improve a defense that ranked 22nd last season. They clearly made an effort to that end, using five of their eight draft picks on defensive players.

When it came time to make the 15th pick in the first round, general manager Rick Smith selected Southern California outside linebacker Brian Cushing. Smith didn't get an offer to trade down that was tempting enough to risk losing Cushing.

"We talked to several clubs, and there was some potential opportunity there that never materialized," Smith said. "With Brian there, we had an opportunity to get him, and we feel really good that it happened the way it happened."

In the second round, the Texans drafted Cincinnati defensive end Connor Barwin. He played tight end until last season, when he moved to defense and impressed scouts with his intensity and pass-rushing ability.

Cushing, 6-3, 246, and Barwin, 6-4, 256, are supposed to improve the energy and athleticism of the front seven.

"Any time you can do that, I think it's important," Smith said. "Brian's a blue-collar, hard-work guy who adds a new dimension to our team.

"Connor is an impressive athlete. He's not just a height-weight-speed test guy. He made a lot of plays."

The duo should especially bolster the front seven. But then the team hardly forgot about the back end. Their three other defensive picks play secondary spots, adding a little speed, athleticism and competition to a unit that has had issues of its own in recent seasons.

Offensively, the team did not draft its expected target of a running back. That will continue to be a priority in the offseason. They will have to look for an opportunity to add a discarded veteran, though it's possible a real opportunity won't present itself until the season nears. They could wind up landing a quality complement to Steve Slaton even if they wait awhile.

On the offensive side, the Texans added more depth to the offensive line. They nabbed interior offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell, who will immediately challenge Chris White for the backup job at those positions. He is a talented player with great leadership ability.

And the Texans didn't need a tight end, but ended up with two in Anthony Hill and James Casey. It proves the Texans were looking to upgrade their athleticism and take the best available player, instead of just someone that filled their greatest need. It's a philosophy that should improve the overall team in the long run.

BEST PICK: The Texans like OLB Brian Cushing because he was a four-year starter at Southern California who became a team leader and plays with the kind of intensity and energy they want on defense. He'll play on the strong side. He's tough against the run but fast enough to learn to cover.

COULD SURPRISE: TE James Casey has the versatility and athleticism to make an impact on the team. The Texans didn't need another tight end, especially after drafting Anthony Hill in the fourth round. But they had Casey rated much higher than a fifth-round pick on their draft board and they couldn't pass him up. He can play at fullback. He can be a receiving option at tight end. He can line up on the outside. He also ran the "Wildcat" in college, which the Texans don't currently use. But he is capable of throwing passes and he can be a deep snapper. Eventually the Texans should find Casey's niche in their offense.

A closer look at the Texans' picks:

Round 1/15 -- Brian Cushing, OLB, 6-3, 243, Southern Cal

The Texans liked the USC linebackers -- Cushing and Clay Matthews -- and when the 15th pick arrived, both were still available. Cushing was the target of defensive coordinator Frank Bush since the college season ended. Bush says Cushing will compete with Zac Diles for the starting job on the strong side. He has the versatility to line up even on the edge and rush. The Texans love his athleticism and work ethic, and he is expected to make an instant impact.

Round 2/46 -- Connor Barwin, DE, 6-4, 256, Cincinnati

He was arguably one of the most versatile athletes in the draft. He played both offensive (tight end) and defensive for the Bearcats, recording 12 sacks and 17 tackles for losses as a senior. He wowed scouts at the Combine, managing a 40 1/2-inch vertical leap and running the 40 in 4.59 seconds. He will play with his hand down as a quarterback-dogging defensive end, probably backing up Mario Williams.

Round 3/77 -- Antoine Caldwell, C, 6-3, 309, Alabama

The Texans needed to add depth to their offensive line, and Caldwell is smart and a leader. He is one of the most consistent snappers in college football, but he also has played guard and filled in at tackle, giving the Texans the versatility they need in a backup offensive lineman. He will likely play on special teams and be a "super" backup on game days.

4/112 -- Glover Quin, CB, 5-11, 204, New Mexico

He is a three-year starter with good speed and jumping ability. The Texans don't intend to move him to safety. They like him outside and the fact that he can play nickel. That will be his first role with the team. He will also be looked on to add some speed to the special teams units.

4/122 -- Anthony Hill, TE, 6-5, 262, North Carolina State

The local product is a block-first tight end. He also has the potential to be a receiving threat. He comes in as a sort of replacement for departed TE Mark Bruener, who was primarily a blocker. Hill will most likely play in two-tight end sets, and could see time very early.

5/152 -- James Casey, TE, 6-3, 246, Rice

The Texans expected Casey to be drafted much higher. They like his versatility. They mostly see him helping round out their group of tight ends, with an emphasis on being a receiving threat. They also see him with the potential to play fullback.

6/188 -- Brice McCain, CB, 5-9, 185, Utah

He also adds to the speed and athleticism of the secondary. The Texans want a more aggressive, big-play potential unit and so they added some youngsters to the mix. McCain will likely have to make his way onto the team via special teams, but he has speed the Texans will want to utilize down the road.

7/223 -- Troy Nolan, S, 6-1, 207, Arizona State

The Texans could use a young player at safety with the potential to give them more options. He has good speed and skill. And the Texans will see how quickly he can adapt to the NFL. It will likely be hard for him to see the field unless it's on special teams.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 27, 2009

Brandon Harrison Name: Brandon Harrison
Position: S
Age: 23
Experience: 1 years
College: Stanford
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