The Class of 2002: A Progress Report

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March 24, 2003
The Class of 2002: A Progress Report
by Warren DeLuca

We continue our year-later review of the Texans’ first-ever draft with a look at the defense. The Texans used six picks on defensive players in 2002, but only one of those was a first-day selection. Unlike their offensive counterparts, few of the rookie defenders saw significant playing time other than on special teams. However, the Texans entered the season with a defensive unit stocked with veterans so that side of the ball did not have as many glaring needs.

Round 3 83. DT Charles Hill, Maryland. Hill played in every game on special teams and spelled Seth Payne at nose tackle in eight contests. He finished the year with three tackles. The point man for the wedge on the kickoff return team, Hill also "returned" two squib kicks for no yards. On the light side for playing on the nose, Hill should improve after he gains some more strength to go along with his above-average quickness. Like some of the other Texan rookies, Hill has a relatively limited football background (he didn’t start playing until his junior year in high school) so he should also make strides with another year of coaching. Hill may work his way into more of a rotation with Payne so the Texans will always have someone fresh to plug up the middle and get an inside push. Hill may never be a behemoth, block-eating tackle in the Tony Siragusa mold, but as the undersized Greg Kragen proved in Carolina, a high-motor player with the ability to disrupt blocking schemes can be successful in Dom Capers’ defense even without great bulk.

Round 5 153. S Ramon Walker, Pittsburgh. Walker played in the first five games on special teams, then moved into the starting lineup at strong safety against Cleveland when Eric Brown went down with a shoulder injury. Walker racked up five tackles as a safety in the game (all against the run) and two more on special teams. He returned to special teams-only duty in the next two games before injuring his ankle and being placed on the inactive list for six games. Walker played again in Washington but sprained his knee and was placed on injured reserve for the final week of the season. On the year, he made a total of nine special teams tackles and led the team in that category in two games, while also forcing a fumble. With Brown re-signing, Walker should again see action as a special teamer and back-up strong safety. Since he has college experience at free safety, he could also compete with Kevin Williams and Matt Stevens. Walker has a reputation as a big hitter but needs to learn to stay in position rather than crashing in too quickly to stop the run.

Round 6 173. CB DeMarcus Faggins, Kansas State. Faggins’ only playing time of the season was as a dime back against Cleveland and on special teams against Buffalo and Cleveland. He was on the inactive list for the rest of the season. Faggins has some cover skills, but at 5’10", 178 lbs. with 4.54 speed, he may lack the physical attributes to ever be a key contributor on the NFL level. He ended the season third on the depth chart at right cornerback and the fact that he played so little as a rookie, despite being healthy, does not bode well for his future with the club. Faggins will have his work cut out for him since everyone on front of him returns in 2003.

190. DT Howard Green, LSU. The Texans may have been trying to sneak Green through waivers in order to add him to the practice squad when they cut him on September 2, but Baltimore claimed him. He spent the next six weeks on their inactive list, then played in a game for the Ravens and was released the following week. The Texans added Green to their practice squad on Halloween and signed him to the roster for the final two games of the season (although he was inactive for both). At 6’2", 320 lbs., Green has the size that the Texans are looking for on the defensive line. He’s currently listed as the third team nose tackle behind Payne and Hill. Green must stay in shape and improve his conditioning if he is to contribute. If he shows that he has the quickness and stamina, he could also get a shot as a defensive end on running downs.

Round 7 229. OLB Greg White, Minnesota. The Texans drafted White, who played both linebacker and defensive end in college, to try to make him into a pass rushing outside linebacker. He looked like a future star in the New Orleans preseason game when he recorded four sacks and forced two fumbles, but was cut two weeks later prior to the final exhibition game. White spent parts of the 2002 season on three different practice squads playing two different positions: twice at defensive end with the Buccaneers, outside linebacker with the Falcons, and finally defensive end with the Titans. He recently signed with the Saints for the 2003 season, hoping to repeat the success of his game in the Big Easy. White’s work ethic and inconsistency may be holding him back more than his raw talent, but the NFL puts a premium on pass rushers so he will continue to get chances.

261. DT Ahmad Miller, UNLV. The Texans cut Miller prior to the last preseason game. He eventually joined the Giants’ practice squad and will go to training camp with the G-Men this summer. Miller has the size to be a 3-4 end or a 4-3 tackle, but to date has not shown enough ability to either make plays or keep blockers off the linebackers.

Undrafted Free Agents ILB Jimmy McClain, Troy State. McClain was considered one of the better rookies available when he signed with the Texans after the draft. He ranked among the team leaders in tackles during the preseason and became the only undrafted rookie to make the opening day roster. McClain was inactive for the Cowboys games but played in every other one, primarily on special teams. McClain became one of the Texans’ best players in that phase of the game, recording eight special teams tackles and blocking a punt at Washington which the Texans recovered for a touchdown. He was also credited with a safety for chasing the Ravens’ punter out of the endzone, although that play was an intentional move by Baltimore. McClain saw limited action as Jamie Sharper’s backup at mike linebacker. While he did not make a tackle from the linebacker position, he did bat down a pass against the Steelers. Although undersized, McClain runs well and plays hard, so he is well suited to be a special teamer and should continue to make an impact from that standpoint.

OLB Terrell Washington, Illinois. A tweener who was a 4-3 defensive end in college, Washington signed with the Texans after the draft and was cut at the end of training camp. The team re-signed him for 2003 and assigned him to NFL-Europe, where he was the first-round pick of the Amsterdam Admirals in the NFL player allocation draft. With Jeff Posey and Keith Mitchell leaving via free agency, there will be opportunities for new outside ‘backers to make the team. Washington should compete with Erik Flowers, Patrick Chukwurah, Antonio Wilson, and whatever other newcomers are in camp for one of those spots.

S Kyries Hebert, Louisiana-Lafayette. Hebert signed with Minnesota after the draft, but despite being mentioned as a possible starter during minicamp, he did not make the Vikings’ final cut. The Texans added him to their practice squad in mid-December and then signed him to the roster in the final week of the season, although he was not active for the game. He recently re-signed with the Texans for 2003. At 6’3", 215 lbs., Hebert is the biggest defensive back on the roster. He played free safety in college but strong safety with the Vikings and Texans. Free safety appears at this point to be his best chance of making the team due to the lack of competition at the position, although he may lack the required range.

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