July 29, 2006
Reality Seeps In Too Quickly
by Keith Weiland
It is only the second day of training camp, and already the shine had faded off of our brand new Texans. News from yesterday’s afternoon workout told of cornerback Demarcus Faggins making a play for the ball and “rolling” his foot when returning to the ground. Today, there are reports that the x-rays have come back, and they don’t look good.
Faggins has a foot fracture that will keep him off the field for six to ten weeks. Looking at my calendar, that means we shouldn’t expect the starting corner to return until the regular season opener at the earliest and the Cowboys game after the bye week at the latest. Well, isn’t that just craptastic.
It is especially craptastic because cornerback is not a deep position on this team. Dunta Robinson, possibly the best defensive player on the roster, has rolled his ankle in each of the first two days of practice. Thankfully, his injuries do not appear to be as serious as Faggins’, Robinson’s feet were giving him some sort of issue in the early workout on Saturday, courtesy of the best offensive player on the roster.
Safe to say that wide receiver Andre Johnson is already back in Pro Bowl form. He basically made poor Dunta chase after him all morning long. Johnson beat him deep, Johnson beat him inside, and Johnson beat him outside. Johnson beat him high. Johnson beat him low. You get the picture yet?
It wasn’t just Robinson that Johnson ate for brunch. It was anyone who tried to cover him. If Saturday morning was any indication, Johnson is ready to have his best season ever and/or the secondary is in for a year of suffering. I tend to go with the ‘and’ operative here. Johnson’s route-running is midseason sharp in July, and his hands look pretty good, too.
Faggins’ foot may just be what Phillip Buchanon needs to get in the door. Buchanon is easily more skilled than Faggins, and I don’t type that lightly. Maybe some praise for Buchanon sounds strange given the miserable season he had in 2005, but he was not a first round pick because he looks good in shorts. (And, uh, he doesn’t by the way, not that there’s anything wrong with that. His helmet sure helps him look better though.)
Problem is Buchanon just didn’t always seem motivated to make the most of his opportunities. Head coach Gary Kubiak has breathed new life into him though, so I am amped to see what Buchanon makes of it this year. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Buchanon should have all the motivation he needs to finally make good on those unique talents he possesses.
File It Away
While I continue talking about cornerbacks, I am going to drop just one name I think everyone should keep an eye on as we progress through training camp. John Walker. He hails from USC (that’s Southern Cal, Mr. McNair, not your alma mater in South Carolina), but for being from such a high-profile program, Walker seemed to fly a bit under the radar.
Strange, since the Hawaiian-born corner has a resume that includes appearances on television shows such as “E.R.” and “7th Heaven”. Blame it on the stage. A clause in his acting contract kept him from playing football until he was in high school. Such drama nerds! Walker also played wide receiver for the Trojans as a junior, and after returning to corner in 2005, missed some time with an ankle sprain.
So consider Walker raw, but with plenty of upside. Or in stage terms, he is maybe someone to watch come Act III. Walker has the size of a cover-2 corner at 6’1”. His weight is all in his upper body, making him someone capable of bumping pro receivers off their routes once he figures out the technique to do it.
Currently, Walker trails Lewis Sanders and Chris McKenzie on the depth chart, but with guidance from defensive backs coach Jon Hoke, Walker is definitely one to watch.
It’s the Weirdest Thing
Okay, I saw something weird on Saturday morning, and I don’t just mean Gary Kubiak jogging solo after practice along McNee Street wearing his long-sleeved pullover no less. No, I keep seeing Derick Armstrong make catch after catch, yet Kubiak has him pretty far down the "working" depth chart at wide receiver.
Armstrong, who is hereby known as “Handstrong” given he has the best pair of mittens on the team, caught almost everything thrown to him on Saturday, yet he can look up and still see guys like Derrick Lewis and Jake Schifino ahead of him. Amazing.
Look, Lewis is an intriguing, rangy player to watch, but his routes are sloppy and his hands aren’t quite up to the ones attached to Handstong’s wrists. Schifino might be getting some favor for his potential value as a kick returner, but his receiving skills are nothing special. With the injury to Mathis, there ought to be a fight for third on the depth chart, a spot currently held by Kevin Walter, and Handstrong ought to be competing for the job. Maybe that will change as Handstong keeps making those catches.
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