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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Without question, fullback is the most up in the air position on the Texans roster this offseason.
In this offense and with a quarterback coming back from a serious foot injury that is maybe the last place you want to be unsettled. But that is the predicament the Texans find themselves in after having to let go fullback Lawrence Vickers in salary cap relief move in March.
The most capable candidate is James Casey, but the former Rice standout doesn’t exactly the fullback mode and seems to function best as more of an H-back/tight end. Let’s call him a tweener.
So Texans coach Gary Kubiak has now thrown in an interesting wrinkle intot he fullback mix with the revelation that the coaching staff has been experimenting with 6-foot-2, 232 pound rookie linebacker Derrell Smith at fullback. Smith, who spent last season on the Texans practice squad, played middle linebacker throughout most of his career at Syracuse after being converted from running back.
The Texans are also taking a look at former Illinois running back Jason Ford at fullback before seeking the help of available veteran free agents.
“There’s a couple of veteran fullbacks out there, but as of right now I feel pretty good about what’s going on and what I see out there,” Kubiak said.
It seems like a risky proposition to go into the season with two inexperienced fullbacks backing up Casey, especially considering the Texans are also replacing the right side of the offensive line. In addition to working at fullback, Casey right now is penciled in as the second-team tight end and would start opposite Owen Daniels in a two-tight end set if the season were to start today.
Perhaps having stalwarts like Pro Bowler Vonta Leach and Vickers the last couple of seasons protecting Matt Schaub in pass protection and opening holes for Arian Foster has lulled the Texans into undervaluing the position.
But Kubiak insists he’s fully aware of the pitfalls of throwing a young, inexperienced guy in at fullback yet he seems convinced Smith and Ford can be ready to handle the job.
“It’s probably mental more than anything, but we’ve had some success building those guys, so to speak,” Kubiak said. “Vonta came in and did a great job for us; James is doing a great job, Vickers played well for us last year, so we feel good about the direction we’re heading.”
Kubiak also seems to feel good about Casey’s ability to handle so many roles in the offense, despite his relative inexperience. He began last season as the starting fullback/H-back after being sidelined with a shoulder injury he lost his spot to Vickers.
“I don’t worry about that with him,” Kubiak said of possibly overloading Casey. “He can handle so much, and it makes us tough to handle when we’re able to do a lot of things with him. If you go back to the first month of the season last year with all the movement and the things we did with him, I think it makes it very difficult on some people, so hopefully we get back to that.”