HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – It doesn’t matter the year, at the end of every NFL preseason Texans coach Gary Kubiak has to make some difficult decisions when it comes time for the final cut down to the 53-man regular-season roster.
But Friday’s final cuts may have been the most difficult because the Texans let go some talented players who will likely star on some other NFL rosters this season. That is what happens when your talent level increases the way the Texans has over the years.
The Texans released 21 players prior to Friday’s NFL-mandated deadline. Among the surprising cuts are fifth-year safety Troy Nolan and talented rookie running back Jonathan Grimes, reserve center Cody Wallace and 12-year veteran fullback and Houston native Moran Norris. Former University of Houston standout quarterback Case Keenum was also waived while veteran cornerback and key special teams contributor Sherrick McManis was traded to the Chicago Bears.
“It’s tough for all of them because they bust their tail for you for six weeks and then you say ‘no thanks’” Kubiak said Friday afternoon prior to announcing that Nolan was being released. “Obviously you’re talking to some guys hoping you get them back on the practice squad so those conversations are a little easier on the young men than some others. You grow to respect them through what they do. It’s never a good day. It’s about two bad hours to be honest with you.”
Also released were: tight end Logan Brock, defensive end Keith Browner, linebacker D.J. Bryant, nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, defensive end David Hunter, wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, linebacker Delano Johnson, defensive end Mitch King, linebacker Shawn Loiseau, receiver Jerrell Jackson, tackle Nathan Menkin, receiver Jeff Maehl, linebacker Rennie Moore, safety Eddie Pleasant, guard Cody White and tight end Phillip Supernaw.
Offensive tackle Rashad Butler, who lost in the battle to start at right tackle last week, was put on injured reserve after suffering a season-ending injury during the Texans preseason finale against Minnesota on Thursday night. That means the Texans will likely be in the market for a veteran right tackle to come in backup second-year pro Derek Newton.
Keenum, the NCAA all-time passing leader was waived as most expected as the Texans decided to go with veteran John Beck as the third string quarterback behind starter Matt Schaub and backup T.J. Yates. Kubiak seems hopeful that Keenum will clear waivers and will be signed to the practice squad next week where he can continue to develop.
Normally, the third quarterback does not command nearly as much attention but last season it was Yates, the third string quarterback, who paved the way for the Texans first playoff berth and actually led them to a first round playoff win as a rookie. Kubiak didn’t want to go into the season with two unproven quarterbacks backing up Schaub.
“Obviously we think a lot of Case and what he’s gone and we’ve got to put a practice squad together,” said Kubiak, whose scouts had to scramble to find available street free agent quarterbacks to back up Yates when his top two quarterbacks both suffered season-ending injuries late in the year. “He’s getting great consideration from that standpoint so we’re going to make sure we got enough guys knowing our system moving forward so we don’t get caught like we did last year and having to scramble in such a tough time.”
For while during camp, it seemed Keenum and Beck were in a close race for the final quarterback spot, but then the sixth-year veteran who has started some games in the NFL and played in similar offense with the Washington Redkins began to separate.
Playing the first half of Thursday night’s game, Beck looked sharp and poised as he completed 6 of 10 passes for 149 yards and one touchdown while leading the offense to two touchdowns. Initially Keenum wasn’t given much of an opportunity to pass the football but when he did he didn’t seem nearly as comfortable while completing 5 of 10 passes for 43 yards in the second half.
“I think John had an excellent camp,” Kubiak said. “After what we went through last year, obviously it’s a concern of mine going with two. It is a conversation because when you’re putting your team together there’s always a conversation, but I think John had a good camp. I thought last night he played exceptional. He gives us some security there. He knows our system moving forward.”
Another surprising move was the Texans waiving veteran street free agent Moran Norris. But the move was anticipated after earlier in the day the Texans sent McManis to the Bears for fullback Tyler Clutts.
Clutts seems much more capable of handling the blocking and pass catching duties of a fullback in the Texans offense. Norris, who was competing to backup James Casey, seemed unable to handle the pass receiving duties at this point in his career.
“The availability we had with this young man (Clutts) and it was just weighing one against the other,” Kubiak said. Like I said, you never know. I think Moran did a heck of a job, and I think he’s capable of helping this team. But we’re going to give this young man a chance here first to come in and see how it goes.”