HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Texans coach Gary Kubiak certainly has some tough decisions to make as he pars down his roster to the NFL mandated 53 players on Friday.
One decision that isn’t difficult is keeping 5-foot-5 receiver Trindon Holliday around as a one-dimensional return specialist. But if you believe Kubiak and Holliday, there were still no guarantees of a roster spot even after Holliday sparked the Texans to a 28-24 win over Minnesota in the final preseason game Thursday night with a spectacular 76-yard punt return in the third quarter that left the fans in Reliant Stadium roaring.
Holliday is the only NFL player to score three touchdowns on returns this preseason – and maybe ever- with two punt returns for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Yet, the third-year receiver out of LSU isn’t taking anything for granted with the final cuts coming down Friday.
“I wouldn’t say I cemented it,” Holliday said of a spot on the 53-man regular-season roster. “I’m just going to wait it out and see what happens.”
Not surprisingly, Kubiak wasn’t willing to commit to guaranteeing a roster spot on Thursday night for the most electrifying player this preseason.
“You’re asking me that now?” Kubiak said after his team wrapped up the preseason with a 3-1 record. “Nobody has made it, we’re not finished yet. He’s made a heck of a case for himself.”
If the football field were a courtroom then Holliday’s case would be airtight. Let’s just say Kubiak and the Texans were crazy enough to not make a roster spot for Holliday you can be sure there are about 29 other teams lining up.
“He shifts and he’s quick,” said Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. “I definitely think he has a chance to make it in this league.”
With his size as a limitation, Holliday can’t do a lot to help a team. But what he does, he does well and that is run with seemingly not care for his body and when the slightest crease presents itself he just explodes.
“I’ll tell you this, the thing about him is for a little guy, he’s violent downhill,” Kubiak said. “When he runs the ball, he’s fearless. It’s been so impressive.”
He’s been so impressive that easily he’s been the find of the preseason for the Texans, though he has been hidden on their roster for three years now due primarily to injuries. Holliday entered training camp as a long shot to make the final roster because there really isn’t much of a market for 5-foot-5 receivers in the NFL and Kubiak just does favor one-dimensional players – even if they are exceptionally fast.
Rookie receiver Keshawn Martin was penciled in to return punts and free agent running back Justin Forsett was expected to handle kickoff returns. That was until Holliday started doing his thing.
He kept standing out in practice on kickoff returns and later punt returns. It wasn’t long before Holliday had become a fan favorite and for good reason as showed his value as a homerun hitter.
“I’ve known I could do it,” Holliday said. “I’m just trying to get my opportunity and show the coaches I can do it.”
If there was any doubt Holliday cemented his case with a strong comeback performance following a rough outing during last weekend’s loss at New Orleans. Following back –to-back weeks of spectacular performances, Holliday committed a turnover on a kickoff that was returned for a touchdown and he later muffed a punt but recovered to prevent a second turnover.
Holliday had fallen victim to his own success, thinking about the return instead of his first and most important job which is to secure the football.
Redeeming himself was definitely weighing on his mind this week as he thought of regaining the coaching staff’s trust. Leave it to Kubiak to bring home that point.
“I told him in front of the whole team (Wednesday) night it was a big night for him,” Kubiak said. “He had to continue to do it; he had to protect the ball.”
But Holliday was way ahead of him as he went back to the basics this week, knowing that if he secured the ball and continued to be patient that it would all work out.
“It was tough, but I just had to stay positive about the situation,” Holliday said of the days leading up to Thursday night. “I had a good week of practice and it showed in the game.”
His ability to bounce back and fight through a difficult week perhaps showed Kubiak what he really has in Holliday.
“There were some guys that were challenged (Wednesday) night in that meeting if they wanted to be on this team and some guys rose to the occasion.”
It goes without saying that some certainly didn’t and they won’t be part of the Texans 53-man roster come Friday. Holliday did and so he will have a permanent spot this season thanks to an impressive preseason.
“I think I had a pretty productive preseason,” he said. “I just wanted to come out and being this is my first time being healthy in three years I just wanted to come out and focus on just catching the ball and making something happen.”