[EDITOR’S NOTE: WE ARE ASKING EACH OF OUR JOCKS TO DECIDE IF A BUBBLE PLAYER FOR THE HOUSTON TEXANS IS GOING TO MAKE THE CUT AND BE ON TEAM’S 53-MAN ROSTER OR MISS THE CUT AND BE CUT BY THE TEAM. THE FIRST OF THE SERIES IS BY JOHN LOPEZ – IN THE LOOP 10A-2P – ON RUNNING BACK ALFRED BLUE]
This is how jobs are lost. If you’re not lucky or not good – and Alfred Blue might be a little of both – this usually is how it happens.
You never see it coming. The thought of losing what all the world felt was rightfully yours never even crosses your mind. And then, boom, they’re asking for your playbook.
Presumed backup roles on NFL rosters are like Capos in mob families. Sure, you’ve paid your dues. You’ve climbed the ranks. You’ve earned a certain level of respect and stature. There’s no reason to believe you’ll be anything but an integral part of family business.
But really, you’re little more than one bad day away from the piano wire pinching ever tighter around your neck.
Which brings us to Alfred Blue. The Caporegimes of running backs on the Texans roster.
We all thought the back-up running back job was his and, really, there was no reason to believe it would be anything but his
Rookie Tyler Ervin, despite his obvious speed and versatility, couldn’t be trusted with such an important job. And while Akeem Hunt and Jonathan Grimes showed flashes, no one could reasonably presume they could handle the workload it takes to be the go-to short-yardage back or a viable option to starter Lamar Miller.
So while Blue stood on the sideline in Santa Clara, Calif., not dressed for the Texans’ preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, he must have felt like a made-man. Untouchable. Billy Bats.
And then Kenny Hilliard ran past Blue as if he were standing still. Hilliard, a former LSU teammate of Blue’s didn’t just put up terrific numbers for a limited role in the first preseason game (40-yards on 12-carries, plus a 12-yard reception). He looked the part.
Arriving to camp slimmer and stronger than ever before, after spending 2015 on the Practice Squad, Hilliard consistently put forth strong efforts in camp. Yet it was all done while sitting deep down the depth chart, in the fourth or fifth spot behind Miller. We hardly noticed, but the coaches did.
With Blue sitting out for an undisclosed reason, Hilliard almost stride-for-stride looked like a slightly bigger Lamar Miller when given the chance to run with the first- and second-teams.
Which leads to the question:
Did he? Pass Blue as if he were standing still, that is?
For now, consider the answer to that question a resounding yes. And while it admittedly is awfully early to make such declarations, I’ll make it, anyway.
The reason is simple. We know what we get from Alfred Blue, and that’s inconsistency. One rumble forward, two coughs and gags backward. With Hilliard, however, there always has been intrigue.
Make no mistake, since his days at LSU, Hilliard has been a tough player to figure. Possessing so much talent, he always has been a little bit out of shape, a little bit too easy to bring down and not exactly self-motivated. All that changed in one season on the practice squad.
We saw the results, finally, Sunday night. Hilliard was everything he’s always been projected to be, which makes Blue, well, that thing the Texans need to get rid of. You know, that thing.