Texans roster: Where the defense stands

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
3:23
PM ET
As the offseason progresses, we'll watch the Texans' new coaching staff mold the roster.

Thought it was prudent, though, to take a look at where things stand with the roster right now. I've not included players who finished last season on the practice squad, though those players are technically on the active roster right now.

A position-by-position look at the defense first:

Defensive end: The Texans still have a chance to re-sign Antonio Smith, who is off on his free agent tour (visits with Washington and Tennessee are finished, Oakland is today and St. Louis will follow). But right now this position includes J.J. Watt, Jared Crick and Tim Jamison. Crick started in place of Smith during his suspension last season and it's feasible for him to start opposite Watt if the group remains like this.

Defensive tackle: Officially there's nothing here. Earl Mitchell left for Miami and the Cowboys signed Terrell McClain. Crick can play tackle in a pinch, but "in a pinch" isn't how you want to start the season so I'd expect this position to be addressed soon. Otherwise, um, Crick better start eating some butter.

Outside linebacker: Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Ricky Sapp and Trevardo Williams make up this group. Learning from Mike Vrabel is going to be great for Mercilus, who hasn't tapped his full potential quite yet. Williams, a 2013 fourth-round draft pick, came very close to being released last season, but instead suffered an injury and spent the year on injured reserve.

Inside linebacker: This position has one of the two best players on the defense in Brian Cushing. I'm not sure the other starter is on the roster, though perhaps that's a position in which Justin Tuggle, an undrafted rookie last season, could grow into. Jeff Tarpinian, Mike Mohamed and Paul Hazel are the other inside linebackers on the roster.

Cornerback: Starters Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson return as does A.J. Bouye (an undrafted rookie who showed promise last season), Josh Victorian and Brandon Harris. This position has the fewest issues of any on defense.

Safety: Danieal Manning returns from a serious injury he suffered when he hyperextended his knee last season. D.J. Swearinger replaced him last season and returns this season. It's feasible that he and Manning could start together, with Manning playing free safety. Shiloh Keo started there last season and returns along with Eddie Pleasant and Jawanza Starling.

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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