Houston Texans: A.J. Bouye

The NFL released its performance-based pay today, and safety Kendrick Lewis, guard Ben Jones, and cornerback A.J. Bouye were the Houston Texans' top three earners.

Lewis earned $209,465.32, Jones $186,136.42, and Bouye $167,926.65. There were five players who earned at least $150,000 and 14 who earned at least $100,000.

Performance-based pay rewards players with relatively low salaries who had a significant amount of playing time.

Next after Lewis, Jones, and Bouye were guard Brandon Brooks ($164,551.12), safety D.J. Swearinger (152,574.44), linebacker Mike Mohamed ($145, 106.93), running back Alfred Blue ($141,967.63), defensive end Jared Crick ($140,813.99), receiver Damaris Johnson ($126,643.21), linebacker Justin Tuggle ($122,141.11), tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz ($112,641.43), tight end Ryan Griffin ($109,085.68), and defensive backs Andre Hal ($108,541.96) and Jumal Rolle ($106,899.41).
Here's a look at how the Texans allocated their cap space at the cornerback position.

Texans' Adjusted Cap Value: $133,467,230
Cap Value: $110,222,071
Dead Money / Other: $21,865,072
Cap Space: $1,380,087

Cornerbacks: $17,335,123 vs cap, 38.26 percent of defensive cap, 15.73 percent of overall cap

Johnathan Joseph: $11,250,000 vs cap, 24.83 percent of defensive cap, 10.21 percent of overall cap

Kareem Jackson: $4,335,000 vs cap, 9.57 percent of defensive cap, 3.93 percent of overall cap

A.J. Bouye: $496,666 vs cap, 1.1 percent of defensive cap, .45 percent of overall cap

Darryl Morris: $495,000 vs cap, 1.09 percent of defensive cap, .45 percent of overall cap

Andre Hal: $437,281 vs cap, .97 percent of defensive cap, .34 percent of overall cap

Jumal Rolle: $321,176 vs cap, .71 percent of defensive cap, .29 percent of overall cap

Joseph's $11.25 million cap figure for the 2014 season led to some speculation about his future with the Texans last offseason. The problem with that line of thinking was that the Texans couldn't have replaced Joseph with someone who could play at his level. It increases next season to $12.25 million. Jackson will become a free agent this season and was a relative bargain on the last year of his rookie deal. Joseph and Jackson, both with significantly higher cap hits than the league average, were the only two Texans' defensive backs overall to make more than the league average at his position.
The Wednesday editions or our series examining playing time and salary-cap allocation turn now to the defensive backfield.

Cornerbacks

Of this group, Jackson is the only one scheduled to hit free agency. When active for games, he played more than any other corner, though Jackson missed three games to injury. He played outside and then slid inside when the defense called for a slot corner. Jackson spent last offseason learning the position and did well, offering that versatility to the Texans. Mack was only on the roster for a short period of time, released on Oct. 28, about the time when the Texans picked up Rolle. Hal, a rookie seventh-round draft pick, had plenty of playing time early in the season, but played saw five snaps in the last seven games.
HOUSTON -- Houston Texans safety Kendrick Lewis is typically on the field for most if not all of the team's defensive snaps. That means he's had a lot more plays than most other players throughout the league.

On Sunday, Lewis and the rest of the Texans' defense got a bit of a breather. The Texans' won time of possession 35:22 to 24:38 and were on the field for only 61 defensive snaps in their 30-16 victory.

"It was great seeing it," Lewis said. "Our offense was just driving the ball. We seen it as the game progresses, as we got to the fourth quarter. We were still up and running around and playing fast and physical to where (the Titans' defensive players) were wearing down. Really enjoyed it."

That number is lower than any game during the Texans' three-game losing streak that was stopped with the win in Tennessee. It's significantly lower than against the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys, when the Texans' defense was on the field for 87 and 76 plays, respectively.

"Coach was telling us we have to get off the field on third down, and we really wasn’t doing that the past previous weeks," Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye said. "It’s helpful when you get a lot of three-and-outs, because you get off the field, get the offense the ball more. Just being good on first and second down, getting a good situation on third down helped us out a lot, and that caused them to get into third-and-long situations, which helped us get more aggressive on calls to get off the field."

The chart, courtesy of ESPN Stats & information, shows the Texans' defense has been on the field a lot this season, a product of an offense struggling to sustain drives and defensive mistakes.

"I think a lot of it has to do with just overall fatigue, and the more snaps you’re on the field, the more tired you’re going to be, and when you get tired your mental toughness kind of wavers a little bit," defensive end Jared Crick said. "So I think it does have something to do with it, but at the same time we have a lot of reps in practice, we should be in pretty good shape, and if the offense does their part, stays on the field, keeps us on the field for only half the game, obviously that’s going to be beneficial."

The Film Don't Lie: Texans

October, 14, 2014
10/14/14
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HOUSTON -- A weekly examination of what the Houston Texans must fix.

To better their chances of topping the Pittsburgh Steelers next week on "Monday Night Football," the Houston Texans will need to regain control of opponents' explosive plays. They were particularly problematic last week against the Indianapolis Colts, mostly because of receiver T.Y. Hilton.

Bomb after bomb went Hilton's way. He beat at least three different Texans defensive backs in one-on-one coverage and sometimes created space for himself to the point where there were no Texans around him. He caught passes of 49, 40, 37 and 33 yards and was part of why the Texans now lead the NFL in allowing plays that gain 30-plus yards. The Texans have allowed 12 -- 11 passes and one run.

Pittsburgh ranks second in the league in plays that go 30 yards or longer with 11 (the Texans have 10), eight of them passes and three rushes.

"We've just got to take coaching and do what we're supposed to do, play the call and just do it right and not try to help other people out would be good," Texans' cornerback A.J. Bouye said.

I asked if it was difficult to have that discipline, and he said it wasn't. It just takes trusting the calls and trusting your teammates. Another solution safety Kendrick Lewis offered on Thursday was better communication on the back end of the defense.
HOUSTON -- This could be a problem for the Houston Texans against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

 Andre Johnson is questionable with an ankle injury. He said Wednesday that his ankle was fine, but that was Wednesday and something could have happened during the week to aggravate the injury. Johnson did not practice Wednesday, was limited on Thursday and then did not practice on Friday.

Running back Arian Foster, who played through a hamstring injury last week, but was not fully healthy and so not fully effective, is listed as probable, which indicates a 75 percent chance he'll play. It's rare for someone listed as probable to not play.

Another big issue for the Texans this week will be with their secondary. They were able to soften the blog of losing A.J. Bouye, their third corner, last week, because Darryl Morris stepped in and played well. They'll be without Bouye and Morris this week.

"We’ve done a good job, I believe, with the depth there," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "We do have some guys there, if a guy goes down, the next guy needs to step up and we have confidence in that. Where it affects you is in special teams."

Rookie Andre Hal will see a lot more playing time because of this.

"He’s definitely improved," O'Brien said of Hal. "He’s gotten better and better as time has gone on here. He’s got a high ceiling. He’s a smart guy, he’s a very hard working guy. He understands the scheme. Probably the main way he can get better is through experience."

Here's the full game status report:

Texans
Cowboys
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Houston Texans' 23-17 win against the Buffalo Bills.
  • Texans owner Bob McNair couldn't believe his eyes when he saw J.J. Watt run back an interception 80 yards for a touchdown. "He's worth every cent, he's worth every cent," McNair said of the defensive end he awarded a $100 million contract to this offseason. "I hope he doesn't come in tomorrow and ask for a raise."
  • Hopkins
    The celebration from DeAndre Hopkins that incurred a 15-yard penalty involved his dropping to the ground with the ball, lying in a half circle and acting like a dead fish after catching a 35-yard touchdown pass. "It's highly known in soccer, so the soccer fans know what it was," Hopkins said. It's apparently illegal in the NFL. Hopkins didn't know that when he did it, and got an earful from coach Bill O'Brien during the game.
  • Cornerback Darryl Morris filled in as the Texans' third corner with A.J. Bouye out with a groin injury and made the game-sealing interception. As that final pass from Bills quarterback EJ Manuel fluttered through the air toward him, he had one thought: "Don't drop it."
  • Cornerback Kareem Jackson can be seen in the frame running behind Watt as he returned the interception 80 yards, making sure nobody got to him. "I was just trying to get in the way. The big fella has some wheels on him, so I figured if I got in the way, then he would take it to the house."

W2W4: Houston Texans

August, 23, 2014
8/23/14
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DENVER -- The Houston Texans (1-1) and Denver Broncos (2-0) face each other in their third preseason game Saturday night at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium. Here's what to watch for:

1. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: He recovered in a big way from his uninspiring debut this preseason. Two scoring drives showed a marked improvement last weekend compared to his performance in the Texans' preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The Fitzpatrick who appeared against the Falcons is much closer to the quarterback I've seen in practices lately than the one who could barely stay on the field in Arizona. His improvement needs to be a trend, though. Fitzpatrick needs to be more consistent, especially outside of two-minute drills.

2. The slot receivers: The position is a competitive these days. Mike Thomas was the early leader, and he has still looked excellent in practices, but don't count out Keshawn Martin. This week's game will be important for both. Thomas sat out last weekend against Atlanta after getting knocked in his helmet during the week of practices against the Falcons. Martin and undrafted rookie Travis Labhart really took advantage of his absence.

3. The secondary: The Texans' depth at defensive back grew before our eyes from Week 1 to Week 2. I don't expect starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph to play tonight, which means another serious look at those guys against the best passing game in the NFL. We'll couch this by saying preseason games involve a pared down playbook and little game-planning. But the Texans will still learn a lot by watching cornerbacks such as A.J. Bouye, Elbert Mack and Andre Hal, who have all had promising moments this preseason. Mack, especially, had a strong week against the Broncos in practice. He could fight his way onto the roster in the next two weeks.

Texans Camp Report: Day 19

August, 13, 2014
8/13/14
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HOUSTON -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Houston Texans training camp.
  • Wednesday marked the first of two joint practices between the Texans' and Atlanta Falcons. The teams decided not to go live with tackling, but limited contact to "thuds." They did periods of work on separate fields, then joined for some team drills before a group of fans there for the open practice. Oh, and, "Hard Knocks" was there, too, though careful not to get too close to the Texans. Asked if he'd be open to his team being featured on Hark Knocks, Texans' coach Bill O'Brien replied: "I’m always open to anything that helps our team get better."
  • Young cornerback A.J. Bouye, an undrafted rookie last season, got a great test on Wednesday, facing Falcons receiver Roddy White quite a bit. During one drill, Bouye and White went against each other three times. Once White won. Once Bouye won. The third time, Bouye had his hand in White's face and White dropped the ball. Other reporters watching the play with me thought it was a straight drop by White. I thought Bouye made an impact on the play. But even if it was merely a draw with White, that's pretty good from Bouye. Later, during a seven-on-seven drill, Bouye knocked the ball away from White again.
  • Speaking of White, that Atlanta tandem of White and Julio Jones is one that Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins really looked up to before coming into the NFL. We asked Hopkins if he had a chance to say hello. He said he did have the chance, but didn't do it. Why? He wanted to play it cool, instead of seeming like a fan.
  • Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan got a stiff challenge from the Texans' defense. During one set of team drills, he had his first pass batted away, he had J.J. Watt in his face on the next (completed it, but Watt wasn't allowed to tackle him), and on the third pass, he threw one incomplete while facing excellent pressure form the Texans' front.
  • Atlanta's offensive line was a problem last season. It's part of why they drafted tackle Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M. Matthews' roots go deep in Houston as the son of former Oilers Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews (who attended Wednesday's practice). The younger Matthews got tested against Watt. The offensive and defensive line one-on-one drills happen on the end of the field that the media can't see, so I can't speak to what happened there. But I did see a play early in practice during a team drill when the two faced each other. Watt rushed Matthews and the rookie held up against him.
  • Offensive guard Xavier Su'a-Filo got some first-team reps today. O'Brien has liked the way he's progressed. He had a lot of catching up to do after missing the spring workouts due to an NFL rule.
So much attention is paid to the draft process that sometimes it's easy to forget not every important piece on a football team comes from the top three rounds of the draft. Talent can sometimes take a bit of development. Other times, evaluators are just wrong.

That's not to say you don't have to get lucky to hit on someone so many people missed -- but sometimes you do.

Training camp is when players really have a chance to prove they're worth a starting spot or sometimes merely a roster spot. Today we'll look at five players who I think will be positive developments for the Houston Texans. And I know I'll get yelled at for the first one.

Newton
Newton
1. Right tackle Derek Newton: Newton was rightfully maligned often during last season. His pass protection wasn't good. He was decent in run blocking, but because Newton's bad plays were so bad that was easy to dismiss. The Texans weren't as ready to give up on him as many fans, though. They didn't take a tackle in the draft or seek one during free agency. I believe he'll be better as the Texans' starting right tackle in 2014 for these reasons: He acknowledges last season wasn't good and his coaches are focusing very heavily on his technique. He was a seventh-round pick in 2011, which isn't a place you usually get starters, but Texans' coach Bill O'Brien is confident he can be one.

2. Defensive end Jared Crick: Perhaps this one won't be too much of a surprise to those who have paid close attention to the Texans' defensive line situation. Crick backed up Antonio Smith last season, playing in his place when Smith was suspended for the season opener. He's quick and strong. Of course, you learn more with pads on than when guys at these positions are practicing in shorts and t-shirts. Crick was a fourth-round draft pick by the Texans in 2012.

Bouye
Bouye
3. Cornerback A.J. Bouye: Undrafted rookies love to point to Arian Foster's chance with the Houston Texans as a reason for optimism. The truth is, any staff will keep you if you've proven you deserve it. Bouye did it last season, but wound up on injured reserve midway through. He's looked good in coverage drills during OTAs and minicamp, where he's gotten significant playing time because of Johnathan Joseph's absence as he recovers from his January surgery.

4. Receiver Alan Bonner: Bonner was a sixth-round pick for the Texans last season, but spent all season on injured reserve. He's 5-10, 191, but plays bigger than that. He's been working in the slot, he said, and involved in the competition to return for the Texans. Here's good news for Bonner: At the start of minicamp, O'Brien included Bonner among a group of second-year players who he believed had shown improvement.

5. Outside linebacker Ricky Sapp: Now on the third team of his career, Sapp feels like he might have finally found a football home with the Texans. The Jets waived Sapp last season and the Texans claimed him of waivers. They liked him enough to re-sign him after that and Sapp has certainly caught the attention of coaches. There was plenty of opportunity for outside linebackers during OTAs and minicamp with Brooks Reed practicing at inside linebacker most of the time and Sapp, who played five games for the Texans last season, has taken advantage of it.

The inaugural Texans Twitter mailbag

September, 14, 2013
9/14/13
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What it's like to make an NFL roster

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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HOUSTON -- Linebacker Justin Tuggle came in with the support of a father who spent 14 years in the NFL.

Running back Cierre Wood, with the desperation of someone who wasn't drafted and wanted to provide for his daughter.

[+] EnlargeCierre Wood
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsCierre Wood was one of four undrafted rookies to make Houston's 53-man roster.
Outside linebacker Willie Jefferson wanted to shed the weight of having nearly derailed his football career because of off-the-field mistakes.

And cornerback A.J. Bouye arrived knowing only he and his father believed he could make it.

Last Thursday all four undrafted rookies played in the final preseason game of the season. Wood convinced himself it was just another game, then excelled in front of a Cowboys team he thought would draft him.

"Hey, that's what they get," Wood said.

Tuggle and Jefferson made their final impressions. Bouye caught an interception, then got screamed at for celebrating in the middle of Dallas' star at midfield.

On cut day, you get a phone call if you're cut. They all went back to their hotel hoping their phones didn't ring.

Bouye couldn't sleep. He stayed up all night watching ESPN, hoping to catch highlights of his UCF Knights, who had blown out Akron earlier that night.

On Friday, Wood and Jefferson stared at their phones together. Tuggle tried to go through his regular morning routine.

By midday they arrived at Reliant Stadium. Jefferson avoided coaches, theorizing if they couldn't find him, they couldn't cut him. By the time that day's team meeting began, they knew they were on the 53-man roster.

Tuggle texted his father before practice.

"He really just couldn't believe it," Tuggle said. "It was a big day for me and it was a big day for him, too."

Bouye called his father.

"He yelled," Bouye said. "He was just yelling. I think he wanted to cry. He was the only one I felt that really believed in me. He knew from day one that I could make it."

Jefferson called his father, too, then a list of family members.

"A lot of hard work and dedication paid off," Jefferson said. "A lot of old things from my past fell off my shoulders."

Wood called his daughter Braelyn, who turns 2 on September 29. She didn't say much. He spoke to his mother who started to pray.

"That's exactly what I did at that point," Wood said. "Got on my knees and I just broke down myself."

Reality sets in soon.

"I'm proud I accomplished that, but this is just the beginning," Tuggle said.

All of their tryouts continue from here.

Observation deck: Texans-Cowboys

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
12:23
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Gary Kubiak will have some decisions to make in the next several hours. Many of them were made much easier by Thursday night's final preseason game, in which his Houston Texans beat the Dallas Cowboys 24-6.

The game saw both backup quarterbacks play well, and made it very likely the Texans will keep three on their roster this season.

It showcased the two remaining running backs whom Kubiak needed to see more of in Cierre Wood and Dennis Johnson. Wood helped himself with 107 rushing yards and a 5.6-yards-per-carry average. Johnson hurt himself with three fumbles, one of which he lost, and difficulty fielding returns. Kubiak said he already knew enough about veteran running back Deji Karim, so he didn't play him much at all.

Cornerback A.J. Bouye showed skill with an interception. Then he got chewed out after he incurred a 15-yard penalty for standing in the middle of the Cowboys' star, his arms outstretched like Terrell Owens. The undrafted rookie said he probably won't even sleep Thursday night waiting to hear whether or not he made the team.

And tight end Ryan Griffin showed exactly why the Texans drafted him in a performance that included five catches for 87 yards.

The decisions will start tomorrow -- and could finish then, too. Stay tuned.

W2W4: Texans-Cowboys

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
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Eleven undrafted rookies remain with the Houston Texans after their first set of cuts, and it's a group that coach Gary Kubiak loves.

"Boy, if you look at our [college] free-agent class, this might be about as good as we’ve had as far as the numbers that could possibly be on this football team come final roster cuts next week," he said. "I've been very pleased with some of the free-agent acquisitions we've had coming out of college, that they have a chance to make us better."

I've already taken a look at five players who could be impacted by tonight's game against Dallas. In this edition of W2W4, we'll look at three undrafted rookies:

1. CB A.J. Bouye: Last season the Texans realized just how important defensive-back depth is when they had a rash of injuries at the position late in the season. Bouye, undrafted out of the University of Central Florida, has a real chance to make the roster and contribute to that depth. He has five tackles during the preseason. In college, he had six interceptions, including three his senior season.

2. OLB Willie Jefferson: Jefferson has played defense for only two full football seasons after starting his college career as a wide receiver. He's taken to it really well. Given how little time he's spent learning his new position, he has a lot of room to grow. In the preseason, he's had three quarterback hits, including one sack. He also has one batted pass. Jefferson is developing a keen sense of timing that helps his pass-rush ability. His run-stopping skills need a bit more work.

3. RB Cierre Wood: Wood left Notre Dame early, driven to find a role on an NFL team. Though it seems young veteran Deji Karim is in the lead to be the Texans' third running back, Wood could fight his way onto the roster, or at least the practice squad, with a good performance tonight. He really started to garner notice once the games began and has seemed a bit ahead of fellow undrafted rookie Dennis Johnson. Both will get looks tonight.

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