Houston Texans: A.J. Bouye

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.

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.

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

What it's like to make an NFL roster

September, 2, 2013
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
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
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.