NFL Nation: Hebron Fangupo

Most significant move: The Steelers cut a pair of players who appeared in games for them last season. In the process, their plans along the defensive line came more into focus. The team released defensive end Brian Arnfelt, who appeared in two games at the end of last season, and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, who played in four games in 2013. Josh Mauro, an undrafted rookie, has the edge for the last defensive spot if the Steelers keep seven defensive linemen, and rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers, a sixth-round pick, is almost sure to stick on the 53-man roster. Defensive end Ethan Hemer may be the odd man out with defensive end Nick Williams and nose tackle Roy Philon likely grabbing spots on the practice squad. Arnfelt entered training camp with a good chance at making the team, but the second-year man fell out of favor with the coaches and Mauro passed him at defensive end. Williams still has a chance to unseat Mauro if he plays well in the Steelers’ final preseason game Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.

Running back shuffle: The Steelers are down to five running backs after releasing three at that position Tuesday, including Tauren Poole, who got a long look from the coaches. A roster spot is there for the taking if either Josh Harris or Stephen Houston seizes the final opportunity against the Panthers. The Steelers may go with three running backs and fullback Will Johnson even given the uncertain status of starter Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Coach Mike Tomlin has said the team is considering all options as far as punishment following their arrest on marijuana possession charges. (Bell has also been charged with driving under the influence.) That includes a suspension -- and the Steelers can maneuver around the collective bargaining agreement by simply deactivating Bell, Blount or both for the Sept. 7 season opener against the Browns. I don’t expect the Steelers to sit either for an entire game, and a suspension from the NFL wouldn’t come until next season. That means Harris or Houston will have to play his way on to the 53-man roster, or the two could be vying for a spot on the practice squad. The Steelers will also keep an eye on the waiver wire to see which running backs become available at the end of the week.

Steelers’ moves: Arnfelt, S Jordan Dangerfield, C Chris Elkins, Fangupo, WR C.J. Goodwin, RB Jordan Hall, LS Luke Ingram, RB Miguel Maysonet, OT Emmanuel McCray, WR Kashif Moore, Poole, CB Devin Smith, OLB Vic So’oto, CB Lew Toler, TE Eric Waters

Steelers Camp Report: Day 7

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
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LATROBE, Pa. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp:
  • The offense and defense battled to a draw in one of the most anticipated drills of training camp. The offense scored three touchdowns in six attempts from the 1-yard line in the goal-line drill. Ben Roethlisberger threw an easy touchdown pass to tight end Matt Spaeth off play-action to start the drill. The play call didn’t sit well with the defense and might have contributed to cornerback Ike Taylor and LeGarrette Blount later jawing at each other from across the field. Tauren Poole and Josh Harris each scored on 1-yard runs, but the defense held its own, stopping three runs other short of the end zone. Inside linebacker Vince Williams blew up Poole short of the end zone, putting an exclamation on an impressive day. Williams had delivered a monster hit earlier in practice when he obliterated running back Miguel Maysonet in an 11-on-11 drill.
  • Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant had his best practice of training camp. The fourth-round draft pick made a handful of difficult catches. None were more impressive than when Bryant twisted his body while on the run to catch a Bruce Gradkowski pass that had sailed behind the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Bryant in the end zone. “He’s a big, so we expect him to consistently make big-guy plays,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Bryant. "I’m interested in him developing a complete game.”
  • Tempers flared again a day after the first fight of training camp broke out and nearly turned into a brawl. Outside linebacker Chris Carter and left tackle Kelvin Beachum had to be separated at the end of one play during a red-zone drill. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo went at it during goal-line drills and punches were thrown before the two were separated.
  • Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missed his second consecutive practice after sustaining a concussion last Thursday and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt remains out with groin tightness. Tomlin gave tight end Heath Miller and nose tackle Steve McLendon the day off in part so he could look at some of the younger players at those positions. Safety Mike Mitchell did some work, Tomlin said, and he might be close to returning. Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Steelers in March, has been on the physically unable to perform list since reporting to camp with a groin injury.
  • Rookie running back Dri Archer showcased his speed in one-on-one passing drills. Matched up several times against Lawrence Timmons, Archer made an over-the-shoulder catch after separating from Timmons on a wheel route. Earlier in the drill, Archer caught a pass in front of Timmons, stopped and then ran right past him.
  • The Steelers practice Sunday and Monday from 2:55 to 5:30 p.m. ET. The players are off on Tuesday and practice will resume on Wednesday.

No suprises among Steelers inactives

November, 3, 2013
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There are no surprises among the Pittsburgh Steelers' healthy scratches Sunday.

Inside linebacker Kion Wilson is inactive for the second game in a row since the Steelers promoted him from the practice squad.

Wilson’s status just confirms that when the Steelers released Isaac Redman a couple of weeks ago they did so because they had no use for the veteran running back.

Wilson benefited from Redman’s release but if the Steelers really needed another linebacker on the 53-man roster he would have suited up in each or at least one of the past two games.

Also inactive for the Steelers are right guard David DeCastro (ankle), wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger), cornerback Curtis Brown, nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, tight end Richard Gordon and quarterback Landry Jones.

Wheaton did some light catching with the other wide receivers a couple of hours before kickoff, and he appears to be moving closer to returning to the field.

Wheaton will miss his fourth game in a row after having surgery to fix a broken right pinkie.

The Patriots will be without top cornerback Aqib Talib (hip) while wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins is inactive after playing just 14 snaps last Sunday.

Houston Texans cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
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Click here for the complete list of Houston Texans' roster moves.

Most significant move: Backup free safety Troy Nolan was a surprising cut, and won’t be on the market for very long. Shiloh Keo stuck. While he’s a willing special-teamer and can hit, he strikes me as too slow and I certainly wouldn’t want him on the field on defense. The Texans traded cornerback Sherrick McManis to the Chicago Bears for fullback Tyler Clutts, who’s expected to back up James Casey. The Texans are a tricky team at fullback, as the lead blocker is important in the zone-run scheme, but they use Casey, who’s more of an H-back with excellent hands. Clutts looks to be an upgrade from Moran Norris, who was cut. Clutts has pro experience, playing in the UFL, AFL and CFL.

Onward and upward: Nose tackle Hebron Fangupo was released, but he is surely a guy the Texans would like to sign to the practice squad, where they could nurture and develop him. Houston doesn't have great depth at the spot, which is generally shared by Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell. Antonio Smith shifts inside in the nickel package, when the outside linebackers creep forward and it’s basically a four- or five-man line. Undrafted out of BYU, Hebron is listed as 6-feet and 324 pounds -- more than 20 pounds more than the Texans’ heaviest lineman. While Wade Phillips is fine with smaller nose tackles, having a big one who can develop is a welcome change.

What’s next: John Beck is on the roster as a third quarterback a year after the Texans got a real feel for the importance of depth when they lost Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart inside two games. They like undrafted rookie Case Keenum, who was cut, as well; he could head for the practice squad. But how many snaps can the Texans get him during the week if he’s fourth in line? Generally, the backup and/or a veteran runs the scout team, so that work will be done by T.J. Yates or Beck. Whatever snaps Schaub doesn’t take in a practice week will go to Yates. Perhaps they feel OK about Andrew Gardner as their swing tackle now that Rashad Butler is lost for the season with a torn triceps, but they could be looking for a guy to provide tackle depth.

Three things: Texans at Saints

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
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Three things to look for tonight as the Texans go against the Saints in their third preseason game of the summer tonight (8 ET) in New Orleans.

The three young receivers: Heading into the biggest preseason game, it seems Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean and DeVier Posey rank in that order, but there is still a chance for some jockeying for roles and snaps. When they are on the field, any success they can have with quarterback Matt Schaub will help their cause. A good outing for Martin would likely solidify his standing, but Jean may be more explosive. Gary Kubiak can find roles for both at the start of the year if he feels they are worthy.

Rotating tackles: When Duane Brown became the Texans left tackle, the Texans eased him in his first few games by rotating him with veteran Ephraim Salaam. They are now at least considering doing the same with the two guys competing for the right tackle job now, veteran Rashad Butler and youngster Derek Newton. I wonder about the chemistry and rhythm such a platoon can get in the way of. But if one of them doesn’t distinguish himself, then they could both be in line for time in the season opener Sept. 9 against Miami.

Nose tackle: Shaun Cody (back) and Sunny Harris (done for the year with a torn triceps) won’t play, so Earl Mitchell and undrafted rookie Hebron Fangupo are the lone nose tackles available for the Texans. Ends Jared Crick and Tim Jamison are also rated by coaches as being able to play the nose in the Texans’ defense as well. The position isn’t generally part of the nickel package and barring an injury, it should be a problem. Also out on defense, inside linebacker Brian Cushing (ribs) isn’t with the team.
HOUSTON -- Even the regulars who stay late had disappeared from the Texans’ practice fields after Tuesday morning’s practice.

But at the far end were Jared Crick, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, David Hunter and Hebron Fangupo, four defensive linemen who collectively account for one regular-season NFL game appearance.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Smith
Brett Davis/US PresswireAntonio Smith, a nine-year veteran, is not shy when it comes to teaching inexperienced players some of his rushing techniques.
They stayed after practice to work with veteran lineman Antonio Smith, who patiently talked with them and showed off tips against a tackling dummy. There were pointers about technique, hand placement, swipes, lean, leverage, balance, reading blockers and more. And everybody took a turn working against the dummy after each little lesson.

Smith said he just re-started the sessions, which he’s done before but had faded during the daily grind of camp.

“Now that practices are starting to lighten up, we’ve got time to work on technique,” Smith said. “A guy named Chike Okeafor used to work with me in Arizona, before and after practice.

"When someone who’s been in the game awhile and has some knowledge could see what I was doing, was paying attention to what I was doing and could tell me how to do it better, I think it helped me a lot.”

Now as he looks to pay it forward, Smith said he keeps no secrets.

“If there is something I can do that they want to know about, I’m an open book," he said.

It’s one of the subtly striking things about being teammates in football. While a guy will fight like hell to keep his job, he’s also expected to assist a guy who plays his position and may ultimately take his spot. Veterans who don't offer such help or respond well to questions are typically not regarded as team guys.

Smith’s hardly at risk now, and among today’s pupil’s Crick may be the only one to stick. The rookie end was a fourth-round draft pick.

“If you can see a guy like Antonio who’s been in the league coming on a decade, putting in all the little work, you realize why he’s been in the league that long, why he’s been that successful,” Crick said. “You’ve just got to follow that lead. Hopefully down the road I can be as good as him some day and do that for somebody else.”

Smith’s versatility is a key piece of the Texans’ successful front. He’s an end in the base defense, but moves inside and plays tackle in nickel.

The post-practice period was not the only impressive work I saw by Smith.

Tuesday during a pass rush period of practice, with Connor Barwin outside him, the two rushers worked in tandem, often against starting left tackle Duane Brown and left guard Wade Smith. I thought the defenders looked just about unstoppable in that setting.

“Me and Connor have got to the point where we basically know how each other is going to rush, whether it’s a designated game or we both are doing our own rush,” Smith said. “We know how we’ll end up and can work off each other.”

Smith said he likes both end and tackle, but has always liked rushing the three-technique the best.

“I think it’s more banging, grimy on the inside,” he said. “And it’s the quickest pathway to the quarterback. It’s the hardest to rush, but the quickest path.”
AFC hidden treasures: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

Examining a position group that could exceed its preseason expectations:

What’s hidden on the Houston Texans? Not very much.

They’ve got blue chippers at running back, receiver, center, left guard and tight end if Owen Daniels is healthy. A healthy Matt Schaub is a proven quarterback in the system. On the defensive side, they’ve got a loaded, swarming front and quality defensive backs.

I don’t want to turn to special teams, as it’s an area where I don’t feel great about them, with unknowns in the return game and, probably, a rookie kicker in Randy Bullock.

Help.

One group I don’t expect great things from is the defensive tackles. So they win by default. Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell were sufficient last year, thanks largely to all the playmakers around them. In their second year playing as less-than-mammoth nose tackles in Wade Phillips’ system, they can be better. Undrafted rookie Hebron Fangupo from Brigham Young is intriguingly thick. At 324 pounds, he’s listed at 23 pounds heavier than Cody, who’s bigger than Mitchell.

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