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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Draft picks improve defense

The Houston Texans made noise during the weekend’s NFL Draft, using the No. 15 overall selection on USC linebacker Brian Cushing.

Cushing should become an impact starter as outside linebacker, playing alongside DeMeco Ryans. A strong player who tackles well and can play the run will provide a lot of help for Mario Williams and the Texans defense. Cushing, who has great range and solid speed, will need to make plays for a Texans defense that has room for improvement.

The Texans had seven more picks in the draft, including two in the fourth round.

Houston took Cincinnati defensive end Connor Barwin 46th overall. Barwin is a former tight end who has great speed, including a 4.66-second 40-yard dash. He might start opposite Williams on the Texans defensive line because of his ability to drop back in coverage and make tackles in the open field. Don’t be surprised if Barwin occasionally plays at tight end for the Texans.

The Texans’ third round pick (No. 77 overall) is center Antoine Caldwell from Alabama. Caldwell was a four-year starter at a powerhouse college football program, where he was the co-captain of the offense since his sophomore season. The All-American anchored Alabama’s offensive line and has determination that should turn him into a good professional as his skills improve.

The Texans picked up safety Glover Quin from New Mexico in the fourth round (112th overall). The Texans finally addressed a huge need in the secondary with Quin, who has a keen eye for the ball. Although Quin is undersized as a safety, he has good game knowledge and takes good angles to make plays on the ball carrier.

Ten picks later, the Texans picked up Anthony Hill, the top-rated blocking tight end, out of North Carolina State (122nd overall). Hill is a strong tight end whose blocking will be key in goal-line situations.

The Texans’ fifth-round pick (No. 152) won’t have to adjust to a new city, as versatile tight end James Casey joins the Texans. Casey can play in numerous positions and schemes, including the wildcat formation.

The 6-foot-4-inch, 246-pound Casey brings a ‘Tim Tebow’ dimension to the Texans because of his ability to pass and rush the ball. Casey, a former professional baseball player and triple-major at Rice, should turn out to be an excellent late-round pickup for the Texans.

Houston’s sixth and seventh-round picks were Utah cornerback Brice McCain and Arizona State safety Troy Nolan, respectively. McCain is undersized, but has great speed out of the back pedal. He should replace cornerback DeMarcus Faggins, who signed with the Titans on April 1, as a nickel cornerback if he makes the team. Nolan has good size and great ball skills, but must improve his tackling. He should be a player to watch, considering the Texans are weak at safety.

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