Cornerback Alan Ball and running back Justin Forsett, who signed with the Texans on Monday, were excited to get to work with their new team at practice at the Methodist Training Center on the seventh day of organized team activities (OTAs).
Ball played for Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in Dallas from 2007-10. After starting 16 games in Phillips’ last season as Cowboys head coach, he started only two games in 2011 and was not re-signed this offseason.
“I enjoyed Wade when he was in Dallas,” Ball said Monday. “Things happened, but I definitely enjoyed the defense and I think this defense works and I believe in the system, and I’m excited to be in it again.
“The energy that they have here is infectious. With (defensive backs) Coach Vance (Joseph) and the guys, the energy that they carry throughout the drills, throughout the play, it’s just infectious, so I’m happy to be here.”
Ball was a seventh-round draft pick in 2007 who spent most of his rookie season on the Cowboys’ practice squad. He played in 60 games with 21 starts in five seasons in Dallas.
“I’m a work-hard guy,” he said. “I’ve been in the game a little bit, so I’m a work-hard guy. I’m going to do things the right way… It’s a part of working hard and coming to work every day and knowing what you’ve got to do when you get there and trying to figure out how you can help the team in doing that when you get your chance.”
Forsett, a seventh-round pick in 2008, was cut by the Seahawks and the Colts as a rookie before ending up back on Seattle’s practice squad. He had 114 rushing attempts in 2009 and 118 in 2010 – averaging 4.9 yards per carry in that span – but saw his workload diminish to just 46 attempts in 2011.
“It feels like a fresh start,” said Forsett, who went to high school in Arlington, Texas. “I’m happy to be here. I’m back home in Texas for a little bit. It feels good.”
Forsett will compete to be the Texans’ third running back behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate. He said it’s an honor to work with them, calling them “awesome individuals” and “two of the great backs in this league.” He also is excited to be on a winning team.
“I’m just blessed for this opportunity,” he said. “Sitting at home for all those weeks and a couple months, you relish the opportunity. You don’t take it for granted. I’m just thankful for the opportunity, and I’m going to grab the bull by the horns, so to speak.”
Added Forsett: “Here’s my chance. I’m ready to get back on the field and I’m not going to let it go.”
Tags: Alan Ball, Justin Forsett, Organized Team Activities, Wade Phillips
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The Texans have agreed to contracts with former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Alan Ball and former Seattle Seahawks running back Justin Forsett, according to multiple reports. The moves are not official, as they have not been announced by the team.
Ball, 27, was drafted by Dallas out of Illinois in 2007, Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ first year as Cowboys head coach. He played for Phillips for three-and-a-half seasons, starting 16 games and intercepting two passes in 2010. Ball (6-2, 197) started two games in 2011.
Forsett, 26, was a seventh-round pick out of California in 2008. He ran for 619 yards (5.4 per carry) in 2009, 523 (4.4 per carry) in 2010 and 145 (3.2 per carry) in 2011. Forsett (5-8, 198) has started seven games and has career totals of 1,287 rushing yards, 730 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Tags: Alan Ball, Free agency, Justin Forsett, Wade Phillips
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The Texans have had only three practices, and no contact or pads are allowed in organized team activities (OTAs), but head coach Gary Kubiak likes what he has seen out of first-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus.
The 26th overall pick from Illinois, Mercilus has been lining up at outside linebacker with the Texans’ second unit.
“He’s looked very good,” Kubiak said on Thursday. “(Linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) catches guys up very quick. He’s a hell of a coach. (Mercilus) is moving around very good, and he’s going to be a great addition to our team.”
The Texans expect Mercilus to form a three-man rotation at outside linebacker with Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed. Mercilus had an NCAA-best 16 sacks and nine forced fumbles last season at Illinois, his only season as a starter. Barwin led the Texans with 11.5 sacks in 2011, while Reed set a team rookie record with 6.0.
“He’s playing outside, obviously, so you’re coming most of the time,” Kubiak said of Mercilus. “Special teams-wise with (coordinator) Joe (Marciano), he’s getting a lot of work. Very bright young man. We knew that when we got him. Remember, (he had) just really one big, big year of college football, so watching him make this transition is pretty impressive.”
Mercilus also has made a good impression on his teammates.
“From what I have seen, he’s quick,” Pro Bowl defensive end and team captain Antonio Smith said. “Explosive. He got some power and he got some quickness, and he’s confident in himself. That’s always a good combination.”
Tags: Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, Organized Team Activities, Reggie Herring, Wade Phillips, Whitney Mercilus
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“A leader,” Kubiak said of James after Tuesday’s practice at the Methodist Training Center. “You can tell he’s been a leader of a group before. He’s very much under control with the defense. Fit right in with the group real quick. He’s been there every day. That’s what we asked of him. He’s come in and been everything (defensive coordinator) Wade (Phillips) and (linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) said he would be.”
Phillips and Herring coached James, 31, in Dallas from 2007-10. After the Texans signed James in April, Phillips called him “a warrior” and “coach on the field” and said he expected him to take a leadership role quickly in Houston.
Herring expects James to help fill the void left by DeMeco Ryans, the Texans’ longtime captain who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason.
“I think when you look at first of all what DeMeco was, he was a player rep, team captain, played inside linebacker,” Herring said. “Alright, Bradie James has been team captain for the last eight years for Dallas. He was their player rep. He was their leader. He was the leading tackler several years, and he brings a wealth of experience to the table. He knows our package. He’s a great pro. At the end of the day, whatever we lost with DeMeco, we felt real confident that we regained it with Bradie.
“On top of that, a guy that knows our position. He knows how to run our show. He presents and brings a certain calm to our defense. He knows all those checks. He knows those checks better than my guys knew ‘em last year between Cushing and DeMeco. So he brings a wealth of experience, knowledge, calmness, professionalism. Great work habits.”
James played Mike linebacker, Brian Cushing’s position last season in Houston, for the Cowboys. He had more than 100 tackles in each season under Phillips from 2007-10 but only 44 tackles in 2011 under new Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
“You can talk about his age,” Herring said. “He moves around out there better than them 21 year olds right now. So, at the end of the day, he’s revived. He’s got a fresh start. To be honest with you, he didn’t fit well in Dallas’ scheme (last season). There wasn’t a place for him, for whatever reason. I know before that, he led the NFL in inside ‘backers in sacks in this league with eight in our system (in 2008). That’s eight sacks by an IL. He had, I believe, 165 tackles, and that wasn’t but about three or two years ago in this league. So let’s don’t short come, and I don’t mind throwing it on the table, either. We’re pretty pleased with picking Bradie up, because we feel like we gained back what we lost with DeMeco leaving, and then some, to be honest with you.”
Tags: Bradie James, Brian Cushing, Gary Kubiak, Organized Team Activities, Reggie Herring, Wade Phillips
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Connor Barwin was the featured guest on “Texans All Access” on Tuesday afternoon on SportsRadio 610 AM. The fourth-year outside linebacker had plenty of interesting things to say in his hour-long studio visit – ranging from his thoughts on Co-Marshaling the Houston Art Car Parade on Saturday to looking like Kramer from ‘Seinfeld’ to these nuggets:
On what’s ahead for him after 11.5 sacks in 2011: “I’m very excited. When Reggie (Herring) and Wade (Phillips) came in, they kind of taught me a new way to pass rush a little bit. So now I have a year under my belt. I’ve completely kind of forgotten about the ankle injury and moved past that. I think another thing’s that going to help this season was drafting (Whitney) Mercilus, because I think that’ll give me and Brooks (Reed) a better rotation. Rushing the passer, you can say 70 percent or a lot of times is just hustle, and when you’re out there fresh, which there were times last season when we necessarily weren’t, should definitely give us an advantage into this season.”
On first-round pick Whitney Mercilus’ role: “Fortunately for him, he’ll play the Will, I think, behind me and then we’ll rotate. And then I think early on, we’ll see how much he can mentally grasp… Early on, he’ll just be rushing primarily, which will be nice. It’s just going to be catching on to learning the defense and just getting in there and rotating with all of us.”
On second-year outside linebacker Brooks Reed: “He’s the strongest guy on our team, probably, right now. He’s having a great offseason. Like me, he came in here and we were just learning the way that Wade and Reggie are teaching us how to pass rush. With another year under his belt, the sky’s the limit for him.”
On Texans left tackle Duane Brown: “I think he’s one of the best offensive tackles in the league and also one of the most underrated tackles in the league. He blocks me a lot in practice. He definitely gets me ready for the games… He mixes aggressiveness with athleticism. There’s a lot of left tackles out there, a lot of the good ones that people say are good like Joe Staley and Jake Long, they’re real athletic and they drop and they play with you and that kind of thing, but they don’t ever really attack you too hard… Duane kind of mixes both of ‘em, so you’ve always got to be ready for him.”
On if the Texans’ defense talks about wanting to rank No. 1 in the league: “No, we don’t talk about ranking, but they do say if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. So, that only leaves one spot for us to be next year.”
Tags: Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, Duane Brown, Reggie Herring, Texans All Access, Wade Phillips, Whitney Mercilus
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All eight 2012 draft picks and 21 undrafted free agents joined the team in the weight room and on the practice field after reporting to Reliant on Sunday. The Texans are in the fifth week of their voluntary offseason workout program, which leads up to the start of organized team activities (OTAs) on May 21.
“(We’re) just getting accustomed to the defense, meeting the new guys and meeting all the older guys and everything,” first-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus said. “They’ve been helping us out, showing us around the building and meetings rooms and stuff like that. The coaches are bringing us along pretty slowly or whatever, allowing us to understand what they do and telling us that it’s way different than what we did in college, so we have to forget what we did in college and get accustomed to the new techniques that they do here.”
Mercilus, an outside linebacker from Illinois who led the NCAA with 16 sacks in 2011, had a big smile on his face as he discussed his first impressions of Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
“Man,” he said, pausing briefly. “Awesome. He knows the defense inside and out. He knows everything, and also offenses, what they run, inside and out, so he knows the game. He’s a genius, no doubt. He’s a great guy, also. Easy to talk to. (I can) go to him for any type of questions I have, and he’ll help me out.”
Five of the Texans’ draft picks signed on Monday, including wide receiver/punt returner Keshawn Martin, a fourth-rounder from Michigan State.
“It felt good getting back out on the field,” Martin said. “Just coming here, being a part of the Texans, it’s a great thing. There’s still work to be done, so every day, I’m going to just keep working.”
Former University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum was among the undrafted free agents to join the team on Monday.
“It was a long day, but it was good,” Keenum said. “It was good to get to work and learn an offense, just trying to work and operate and speak the offense, speak the same language as Matt (Schaub) and T.J. (Yates) and those guys are speaking. I’m picking it up slowly but surely, and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s just good to get back to playing football and not the hassle of trying to find a team and all that.”
The Texans will have 10 OTA practices beginning next Monday, followed by a mandatory three-day mini-camp from June 12-14.
Tags: Case Keenum, Keshawn Martni, Offseason workouts, Wade Phillips, Whitney Mercilus
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This is the second “marshal” duty of 2012 for Watt and Barwin, two rising stars in the city of Houston. Watt and Andre Johnson were co-Grand Marshals of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Downtown Parade on Feb. 25. Barwin (or “Baldwin”) rode in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17.
“It’s a huge deal,” Barwin said Tuesday at Discovery Green. “I’ve heard great things about this parade and I know this is one of the most unique things about the city of Houston, so I’m very excited, and it just shows the amount of support that this city has for the Houston Texans to invite me and J.J. both out there.”
The parade goes from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday. It features “over 300 jaw-dropping cars, bikes, skaters, and motorized creatures” and is expected to draw more than 300,000 spectators along the city streets.
“It’s phenomenal,” Watt said. “It’s unbelievable, and the one thing that I’ve always believed is if you want the community to support you and appreciate you, you need to support them and appreciate them, so it’s very cool that I can do these kinds of events, and I’m very humbled every time I get asked to do an event like this. I’ve only been here for one year, but I hope I can stay here a lot longer, because this city’s been very good to me in my short time.”
Barwin and Watt’s car on Saturday won’t be an homage to the “Bulls on Parade,” but Watt was asked Tuesday what such a car would look like.
“It would have some horns, it would be fearsome, and it would probably have some wacky hair because Connor would get a hold of it,” he said. “But it would be pretty cool. And Wade (Phillips) would drive it, because he’s the man.”
Tags: Bulls on Parade, Connor Barwin, J.J. Watt, Wade Phillips
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The Texans introduced first-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus at a Friday afternoon press conference with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips at Reliant Stadium.
Mercilus – who was flown to Houston from Akron, Ohio, with his parents, brother and sister – said he was “excited to be part of something great” with the Texans. Phillips explained how he will fit in with the Houston defense, where he’s expected to be part of a three-man rotation at outside linebacker.
“It’s an addition to what we have,” Phillips said. “It’s not to take away from Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin, who are outstanding players in their own right. We think this guy fits in and can help with that group immensely. First of all, I think in a three-point stance, what he’s naturally done in college, I think that’s where he’ll help us first, but we feel like he can play outside ‘backer… He’s athletic, he’s smart and he plays extremely hard. That’s really a key that we like to have on our defense is guys that really get after them.”
Phillips said having Barwin (11.5 sacks in 2011), Reed (9.5 sacks including playoffs) and Mercilus (16 sacks last season at Illinois) is a “comparable situation” to when he was defensive coordinator of the Chargers from 2004-06. Linebackers Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips and Steve Foley each had a 10-sack season under Phillips in San Diego.
“I’m never opposed to putting my best players out on the field, especially on third downs,” Phillips said. “Those guys, we’ll come up with some kind of defense that fits our personnel rather than having a certain defense that everybody has to play and you have to plays’ a four-man look and one of your best players is sitting on the bench.
“I can envision, right now, those three guys (Mercilus, Barwin and Reed) along with J.J. (Watt) and Antonio (Smith) being in the rush group and one of them dropping and the other four rushing, which gives people problems. Of course, you also have (Brian) Cushing in there. I think we’ll be formidable that way.”
Formidable sounds like an understatement.
Did someone say “Bulls on Parade”?
Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, Antonio Smith, Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, J.J. Watt, Wade Phillips, Whitney Mercilus
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“It feels great to be here,” said James, who signed with Houston on Friday after nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. “Being reunited with Wade (Phillips) is great, and Reggie (Herring). This is a great team. As I’ve been told on Twitter, this is the best team in Texas. The opportunity is here for us to do some great things. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
James also provided an interesting breakdown of the dynamic between Phillips and Herring, who coached him for several seasons in Dallas.
“Reggie Herring, he’s a guy that complements Wade,” James said. “Wade is kind of laidback, but not too laidback. If you want to get Wade riled up, miss an assignment and he’ll get after you. Reggie is the guy that is a spit-on-the-side-of-your-face type of guy. He’s just on you like an old nagging woman, but they complement each other. You can just tell how the [defensive players] rallied around those two last year, and there is talent all over the field out here. Just watching them on film a couple days ago, it was impressive.”
Tags: Bradie James, Offseason workouts, Reggie Herring, Wade Phillips
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The Texans parted ways with two of their marquee defensive players this offseason in linebackers Mario Williams and DeMeco Ryans. Defensive end J.J. Watt, one of the up-and-coming stars of the Houston defense, is confident the Texans will be able to overcome those departures in 2012.
“Obviously, it’s tough,” Watt said on Thursday in an interview with Texans TV. “It’s part of the business, losing players, but I think we have a great football team. We have a lot of great players that are going to step up in their place, and if you looked at our team last year, we had a lot of success with Coach [Wade] Phillips. He knows what he’s doing from a defensive coordinator standpoint.
“A lot of people, I kind of get the feeling around town that there’s a little bit of panic setting in. Trust me, there’s no need for panic. We’re working hard over here just off Kirby Drive to make sure that this is gonna be a fun season and we’re gonna give you guys a great show, and hopefully bring that championship back to Houston that we’ve been waiting on so long for here.”
In that same interview, in which Watt answered fan questions sent from Twitter with the hashtag #AskJJ, Watt proved “The Milk Man” to be an apt nickname by revealing that he drinks two gallons of milk a week. The Pewaukee, Wisc., native also showed off his serious side by discussing his J.J. Watt Foundation and answering a question about what drives him to be great.
““I think there’s a lot of things that drive me,” Watt said. “First and foremost is my family. Obviously, I’m trying to carry on my last name proudly, so I’m trying to work hard every single day to make sure that I do that the right way. And then the Texans fans, the Badger fans and everybody out there, I want to make them proud. This organization brought me in to be a great football player, and so I’m trying to do that and I’m also trying to spread love in the community and just pass it on to the next generation. And then personally for myself, I need to go to bed every night looking in the mirror knowing that I did everything I could that day to be great and knowing that I did everything to make my family proud, and so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Check out more from Watt in this replay of his Thursday live chat.
Tags: Free agency, J.J. Watt, Live chat, Wade Phillips
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