Texans Training Camp Preview: Special Teams

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Kicker Randy Bullock #28 of the Texas A&M Aggies hits a 35 yard field goal out of the hold of Ryan Tannehill #17 towards the end of the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Kyle Field on September 24, 2011 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Rookie Randy Bullock has Pro-Bowl potential

The often forgotten third wheel of the team is usually the difference in close games and can win or lose several games a season. Special teams coach Joe Marciano is one of two coaches along with running backs coach Chick Harris who have been with the team for their entire history. For the most part the Texans special teams unit has been solid throughout their history and at times the best unit on the team; Marciano is the biggest reason why. He's had talented players on his team, but he's helped turn around the careers of Kris Brown and Neil Rackers who struggled in previous stops but were pretty reliable for the Texans. In 10 seasons before joining Houston, Rackers made 78.2% of his field goal attempts; in two seasons with Houston he made 86.8% of his field goal attempts. Kris Brown was dreadful in his last season with Pittsburgh missing 14 field goal attempts (68%), but between 2005-2008, Brown made 81.8% of his field goal attempts including 8-12 from beyond 50 yards. Marciano has a history of turning average players into good players and with more talent on this team than ever before, should have a very good special teams unit once again.

Randy Bullock - The Klein High School grad and former Texas A&M kicker was the Texans 5th round draft pick this year. Bullock won the Lou Groza Award last season as the nations top kicker, was a consensus All-American, and was a great pickup for the Texans after Neil Rackers moved on. Taking a kicker in the 5th round is higher than I would prefer, but Rackers was inconsistent last season and struggled past 45 yards, so getting the strong-legged kicker who is built more like a linebacker was well worth the high pick. Bullock has the potential to be the Texans kicker for the next 10+ years and become their best kicker in franchise history.

Brett Hartmann - The first year punter had a rough 6 months after a season ending injury in December and later being suspended for the first four games of the upcoming 2012 season for a positive drug test. In what turned out to be a simple mistake, Hartmann's suspension was reduced to three games and now has permission from the NFL to take Ritalin for his ADD problem, which caused the positive test. "The Hitman" probably would have missed those three games anyway as he continues working his way back from the knee injury, so it appears to be a wash. The undrafted player out of Central Michigan averaged 44.4 yards gross, and 37.8 yards net per punt last season.

Donnie Jones - The 32-year-old NFL veteran spent last season with the Rams and will be the starter at punter for at least the first three games next season while Hartmann is serving his suspension. Depending on how quickly Hartmann heals, Jones could be in store for more time as the starter. Jones' numbers last season were very similar to that of Hartmann's with 44.3 gross and 37 net yards per punt. Regardless of who starts, it can't be any worse than Matt Turk last season after the injury to Hartmann.

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