The Texans had their fourth day of training camp practices today, I had a chance to attend their afternoon practice where the focus was on special teams. The third unit of the team, the often forgotten group had a lot of turnover and change this off-seson with kicker Neil Rackers leaving in free-agency, punter Brett Hartmann dealing with an injury and a three game suspension, and punt returner Jacoby Jones getting cut in May. Fast forward to late July, those roles have been filled by two rookies (Keshawn Martin & Randy Bullock) and by an addition in free-agency with Donnie Jones. The biggest question I have with special teams is with the return men. I have no doubt in Bullock as the team's kicker and Hartmann vs. Jones seems like a wash, but what they decide in the return game could have a big impact. My assumption is they'll use Martin as their primary punt returner, with Martin, Danieal Manning, and Justin Forsett splitting time as the kick returners. In the past the Texans haven't kept specialists in the return game, so whoever gets that job will have to make the team at their normal position. That won't be a problem for Martin, Manning, and Forsett, but most likely means Trindon Holiday won't make the final roster.
In kick coverage, Whitney Mercilus worked out plenty in punt blocking drills, it appears he'll see some time on special teams this season. That's not a shock since he's not a starter, but it'll be interesting to see how long that lasts. If he shows flashes and has the look of a great pass rusher, I'm not sure how much they'll want to exhaust him and risk injury on special teams.
Sound from Kubiak:
Health Update (Johnson is rumored to be back on Monday) - Kubiak Health 73112
On Schaub/Johnson missing big games last season - Kubiak Schaub 73112
On asst. coaches Joe Marciano and Chick Harris - Kubiak Marciano 73112