Max Scharping Jersey

For the second straight day, the Texans picked an offensive lineman in the 2019 NFL Draft.

A night after they selected Alabama State tackle Tytus Howard in the first round, Houston used the 55th overall pick on Northern Illinois offensive tackle Max Scharping. The 6-6, 327-pounder was picked one spot after the Texans other second-rounder, cornerback Lonnie Johnson, Junior of Kentucky.

The Green Bay, Wisconsin started every game of his college career, 53 in all, and he said he’s “very happy” to be a Texan. The past two seasons Scharping was a left tackle, after spending his sophomore year at right tackle. He split time between right guard and right tackle as a freshman. He was also a three-time All-MAC selection.

Getting better up front offensively has been a priority for the organization, and Scharping looks forward to blocking for quarterback Deshaun Watson.

“He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the League,” Scharping said. “He’s a great person to be able to protect for. He’s athletic. He can move throughout the pocket, and he’s got a great arm. I can’t wait to be one of the guys protecting him.”

During a conference call with the Houston media, he said he’s comfortable playing inside or outside on the line.

“Whatever they need me at, I’ll be available to play guard or tackle,” Scharping said.

The newest Texan said he grew up watching defensive end J.J. Watt play his college ball at Wisconsin. Scharping and his family are also excited about the Texans getting to practice with the Packers before the preseason opener in August.

“It will be an amazing opportunity for me and my family to see me play in Lambeau early on in my career,” Scharping said. “I can’t wait for that.”

The Texans next selection is in the third round at 86th overall.

Lonnie Johnson Jersey

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Josh Allen drew the bulk of the Kentucky football NFL draft attention with a top-10 selection Thursday, but now the rest of the 2019 draft class is ready to send a message about the depth of the program.

Senior cornerback Lonnie Johnson became the second Wildcats selected Friday when the Houston Texans took him with the No. 54 overall pick in the second round. Allen was drafted No. 7 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday.

As many as nine members of Kentucky’s 10-win 2018 team could be drafted this weekend.

“Lonnie is going to be a great pro,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said before the draft Thursday. “He’s got so much upside. You can’t help but look at him and watch him play and like him and want him on your team. It’s just a matter of how high and what pick, but he’s going to be a great pro and has got a lot of upside.”

Johnson’s senior statistics at Kentucky (23 tackles, one interception, four pass breakups) do not jump off the page, but at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds he boasts impressive size for a cornerback and proved his speed by running a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

The Gary, Indiana native is still relatively raw compared to many high-level draft prospects thanks to three years in junior college, including one away from football in 2016 while working to qualify to enroll at an FBS program.

“He has just come from a difficult circumstance and has overcome and won in junior college,” Stoops said. “Since he has been on campus, I have not had to have one difficult conversation with him. He has handled his business every day that he has been here. He goes to class. He graduated early. He works hard. He spent three years being a corner. He has great upside. I am not saying he is perfect, but he has done everything right since he has been here. I just have great appreciation for him and he has great upside because he is still learning the game.”

Tytus Howard Jeresy

Tytus Howard may have been a surprise to fans and media, but the scouting community has been aware of his talents for quite some time.

Texans general manager Brian Gaine plucked the offensive tackle from Alabama State with the 23rd overall pick on Thursday evening, and he said the first-rounder has been on a lot of teams’ radars for awhile.

“He was a guy that the whole National Football League knew about as early as the month of June and then when you went and saw him play in August and September and the early portions of the fall, you saw a good-looking prospect,” Gaine said. “Like I said, he passed the test at every stage of our evaluation. Happy to have him.”

Alabama State is a member of the SWAC, but before conference play began last fall, Howard acquitted himself well in a non-conference matchup against Auburn.

He continued impressing the NFL scouting community throughout the season and in the pre-Draft process, and Howard never doubted his capabilities.

“I was expecting first round,” the newest Texan said, when asked how high he thought he might get drafted.

Gaine, who reeled off all of Howard’s impressive physical qualities in a Thursday evening press conference after the first round, also is impressed with the first-rounder’s mental game on and off the field.

“The best selections, I know I have said this in the past, are the ones where you have a guy that meets the physical profile with the intangible profile and we like that profile on offensive lineman, especially,” Gaine said. “He’s going to be a good addition to what I would say the offensive line room. He’s going to be a very good addition in terms of the football personality in the offensive line room.”

Gaine and the Texans will add more to the roster tonight. They own the 54th, 55th and 86th overall picks.

Brandon Dunn Jersey

Houston Texans general manager Brian Gaine and the front office continue to make moves at the start of free agency and have re-signed defensive lineman Brandon Dunn and Joel Heath. The Texans depth at the defensive line was one of their strongest and deepest position last season. Being able to retain most of their core after more than half of the group was hitting free agency is an impressive move by Gaine.

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported that the Texans have extended Dunn to an original round $2.025 million tender.

Signing Dunn to a contract extension was a no brainer after he was able to do all the dirty work in the trenches and able to take on double teams and allow the linebackers to get to the running backs. He was a great rotational defensive lineman and one of the Texans strongest players against the rush.

Dunn finished the 2019 season starting in10 of the 14 games he played and had one of his most productive seasons in a Texans uniform. He had 24 combined tackles, four tackles for loss, and one forced fumble. Dunn had a notable playoff appearance against the Indianapolis Colts, he finished the game with one tackle, a pass deflection, and an interception.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Heath also signed an extension after expected to be a restricted free agent, he signed a one-year contract extension worth slightly less than the original $2.025 million original round tender.

Heath was a reserve defensive lineman that was too talented to let go of. His biggest issue to this point has been staying healthy, but his skill at the position and knowledge of the defense were pluses moving forward. He finished the season only playing in five games and accruing five tackles.

Christian Covington is the only remaining free agent that the Texans have in the defensive line and it seems less likely for the Texans to resign him with them already retaining Dunn, Heath, and Angelo Blackson.

Jordan Thomas Jersey

https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/wkuherald.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/d/e7/de760d30-209f-11e8-8338-fbdddbc910ca/5a9d870bdc0ed.image.jpg?resize=750%2C663

Sophomore second baseman Jordan Thomas has been named Conference USA’s Player of the Week after an outstanding performance in the softball team’s weekend series.

Thomas’ performance led the Hilltoppers to win two of three games against conference opponent North Texas to take their fourth straight C-USA series.

Thomas went 4 for 9 at the plate this weekend with five runs scored, three runs batted in, three home runs and a double. She scored one home run in each of the three games and now has seven on the season.

The Hilltoppers won the second game on Saturday 3-1, in which Thomas scored all three runs for WKU. She went 2 for 3 at the plate and collected a walk and stolen base.

Thomas hit .444 and posted a slugging percentage of 1.556. She also had a perfect fielding percentage at second base this weekend.

“What a weekend Jordan Thomas had for us at the plate and in the field,” head coach Amy Tudor said in a press release. “She set the tone for us in a big way. It is so special to me that she was honored as Player of the Week for her performance as she wore ‘Cat’ for my mom on the tape on her arm all weekend. I am so proud of her and her performance; she is well-deserving of this honor.”

Vyncint Smith Jersey

Vyncint Smith was a college sophomore when he had an ambitious idea.

The South Carolina native had no inkling at the time that he would wind up briefly washing cars, years before his arrival in the NFL and experiencing the thrill of catching a touchdown pass last Sunday from Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Following a promising season at Division II Limestone College, Smith was dissatisfied with his partial scholarship. He left school with intentions of walking on at South Carolina.

“I was paying too much money,” the Texans’ speedy rookie wide receiver said Wednesday.

The situation took an awkward turn, though, when Smith learned that his release from his scholarship prevented him from transferring to any college within the state of South Carolina.

So, Smith missed a semester of school and got a job detailing cars in his hometown of Columbia, S.C. It wasn’t a glamorous job. Washing and waxing cars, Smith took pride in his temporary profession.

“I was the best,” Smith said. “I was just working. I did that all semester.”

When Limestone hired former Detroit Lions wide receiver Mike Furrey as the new head coach, Smith’s fortunes and future took a major turn. He received a full scholarship.

“Shoot, I didn’t have to pay anything,” Smith said.

The return to Limestone ultimately paved a path to Smith emerging as an all-conference selection who caught the Texans’ eye during a workout at, of all places, the South Carolina campus where he had wanted to play football. With New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and the majority of the NFL teams watching last spring, Smith ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds.

The Texans recruited Smith hard, bringing him in for an official visit prior to the draft. Wide receivers coach John Perry called during the later rounds of the draft and general manager Brian Gaine stayed in touch with Smith’s agent, Adam Seifer, reminding him about the opportunity the Texans were offering.

Smith chose the Texans over several teams, including the Chicago Bears, whose receivers coach is Furrey, the New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills. The Texans made Smith their prize undrafted free agent, signing him to a three-year, $1.72 million contract that included $35,000 guaranteed through a $10,000 signing bonus and guaranteeing $25,000 of his base salary.

“Houston took the time during the offseason to bring me in and talk to me,” Smith said. “I felt comfortable.”

Now, the Texans and Smith are feeling even better about that decision.

When five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, acquired in a midseason trade from the Denver Broncos, ruptured his Achilles tendon on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, it ended his season. The injury also created a need for Smith to begin playing opposite All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Smith caught a 35-yard pass from Watson, tapping his cleats inbounds in the back of the end zone to briefly give the Texans a lead during the fourth quarter of a 32-30 loss to the defending Super Bowl champs.

The touchdown showed off Smith’s speed, concentration and hands. It proved he’s absorbing a lot of knowledge from Hopkins, Thomas along with Will Fuller before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

“Vyncint is a guy that’s been quiet,” Watson said. “A rookie that has learned so much from the guys that’s been in that locker room that have played a lot of ball. Vyncint has been watching and improving each and every week. Hasn’t said a word, hasn’t had one complaint, just kind of been working and has been patient.

“Whenever his opportunity came on Sunday, he took advantage of it and he made a big play for us. He’s a guy that we’ve all been watching and knew that whenever his opportunity came we could trust in him and he knew what to do.”

Indeed, Smith did. He caught the football in stride. And his telephone and social media have been exploding ever since with congratulatory messages.

“My phone has been on fire,” Smith said. “Friends I haven’t talked to in years. Mom and dad, my parents, they’re excited. They always believed in me.”

Lightly recruited out of high school, Smith got letters of interest. He had no scholarship offers. He heard from Richmond, Coastal Carolina, Appalachian State, UNC-Charlotte and South Carolina, but nothing concrete emerged.

So, Smith made the best of his situation at Limestone. He caught 153 career passes for 2.371 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Prior to the NFL draft, Smith built some buzz. He visited the New York Jets and worked out privately for the Atlanta Falcons, Lions and Dallas Cowboys. He had private meetings with the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and Seahawks.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien credited Gaine and his staff and assistants for discovering and wooing Smith.

“In my opinion, level of competition is part of the evaluation,” O’Brien said. “So, a guy that’s played in the SEC for three or four years, relative to a guy who, with all due respect, and I love Limestone – but a guy that played at Limestone, it’s just different. It’s going to be a different level of competition relative to getting ready to play professional football.

“Since the day Vyncint walked in here, he’s a very hard-working guy. I don’t think he’s ever missed a practice, takes notes in the meetings, pays attention. Great guy, really a focused individual, and he’s improved because of that.”

Limestone is a private Christian liberal arts school in Gaffney, S.C. They list 1,012 students as of this semester.

And Smith is the only player in the NFL from Limestone.

“It’s really cool,” Smith said. “All my teammates I had from there, they look up to me in some way, somehow and say I’m doing something that was hard to imagine.”

Surrounded at his locker stall by cameras and reporters Wednesday, Smith smiled and expressed hope that his first NFL touchdown is just the beginning.

“I hope it springboards trusting me,” he said. “Giving me more chances to make plays.”

Watson is already a believer. He didn’t hesitate to lob the football in his direction in the clutch.

“For him, being able to step up in that moment, I think it gives him a lot of confidence to be able to know that he can come in and perform at this level,” Watson said. “This is what he’s been working for his whole life. All the time and hard work he’s been putting in since training camp, throughout the season, is finally getting to show and his opportunity’s going to come.”

Seantrel Henderson Jersey

The Texans may not have seen much regular season action from offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson last year, but they saw enough to bring the fifth-year offensive lineman back for another season.

“He’s big, he’s athletic, he’s tough, he’s smart,” head coach Bill O’Brien said at the NFL annual meeting on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, he broke his lower leg in the first game of the year and missed the year. He’s been rehabbing and we’re optimistic about his return. We’re optimistic about him being able to participate in the offseason program and training camp and things like that so we’re looking forward to getting him back.”

Henderson re-signed with the Texans this offseason after a promising offseason and training camp in 2018. The veteran offensive lineman earned the starting right tackle spot, but unfortunately suffered a season-ending injury in the first quarter of the Texans regular season opener at New England and was placed on injured reserve.

“Those injuries are tough but I think that he’s done a good job of rehabbing,” O’Brien said. “I think he’ll be ready to participate in either maybe the end of the offseason program or obviously, training camp.”

Henderson spent four seasons with the Buffalo Bills (2014-17) before joining the Texans. He saw action in 34 games with 27 starts before signing with Houston in March 2018 as a free agent.

The Texans will begin their nine-week offseason program on April 15 at NRG Stadium.

Henderson is expected to be the Texans’ starting right tackle to kick off the 2019 season, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports.

The news was delivered by general manager Brian Glain at the NFL combine. Henderson won the starting job last season but suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 1. The 27-year-old has started three games in the past three seasons between the Texans and Bills. He signed a one-year contract with Houston this offseason, so he will seemingly be playing for a long-term deal.

Senio Kelemete Jersey

Senio Kelemete and Xavier Su’a-Filo are friends and they also have much in common, sharing the bonds of an American Samoan heritage, PAC-12 grooming and, now, the Texans’ left guard position. Further, they have become AFC South rivals.

Of course, what the Texans are hoping is that Kelemete, whom they signed as a free agent last spring after letting Su’a-Filo become one, too, will prove to be the vastly superior left guard, which has been made his position to lose during this preseason.

Su’a-Filo, a Tennessee Titan after his four ho-hum seasons in a Texans uniform, started 31 of their past 32 games there without convincing Bill O’Brien he deserved to own the job long term. He left Houston as one of the lowest-rated offensive linemen in the league, according to a cross-section of analysts charged with determining same.

Kelemete arrives with mixed baggage of his own in terms of his play-to-play, never mind day-to-day, consistency. But he was at least part of an O-line in New Orleans, where he started 22 games from 2015 through 2017 – playing every position except center – for a group that last season permitted its running backs to lead the NFL in yards gained before defenders closed within a yard of them. As arcane a statistical category as that may be, it casts Kelemete and his fellow Saints grunts in a positive light.

So does this one: New Orleans allowed fewer sacks per game (1.3) a year ago than every team except the Rams.

Again, how much individual credit Kelemete deserves is difficult to quantify, but he seemed well worth the risk of the three-year, $12 million contract the Texans gave him. On Tuesday, O’Brien called him “a battler” and praised his people skills, meaning he’ll be a “good guy to have in the locker room.” Kelemete’s having been paid to protect Drew Brees means he’s also a good guy to have in the O-line mix, saving Deshaun Watson from harm.

Zach Fulton Jersey

It was the easy smile of a veteran blocker accustomed to mauling opponents with well-practiced, powerful techniques of leverage and torque.

As much as the Texans’ offensive line chemistry experiment hinges on the health of oft-injured prize center Nick Martin, it will also come back to the leadership and skill of the heavy men who flank each side of him.

Texans general manager Brian Gaine identified and recruited Fulton as the centerpiece of an overhaul project intended to upgrade a line that allowed 54 sacks last season, the second-highest total in the NFL. Once the Texans traded Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown, they surrendered 28 more sacks to tie them for the most in the NFL during that time with the Buffalo Bills and the Arizona Cardinals.

When the Texans signed Fulton to a four-year, $28 million contract that included $13 million guaranteed, the Homewood, Ill., native and former Kansas City Chiefs starter became an extremely important figure in the offense.

With former starting guard Jeff Allen and Fulton’s former Kansas City teammate on the reserve-physically unable to perform list after struggling with concussions and other injuries last season and his outlook uncertain, Fulton is now the highest-paid active offensive lineman on the roster.

He’s the most experienced active starter with 46 starts in 63 career games and the capability and experience to line up at either center, as he did at an organized team activity when Martin was sidelined while he continues to recover from his second ankle surgery of his career, or guard.

With Xavier Su’a-Filo now on the Tennessee Titans, Allen out indefinitely and Martin frequently hurt, the Texans are leaning on Fulton to provide more than just a 6-5, 316-pound big body to throw at the problem.

They need the 26-year-old to give the line toughness and savvy and to show the younger linemen how to act and operate when they’re at the line of scrimmage, in the weight room or studying film.
It’s a role that Fulton embraces. He’s determined to give the Texans a lot back for their investment in him as a free agent this March.

“I mean, honestly, that’s kind of secondary,” Fulton said when asked about his hard-nosed style of play. “I bring veteran leadership. We’re a young group. You tend to be antsy and worry about stuff sometimes. I’m bringing kind of a laid-back attitude. I’m still fierce in everything I do. I bring a little bit of personality. I’m well-seasoned.”

That kind of makes Fulton the entrée of a reconstructed line that figuratively got their lunch consumed and spit back in their faces last season when they were dominated by the Jacksonville Jaguars and other formidable defenses.

Fulton brings a lot to the table. The former University of Tennessee lineman started 12 of 15 games last season for Kansas City, lining up at guard primarily and pitching in at center when injuries forced him to shift over.

“Absolutely, he’s a good pro,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s a big guy, tough, strong, smart, good communicator. Really glad we have him.”

Big, strong and mobile, Fulton joins a line that could have as many as four new starters.

Tashaun Gipson Jersey

How about this for role reversal? Safety Tashaun Gipson, who has played 98 games in the NFL, picks the brain of 22-year-old Justin Reid, who has played all 16 career games for the Houston Texans.

The free agent, who signed a three-year contract to come over from the Jacksonville Jaguars, spoke with the media Tuesday during the club’s offseason workouts at NRG Stadium and praised the former 2018 third-round pick from Stanford.

“Oh man, the first thing that you realize is that he’s definitely a smart guy,” said Gipson. “I sit next to him in the meetings and I try to pick his brain. Other people had said he’s almost too smart. He’s a guy who knows everything.”

Gipson learned that Reid, the younger brother of Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, was an intelligent safety when he tried to stump him after coming to the Texans.

“There hasn’t been a question yet — and I’ve asked him a lot of questions — he hasn’t not had the answer to one question,” Gipson said. “For a guy being that young — I don’t think he’s even 23 yet — so, for him being this young and understanding the game, that’s the biggest part about it.”

Gipson admits that when he was first in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns from 2012-2015 that he just wanted to play football and out-athlete the player across from him. It worked to the tune of a Pro Bowl selection in 2014 and leading the NFL with 158 interception return yards on six picks. It wasn’t until later that he added the mental component.

For Reid, he has already added the mental side of the game to his skill.

Said Gipson: “That’s one of the things that they told me. They said, ‘Hey, the one thing you have to realize with him is he might be too smart.’ I don’t think I’ve ever heard that about a football player. That’s awesome. You realize that. Just being able to pair with a guy like him, obviously the athleticism is there, the talent is there.”

Gipson was also impressed with Reid’s rookie year, which he called “one of the more underrated seasons” in 2018. The former Cardinal recorded 88 combined tackles, three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, deflected 10 passes, forced a fumble, and recovered two others.

“You combine that with the mental skill set, I think that him and I will mesh well,” said Gipson. “Our skill set is similar and I’m excited to pair up with him.”