NFL Combine: Texans Wide Open on First Pick

Texans Coach Bill O'Brien at NFL Combine


INDIANAPOLIS – When first-year Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien made his way to Podium A on Friday during the NFL Combine, his potential future quarterback was holding court on the other side of the room at Lucas Oil Stadium.

But when asked about that No. 1 overall pick in May, O’Brien refused to say Johnny Manziel was the choice.

Johnny Manziel Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel Texas A&M

“It’s not something that you develop your thoughts right away, overnight,” he said. “These are a lot of discussions, meetings, communication between (GM Rick Smith) and myself, the coaching staff, Rick’s staff, the scouts and all those things that go into this decision and that’s what we’re in the process of doing.”

O’Brien took it a step further and said the Texans haven’t even rounded their prospects down to a top five or six. A big reason for that is the fact O’Brien has yet to see his new team on the field. The earliest he will see players in action is April 7. At that time, he expects to evaluate the team’s current quarterbacks – Matt Schaub and Case Keenum.

Should he be OK with the quarterback position, then discussion turns potentially to South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Trading the pick also isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, depending on which way the Texans want to go.

“We haven’t even narrowed it down to the group of guys we’re considering, so I don’t think you box yourself in, in any way,” Smith said. “We’re open to all possibilities and, I think if you do that, you give yourself the right chance to manage the process the right way.”


BENGALS: Beyond replacing both coordinators during the offseason, Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis spoke of the team’s desire to nail down quarterback Andy Dalton’s status beyond 2014. “As a football team, we would like to … keep our good, young players,” he said. “The representatives from his side and our team will get together and try to discuss something. We feel good about what Andy has done the past three seasons and we have to continue to help him play better.”

CHIEFS: Kansas City entered the offseason dangerously close to the salary cap. When the new estimate was announced, the Chiefs had more breathing room than they expected and could have more if they part ways with former franchise player Branden Albert, the long-time starting left tackle. GM John Dorsey said the team boasted the league’s youngest starting offensive line and should improve by leaps in 2014. “They came together, they grew together and towards the end of the season they were starting to (grow) so I see this, moving forward, as a very good positive,” he said. Dorsey was cagey on Albert’s future. “I don’t know, that’s the first I’ve heard about it.”

COLTS: Indianapolis burned a top pick by acquiring Trent Richardson from Cleveland. The gambit didn’t pay off, but head coach Chuck Pagano remains undaunted and with no regrets. “The sky’s the limit, having a full offseason with us,” he said. “This will be a very important offseason for him and for everybody on our roster and every facet of our football program. I look for great things from Trent. Moving forward, there are high expectations.”

JAGUARS: Just as Houston seems to be a natural fit for Johnny Manziel, a native Texan, so, too, does Jacksonville seem to be an obvious landing spot for Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. Head coach Gus Bradley spent more time Friday answering questions about quarterbacks than the day’s other storyline – the effort exhibited by Clowney during his junior season. “We’ve watched enough that we’re very intrigued by him,” Bradley said of Bortles. “The traits he has – big, tall, timing, accuracy, decision making – those are the things we take a close look at. The evaluation process is neve rover. The Combine is important but it’s just another piece of the puzzle. I’m looking forward to seeing him really compete. We’ll keep an eye on him.”

PACKERS: Green Bay has 17 potential free agents, which will make the offseason a complicated dance between accounting and evaluating. GM Ted Thompson said he enters the process with his eyes open. “In terms of free agency, there’s always surprises in it, so we try not to get too worked up about what could or couldn’t happen,” he said. “We would like to keep our own free agents, so I just think we take it day by day and let it sort itself out. Every year, it’s a little different. Every year, there are different players, but the overall market is different from year-to-year, so we’ll work it out.”

RAMS: Quarterback Kellen Clemens is a free agent and never really was an option to replace Sam Bradford, should St. Louis make such a decision. That said, the Rams say they are all in with Bradford and are mystified by all the talk surrounding his status as the team’s franchise quarterback. “To be honest with you, we approached his group last spring in terms of trying to renegotiate, but the timing wasn’t right on both sides,” GM Les Snead said. “But from the standpoint of being the starting QB, Sam’s young still. A lot of experience. You don’t want to throw that experience away. When you start talking about a starting quarterback, we could spend all day on why we’re standing by Sam. When we kind of found our identity this year, he played really well.”

REDSKINS: First-year head coach Jay Gruden is bringing an interesting mix of change and consistency to the Redskins. In keeping offensive coordinator Jim Haslett, he is hoping to provide stability for quarterback Robert Griffin III. In so doing, he’s hoping for an attitude change in RG3 that will allow Gruden to focus on fixing the other problems that cratered a team that was thought to be a playoff challenger prior to 2013. “We have a lot of holes, everywhere,” he said. “Not just on offense, but special teams and defense and we’re going to have to addrss all of those. There’s really not a position that we’re not looking to get better out, whether that’s in-house or look in the draft or through free agency. Any time you’re 3-13, there are a lot of needs and we have to figure those out quickly and address them.”

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