With Reeves Down Texans Sign O'Neal
Roster spots 23-53 are almost more important than the 22 guys who are listed first on the depth chart. And it's also what separates the perennial playoff teams from those struggling to win more than they lose.
The Texans have made progress since hiring Gary Kubiak in 2006, going from two wins the year before he arrived to back-to-back eight-win seasons in '07 and '08. Not surprisingly, lack of depth -- particularly on defense -- has been one of this team's biggest weaknesses.
Earlier this week, cornerback Jacques Reeves broke his leg and he will be out for 6-8 weeks. And worse: one of the league's most underrated cornerbacks, Dunta Robinson, is sitting out in the hopes of getting a new deal. In the interim, the Texans have signed former Broncos cornerback Deltha O'Neal.
The Texans' roster is full of former Denver players, and O'Neal is the latest. (It's not uncommon for coaches to bring in players from previous gigs because they already know the system. And before coming to Houston, Kubiak was Denver's offensive coordinator.)
A former first-round pick, O'Neal played his way out of Denver, but revived his career with a 10-interception, Pro Bowl season with the Bengals in 2005. The Patriots signed him prior to 2008 to help fill the void left by Asante Samuel and, well, things didn't go well. The Football Outsiders Almanac described his performance as "bad enough that reserve Jonathan Wilhite started down the stretch..." In case it's not clear, that's not even a backhanded compliment.
But at 32, maybe O'Neal is nothing more than a player/coach, someone who can help younger, inexperienced guys make the transition to NFL defensive back. And that's sorta the plan, at least according to Kubiak:
"Obviously, we're in the need for a veteran corner, with all these young kids we have out here. Deltha is familiar with our system, he's been with (defensive backs coach) David (Gibbs), he's been with (senior defensive assistant) Ray (Rhodes), he's been with (defensive coordinator) Frank (Bush), so that was a comfortable sign for us as we try to get him out there to help us."
I don't think anybody would consider O'Neal the last piece to a championship puzzle, but in the right system, and under the right circumstances, he could add depth. And right now, that's what the Texans need.