While former LSU track star and football standout Trindon Holliday has come a long way in his bid to earn a spot on the Houston Texans’ roster since 2010, he still has his work cut out for him.
After being plagued by injuries in his first two training camps, the 5-foot-5, 169-pound dynamo has been electrifying this preseason.
He became the first player in Texans’ history to return a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in preseason — taking a kickoff back 90 yards for a score in the first week and racing 87 yards to the end zone with a punt last week.
Still, he isn’t assured of a roster spot going into the final two preseason games — the first of which is Saturday night against the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“My focus is different now,” Holliday, the 2009 NCAA 100-meter champion, said by phone this week. “I’ve been around for three years, but the first two years I had injuries. I’m injury-free this year, and I’ve been able to come out and do a little more.”
But will it be enough? Holliday isn’t going to make the team as a wide receiver, and Texans coach Gary Kubiak typically doesn’t like to use up a valuable roster spot on a return specialist.
When asked by Houston reporters last week if someone could make his team strictly as a returner, Kubiak said, “Yeah. You better be special, though.”
Holliday has been special in averaging 18.4 yards on punt returns and 44.0 yards per kickoff return. Yet, he knows how important the next week is going to be to his chances.
“The next couple of preseason games are gonna be big,” he said. “You just have to come out and do the best you can do. I have to relax and let the game come to me.”
Like the Texans and every other NFL team, the Saints are facing massive roster cuts in the next seven days.
All teams must reduce their 90-man training camp rosters to 75 by Monday afternoon and then have to get down to the regular-season limit of 53 players by Friday.
The first cut might not be too difficult for the Saints, but getting down to the final 53 will present problems because of all the injuries they’ve had.
“Something we take seriously around here is that there are a lot of guys on this team that have worked their whole life to get here,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. “That’s one of the reasons we give these players a good look in the preseason games.
“We’ve tried to serve them all justice,” he said of giving the first- and second-year players about 45 snaps in each preseason game. “If you come to this team, we’re going to give you a good look. We also tell the guy this is a hard team to make. There are some real good players on this team, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play in the league.”
Vitt said defensive end Will Smith is having one of his better preseason and is pushing the pocket better than he has since the arrival of coach Sean Payton in 2006.
“He’s had a great offseason,” said Vitt. “He’s had an outstanding preseason. Will is a great leader on our team. Will has been here since 2006 and knows exactly how we want things done. He adheres to that and he is a guy that the rookies gravitate to.”
Because Smith will be suspended for the first four regular-season games, Vitt said the nine-year veteran will get more snaps than he normally would Saturday night and in the preseason finale Thursday night at Tennessee.
At least nine players won’t suit up for Saturday night’s game.
The list includes LB Curtis Lofton (ankle), LB David Hawthorne (knee), LB Ramon Humber (hamstring), CB Jabari Greer (hernia), WR Andy Tanner (ankle), WR Nick Toon (foot), WR Adrian Arrington (knee), DT Tom Johnson (ankle) and CB Kamaal McIlwain (groin).
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved