The Houston Texans played their second preseason game Saturday night against the Super Bowl champions New England Patriots. Houston came out on top 27-23, and a handful of players who don’t usually get their names in the paper were integral to the win. Since this is preseason, the uncommon names are pretty common but rarely do these players contribute in notable fashion. One player in particular, Dylan Cole, has surpassed expectations and has heated things up. Injuries, suspensions, or just good competition make the interesting performances even more so. So, without further ado, here are three standouts from Saturday night’s win.
Dylan Cole One of Many Preseason Week 2 Standouts
Cole was a frequent name out of the announcer’s mouth when the Texans were on defense. The undrafted, high energy linebacker out of Missouri State has 12 tackles in his two limited appearances with all but two coming against New England. Although he lacks the size and swagger to be Brian Cushing, you can’t help but compare the two. Cole plays with the same aggressive “nose for the ball” style from the same inside-linebacker position. Not to be rude, but the player Cole was playing next to all night, Zach Cunningham, ended up getting torched in man-coverage against two different Patriot running-backs. That being said, there’s a good chance we see Cole as the third inside backer (behind Cushing and Benardrick McKinney) early in the season and maybe edging out some regular season action for himself.
The second player worth mentioning is Rickey Hatley, a huge defensive tackle from Missouri. Now, Hatley saw his first live action Saturday night, but for the most part he looked like he knew what he was doing out there. He utilized his strength to the point where it just looked easier for him than other players at times. He also recorded one sack from his nose guard position, which is really hard to do when you’re not an elite defender. With his frame and mass, the way he played is the way all 320 pound defensive linemen should. His disruptive plays in the game had to have caught the eye of newly promoted defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, which means a competition could spark between Hatley and fourth round pick Carlos Watkins.
The last player who stood out is a guy who just recently joined the team. Bruce Ellington is a player who has somewhat bounced around the league. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2014 NFL Draft then let go in the 2017 off-season, then picked up by the New York Jets, then let go days later. He hopes to make a good impression so he can finally stick somewhere and that somewhere might just be Houston. On the first downfield strike from quarterback Tom Savage, it looked like the pass was going to be deflected by top tier corner Malcolm Butler. Instead, Ellington leaped up to snatch the ball out of the air. Later in that same drive, Ellington caught an underneath pass and was about to be tackled right where he made the catch, but again he showed quickness and athleticism by darting to the left and gaining an extra few yards. With Fuller out and Braxton Miller frequently dealing with nagging injuries, a great opportunity is in front of Ellington.
People will tend to remember this game because of D’onta Foreman‘s performance, but these three players were just as noteworthy. Keep an eye out for Dylan Cole, Ricky Hatley, and Bruce Ellington.