Player #1: Tyler Ervin
It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Tyler Ervin, who has been hanging on to the roster since the 2016 season. A 4th-round pick out of San Jose State, this man was supposed to help headline the new-and-improved offense deployed by Bill O’Brien to pick the pace up to try to keep defenses on the back of their heels.
It was the theme of the 2016 NFL Draft for the Houston Texans, finding speedy, explosive guys that could contribute heavily to that notion. Will Fuller was the first-round pick that season and he’s flashed quite a bit but Ervin has just not had the opportunity to do so.
At 5-foot-10 and 192 pounds, Ervin’s 4.41 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine and immense production for the Spartans — offensively as well as special teams — was to be his calling card and he should’ve been a focal point for this offense by now. But his two past seasons have been marred with lengthy trips to the injured reserve with debilitating maladies, preventing him from making his mark.
Ervin is quite lanky for guy of his position and I had always wondered out of the draft if he’d be able to bulk up to take the hits at the professional level. As you know, guys in the NFL are stronger, longer and faster so it’s certainly another reason why these consistent injuries have been detrimental to his health.
He has been used quite a bit in the backfield this preseason as well as returning kicks/punts but is it enough?
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), through the first two preseason games, Ervin’s offensive grade was a 62.5 against the Kansas City Chiefs and a 49.6 versus the San Francisco 49ers for an aggregate score of a 53.4. That’s just not good enough for guy that should be used profusely going into his third season with the team.
With the versatile, stronger and more explosive Troymaine Pope in the fold — an undrafted free agent out of Jacksonville State in 2016 — he’s breathing down Ervin’s back and I think he has some really tough competition in being challenged for his role in 2018. Pope has a 63.6 overall offensive grade and a 74.6 overall grade on returns with Pope returning a kick for 25 yards last week. Ervin’s longest return in 2018 has been 20 yards, a mark that was made against the Niners.
Regardless of how you feel about Ervin’s abilities, it’s time for him to put up or shut up as he’ll need to lay it all on the line to win a roster spot.