Vincent Taylor knows his job requirements in the trenches of the Texans’ defense.
His first assignment: firing out of his three-point stance and building a strong wall inside as a run-stopper.
The former Miami Dolphins sixth-round draft pick from Oklahoma State provides a stout presence at 6-foot-3, 311 pounds.
“I'm good at stopping the run,” Taylor said. “I think that's one of the things I've been good at since came in the league and really with field goal blocking that's something I take pride in. So, I think I'll be able to bring that to the team and any other way that I could, whatever they need me to do to help for the team, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”
Taylor recorded 12 tackles with one quarterback hit in 15 games and one start last season for the Cleveland Browns after being claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Bills.
Taylor has 63 career tackles, seven for losses and one fumble recovery since being drafted in the sixth round out of Oklahoma State. In 2018 with the Dolphins, Taylor had 27 tackles, three for losses, and two sacks.
Taylor is battling for his spot on an overhauled defensive line that has several new players, including rookie Roy Lopez and veterans Maliek Collins and Jaleel Johnson.
“This is a competitive league, so it's going to help us,” Taylor said. “It's going to bring out the best in everybody and I think they did a great job in doing that. A lot of guys come out here and compete every day because we know what we're up against, so I think it's good for the whole group.”
After attending high school in San Antonio when his family moved from New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Taylor has had his eyes on playing football again in Texas for over a year.
“When I got let go from Buffalo, my agent (David Canter) wound up calling me, he was like, ‘How you feeling about Houston Texans?’” Taylor said. “When he called me, Cleveland was also one of the teams that reached out to me, so I wound up going to Cleveland, but Houston was always a team that was interested in me.”
Signed to a one-year, $2 million free agent deal with the Texans that includes $600,000 guaranteed with a $250,000 signing bonus, Taylor is determined to establish himself on a revamped 4-3 defense led by new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.
“We're a new group, so we are still learning,” Taylor said. “Coach is doing a great job keeping it so limited to what we can do and that way guys can play faster, he ain't put too much in. I think him and the coaching staff are doing a great job with what they are doing, but we are all still learning but we are out there playing and we're out there competing.
“Since I came into the league in 2017, when I was with Miami, that was kind of the same defense, it was an attack defense and that allows us to play fast, and that's what I really like about the defense.
Taylor and his family abruptly moved to Texas when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
From that horrible disruption when the levees broke on Aug. 29, 2005, a 10-year-old Taylor grew strong as he and his loved ones found a home in San Antonio and he found success at Madison High School.
“We lost everything and we had to start over,” said Taylor, who has a tattoo on his right forearm with an outline of the state of Louisiana, a star for New Orleans and the date that Katrina struck his hometown, ‘8-29-2005’ “From that tough time in my life, Katrina humbled me and made me who I am today. It’s been a long road, but it’s been a good one. It’s all about staying positive.”
Taylor’s brother live in Houston and him and his father recently attended a practice.
“I’m very close with my family after everything we went through with Katrina, that brought us closer,” Taylor said. “To be out here in Houston with him, it's not like when I was in Miami and he have to get on a plane to come see me. Now he's not too far. I'm very family-oriented, so to be in the same city and state with him, it's good.”
Taylor put in overtime this summer, working with private defensive line coach Brandon Jordan alongside several of his teammates in Houston.
“It feels good, I think it helps all of us out,” Taylor said. “We get to compete. We get to learn from each other. It’s going pretty good. I normally train in Miami, but since I’m out here now, why not train with my teammates? It’s good. We get to talk about things and learn from each other and be on the same page.”
A former All-Big 12 selection who had seven sacks and 51 tackles as a junior before declaring early for the draft, Taylor joins a defensive line that has to replace J.J. Watt and is plugging in a lot of new personnel under new coach David Culley and new general manager Nick Caserio.
Building camaraderie with his teammates, Taylor planned to attend a defensive line dinner at a Houston steakhouse. The dinner was organized by veteran defensive tackle Brandon Dunn.
Dunn doubles as the resident locker room DJ.
“He’s doing his thing,” Taylor said. “He's playing some stuff I like, so he's doing a great job with that.”
Because so many players are under one-year contracts and there are 53 new players, it’s been a transition for Taylor and the rest of the team.
A lot of guys on the one-year contract, so they hungry,” Taylor said. “It’s a new team so guys coming out here and competing and showing what they got, and I love it.”
The Texans finished 4-12 last season. There have been lots of predictions about them potentially having the worst record in the league. That gives Taylor additional motivation.
“We as a team, we just got to stick together,” Taylor said. “We can't listen to what they saying on the outside. Y'all are reporters, that's y'all's job to come up with a story. We got to stick together as a team and do what we've got to do and do what the coaches ask us to do.”
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.