Operating in a scrum of bodies at the line of scrimmage, Texans defensive tackle Vincent Taylor slams his hands into blockers and clogs up the middle of the defense.
With the Texans releasing defensive tackle Brandon Dunn one year into a three-year, $12 million contract, Taylor is competing for a starting job in an overhauled 4-3 defense.
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.Taylor has been running with the first-team defense.
“I think I'm playing with a lot more confidence, learning the scheme, knowing it's a tap front, that's the scheme that I like to play," Taylor said. "So, for me, it's just confidence. I think I'm playing with confidence. I'm trying to do what the coaches ask me to do.”
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.
Now, Taylor is preparing to play against Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriotson Saturday nightat NRG Stadium.
“It’s going to be a good test for our team," Taylor said. "We’ve just got to go out there and execute. Do our job. It’s just another game.”
Under Smith, the Texans have upgraded their ability to create turnovers with four against the Dallas Cowboys during a 20-14 win last Saturday at AT&T Stadium
“We always got room for improvement," Taylor said. "It's good that we're getting turnovers. That's one thing Coach Lovie Smith preaches, so we just got to keep getting turnovers.
"We just got to go out there and do our job. Don't try to do too much. Just try to do with the coaches ask us to do, execute the game plan no matter whether the starters are playing or the backups playing. At the end of the day, it's another preseason game. We get to go out there and execute.”
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.”
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.
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.