Texans GM Smith: Rookie S Keo 'diamond in the rough'

Posted May 07, 2011 @ 1:22 p.m.
Posted By Arthur Arkush

The Texans, whose shortcomings in the secondary were well documented last season, elected not to re-sign SS Bernard Pollard before the lockout started because he is not the right fit for coordinator Wade Phillips' scheme. Pollard is a box safety and Phillips wants his safeties to be interchangeable, with both players possessing the versatility to stop the run and cover downfield.

Houston identified safety and cornerback as two positions it hoped to address during the draft.

When asked following the draft which draft pick they were most excited about, GM Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak both listed fifth-round S Shiloh Keo.

Keo, who played his college ball at Idaho, caught the attention of Phillips when he played for the coordinator during the East-West Shrine Game. Keo quickly was named a captain, with Phillips falling in love with his leadership and special-teams ability — Keo has experience returning punts and kicks in addition to being a strong kick coverage guy.

The fact that Kubiak and Smith singled out Keo — Smith called the rookie a "diamond in the rough" — is somewhat surprising, as he very much appears to be a box safety similar to Pollard. But Houston's decision makers raved about Keo's instincts and ball skills in addition to his great physicality.

We're hearing that a transition to safety is imminent for CB Glover Quin, who possesses the smarts and toughness the club is looking for at the position. But the other position is wide open at this point. Troy Nolan, who tied for the team lead in interceptions last season after missing the 2009 campaign with an ankle injury, is a guy who could be in the mix. We know the Texans also would like to add a veteran once free agency becomes an option.

So while it seems to be a stretch that a fifth-rounder would step right into the starting lineup next season, Keo, as a guy whom the club holds in high regard, could do just that.