When the Houston Texans introduced Bill O’Brien as their new head coach in 2014, it did not take him long to start acquiring talent he was familiar with. As a result of this process, his team became known as “New England Patriots South.” Seven years later, not much seems to have changed.
While O’Brien was ousted last year, the organization still has strong ties to the Patriots in the form of newly acquired general manager Nick Caserio. Those ties go beyond New England’s long-time director of player personnel, though, as the players on the roster show: running back Rex Burkhead, who was signed as a free agent on Tuesday, became the 14th ex-Patriot to find a spot on Houston’s payroll.
In total, the list looks as follows:
S Terrence Brooks: Brooks joined the Patriots as a free agent in 2019 and went on to spend two seasons with the club. He appeared in a combined 30 games as a rotational safety and special teamer, registering an interception along the way.
RB Rex Burkhead: The latest ex-Patriot to move to Houston, Burkhead spent four seasons in New England as a change-of-pace running back. Between 2017 and 2019, he appeared in 47 games for the team — including its victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53 — and registered 2,128 yards from scrimmage as well as 21 touchdowns.
OT Marcus Cannon: New England’s long-time starting right tackle, Cannon originally joined the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick by the team in 2011. After starting his career as a backup, the TCU product was elevated to the full-time starting position in 2016. In total, he started 80 of his 134 games before being traded to Houston this offseason. Cannon is a three-time Super Bowl champ.
WR Brandin Cooks: Acquired via trade in 2017, Cooks spent only one season with the Patriots before being moved again. That season was a good one for him, though: playing in all 19 games, the former first-round pick caught 75 passes for 1,237 yards and 7 touchdowns.
CB Keion Crossen: Crossen spent one season in New England after the team drafted him in the seventh round in 2018. Primarily being used in the kicking game, he appeared in 14 games and won a Super Bowl. He was traded to the Texans the following offseason.
OL Hjalte Froholdt: A fourth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2019, Froholdt played only 93 snaps in eight games for the team before his release last November. Houston swooped in and claimed him off waivers.
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill: Grugier-Hill never actually played in a non-preseason game for the Patriots. A sixth-round draft pick, he was released on roster cutdown day in 2016. He found his way to the Texans this offseason.
TE Ryan Izzo: New England’s number one tight end in 2020, Izzo was traded to Houston this offseason. Before the transaction, the former seventh-round draft pick appeared in 18 games as a Patriots and caught 19 passes for 313 yards as well as a touchdown.
WR Donte Moncrief: A mid-season pickup last year, Moncrief played in six games for the Patriots while seeing the majority of his snaps in the return game. New England did not retain him after he entered free agency in March.
S A.J. Moore Jr: While he did not get drafted, Moore’s experience in New England was similar to that of Kamu Gruier-Hill: he was let go on roster cutdown day and claimed off waivers by another club. That club was the Texans, who picked him up in September 2018.
TE Paul Quessenberry: Quessenberry spent parts of the 2020 season — his first in the NFL following a five-year employment in the Marine corps — on New England’s practice squad. He has yet to appear in a game at the pro level, though.
LB Derek Rivers: The highest selection of New England’s four-player 2017 draft class, Rivers never lived up to his intriguing athletic profile as a Patriot. With injuries forcing him to sit out his rookie and 2019 seasons, the former third-rounder played just 15 total games for the team between his arrival and his release last November.
OT Jordan Steckler: Another former member of the Patriots’ practice squad, Steckler first arrived in New England midway through the 2020 regular season. He spent the remainder of the year with the team but was not offered a futures contract afterwards.
OT Cole Toner: The career journeyman spent one week as a Patriot in October 2017. He was signed to the practice squad, moved to the injured reserve list three days later, and ultimately released again four days after that.
The 14 players listed here are not the only connections between Houston and New England. As noted above, Nick Caserio spent considerable time with the Patriots, as did other members of the Texans’ front office: executive vice President, football operations Jack Easterby, senior advisor for football performance Romeo Crennel, assistant director of player personnel James Liipfert and sports science coordinator James Hardy have all been with the Patriots before taking their talents south.