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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) –As the Texans begin training camp this Friday, July 26th the excitement is mounting for the potential of this upcoming season.
The Texans are getting more notoriety and respect, but with that so are their players. Teams around the league are cherry-picking their talent, and some key losses in free agency means the Texans are relying on the development of young players chosen through the draft or newly acquired players that are donning a Texans’ jersey for the first time. Many pundits, fans and those closest to the franchise have said the Texans looked like Super Bowl contenders the last two years, but instead, have lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs both years.
So, here are FIVE players to watch starting Friday:
1. DeAndre Hopkins
The Texans are looking for a young wideout to take some pressure off Andre Johnson. First-round wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has the deep ball ability and has become the offseason target to be a legitimate number 2 to Johnson and relieve the running game a bit. Houston Texans wide receivers coach, Larry Kirksey says, “I just think the kid’s a very talented young man. He’s got good size, good range, and outstanding ball skills. He works. From day one, every pass he caught he sprinted not 10, not 20, 30 but 40, 50 yards down the field after the catch. That’s what we ask for in our receivers. I think he’s off to a great start from that standpoint.”
Even with Hopkins standing out, the Texans could still use either Lestar Jean, DeVier Posey or Keshawn Martin to step up as an added weapon for Matt Schaub.
2. Brennan Williams
Speaking of Schaub, the right side of the Texans’ line was a huge problem a year ago. The Texans went out and drafted Brennan Williams, who has developed quickly and could put pressure on Derek Newton for the starting job. He’s becoming a better fit for this zone-blocking scheme. However, Williams suffered a knee injury during the second day of rookie minicamp. Williams did not participate for the remainder of minicamp. Head Coach Gary Kubiak said, “I think we’re just playing it safe right now. Obviously it’s important to be back in time for training camp and you know, when we actually strap on the pads.”
Keep your eyes out also at right guard. Two rookies in ’12, Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks, one of them should slide into that position full-time in training camp.
3. Shane Lechler
Special teams to me have always been a phase that I think is overlooked at times, especially when you look for improvements. Yes, the Texans have developed a pretty strong homefield advantage in recent years. But, Keshawn Martin struggled on kickoffs. Randy Bullock, a fifth-round pick from Texas A&M in 2012, wasn’t able to prove himself due to a torn groin. So, realizing that there was a problem, the Texans went out a got Shane Lechler as the Texans’ new punter. Lecher was 20th in net average and 27th in attempts placed inside the 20.
4. Ed Reed/DJ Swearinger
The Texans have a talented secondary and should have an improved pass rush. The loss of Glover Quin to the Lions is big, but all can be loss with a bounce-back recovery from newly acquired veteran and future Hall of Famer Ed Reed. In acquiring Reed, it was more of a needed talent but, more so the need of championship leadership and experience. If the Texans are looking to be a championship team they need someone with championship experience. A healthy Reed remains a fantastic ball-hawking, deep-middle player. Reed said that once training camp arrives, “I’ll have a better bead on it, as far as my progress.”
The Texans made plans using they’re second-round pick on safety D.J. Swearinger who will compete for playing time this camp.
5. New and Improved Matt Schaub
I wrote about Schaub last week and expectations. Schaub’s a good quarterback, but the Houston Texans’ squad needs more from Schaub and time just isn’t on his side. Schaub was tough down the stretch, tossing just one touchdown compared to four picks in the five weeks leading up to the divisional-round matchup against the Patriots. And, in New England, he managed to compile 343 yards and two touchdowns, but don’t get it twisted that was a misleading stat line because most of his numbers were generated in garbage time. Schaub struggled to keep drives alive by hesitating and throwing short on third down. He did not resemble anything close to a franchise quarterback. Texans’ GM, Rick Smith said last week, “He does have to play better in those situations for us to take our team to the next level.”
But it is getting close to the time where he either has to move up or they have to start wondering when to move him out.
By the way, according to Houston Chronicle and SportsRadio 610′s John McClain:
The Texans now have their entire nine-player draft class under contract and it’s time for football season to begin.