Houston Texans training camp gets underway at the Houston Methosdist Training Center on Sunday. But what do you need to look for while the Texans get ready for the season.
Here are the 5 things I will be paying attention to at Texans training camp.
1. No Surprises – Last year, the first string offensive line, on day one of training camp, was Brown-Adams-Jones-Brooks-Newton. This was after an offseason of Xavier Su’a-Filo receiving some praise about his work ethic, heading into his second season. Jeff Adams was a little-known tackle, and all of a sudden showed up as the team’s starting left guard. It would have been nice if this was because the team had found a gem in Adams, but he mostly looked awkward and fairly ineffective at LG.
I don’t want any of these types of surprises, injury or otherwise, early in training camp.
2. The UDFA Rookies With Hope – Everybody wants to see Brock Osweiler hit Will Fuller on a couple of deep patterns in camp, but I’m also intrigued by some of the undrafted players that Rick Smith brought in. K Ka’imi Fairbairn won the Lou Groza Award last year at UCLA, and I think he’s got a shot to unseat Nick Novak as the permanent kicker. The Texans have been searching for a permanent solution at this spot for a while, and Fairbairn seems to have the resume (without the draft status) of Randy Bullock.
Tight end Stephen Anderson caught 41 passes from Jared Goff at Cal last season, and could make this team at tight end. The Texans had relatively horrific production at that spot in 2015. Anderson doesn’t really *look* like an NFL tight end, as he has more of a receiver build. However, he has solid speed and the ability to get open, so I think he has a shot to make the team as the 3rd tight end behind CJ Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin.
Shakeel Rashad, the UDFA out of North Carolina, is a smaller, quicker linebacker who has the potential to develop into a solid cover LB. The Texans haven’t had one of those in a while.
3. Veterans Stepping Up – Houston has a group of players who have been around for a little while, but haven’t really established themselves: Fiedorowicz, XSF, Alfred Blue, Jeoffrey Pagan, Tom Savage, Lonnie Ballentine. I liked the Fiedorowicz and Su’a-Filo picks, but I’m not blind to the evidence in front of me. They haven’t been good enough, although XSF did improve late in the 2015 season. Fiedorowicz is never going to be an explosive TE, but can he at least develop into a reliable, above-average blocker?
The reports about Savage have been pretty good, even as he operates in the shadows of Osweiler. For a player who might have been competing for the starting job had the Broncos retained Osweiler, I’m impressed that Savage went out to Arizona and worked out with the team’s new franchise QB (this opinion was met with my co-host Seth Payne giving me the side-eye).
Realistically, only a few of these players will develop and pan out, but it would be nice to find a couple of more contributors under rookie contracts.
4. Explosion In The Return Game
This probably applies more for the actual preseason games than training camp itself, but I’m looking forward to how the Texans are going to look on special teams. Keith Mumphery, through little fault of his own, was hard to watch as the primary returner last year. He’s just not gifted enough athletically to be returning punts and kicks in the NFL, to me.
Now, new ST coach Larry Izzo can choose between Tyler Ervin, Braxton Miller, Wendall Williams, and maybe even Fuller in the return game. Ervin returned kicks in college, while Miller started getting some work at punt returner in offseason workouts. I’m hoping that some of these names create a sea change in the return game.
5. No Bad News With Jadeveon Clowney
You don’t need me to tell you that this is a big season for the number one pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. I think Clowney is a good football player. He’s specifically underrated as a run-defender in his spot:
However, we all know the deal. Clowney hasn’t been on the field enough. He did an excellent job rehabbing from microfracture surgery last offseason, but had to battle a few injuries last season, and wasn’t able to return for the playoff game against the Chiefs.
Clowney has been able to spend much more of his time working on his craft this offseason, as opposed to recovering from sports hernia or knee surgery. That’s a big positive, and the hope here is that continues throughout training camp and the preseason. JJ Watt is recovering from back surgery, and his status for the first few games of the season is not certain. Clowney has the talent level to make up for some of that, and it begins with an issue-free month of August.