Bill O’Brien: “It’s OTAs, It’s Not Real Football”

By Matt Hammond, SportsRadio 610

by: Matt Hammond (@MattHammondShow)

Bill O’Brien appreciates the attention.

But media coverage at OTAs? The Houston Texans head coach doesn’t get the point.

After Wednesday’s workout at the Houston Methodist Training Center, O’Brien cautioned against reading too much into what happens on the field

“I think it’s great you guys are out here, but I would just tell you that, it’s OTAs,” O’Brien said. “It’s not real football. They’re in gym shorts, jerseys, helmets. No pads.

“The real test will be in West Virginia (for training camp).”

So, how much can we learn from OTAs?

With the offensive and defensive lines, not much. Will JJ Watt be the same JJ Watt coming off back surgery that he was before? Can Jadeveon Clowney take the next step toward reaching his potential as a former No. 1 overall pick? Can DJ Reader adequately replace Vince Wilfork at nose tackle? How soon can Julién Davenport be ready to man the right tackle spot? Can David Quessenberry continue to defy the odds, and earn a spot on the 53-man roster? Tough to know when everyone’s in tee-shirts and shorts.

“I like Julién,” O’Brien said. “He’s a rookie, so they’re all learning. “It’s tough in no pads. I think the true test for linemen is when the full pads are on in camp. But so far, he’s smart, he works hard. He’s got a good skill set for that position. So, so far, so good. But again, the true test for linemen is when they put pads on (in training camp).”

For individual players, at all positions, there are other challenges in the evaluation process. With all the moving parts – roster at 90 players, many of whom aren’t NFL players; first, second and third-teamers working together interchangeably – it’s hard to know who, exactly, is responsible for what.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” O’Brien said. “It’s OTAs. I think the evaluation has a lot to do with the mental part of the game, the execution. There’s no real first, second, third team. You see some so-called first-teamers in there with so-called third teamers. So I wouldn’t judge anything by that.”

But even if OTAs aren’t everything, they’re certainly something.

Think of the two biggest storylines for this team, this season.

Is Tom Savage good enough to ride this defense to a deep playoff run? And If not, how soon can Deshaun Watson be ready to hopefully, eventually do it himself?

Well, that all depends on how much these quarterbacks know, and how well they can translate what they’ve learned in the classroom onto the field. So it stands to reason, how they handle the mental part the position is, to a degree, worth watching.

Savage said today that OTAs are absolutely important for quarterbacks.

“Oh, you need them,” Savage said. “I mean, it’s just the chemistry, especially the receivers. JJ and Clowney and those guys would love to rip my head off, but they can’t, because we’re not in pads, and luckily, they’ll never be able to.

“But you’ll be able to just go out there and work on each throw. I don’t want to say knowing you’re not getting hit, but getting the ball out and the defense is letting us throw the ball even if they are coming through, and it’s kind of what we need.”

If it sounds like O’Brien would rather the NFL scrap OTAs altogether, he wouldn’t. The last question he took on Wednesday was about Jaelen Strong, who went down with in injury during the session but was able to walk off on his own power. It wasn’t long before O’Brien pivoted to a commentary about the NFL’s offseason practice rules.

“I’m gonna try to hold my tongue on some of the offseason rules with the NFL. I don’t agree with a lot of them,” O’Brien said. “So, we’re just trying to execute as good as we can, with no pads on, and see if we can just continue to get in better condition and get ready for training camp.”

Whatever the value of OTAs, the Texans have four more left on the offseason calendar, before mandatory minicamp (June 13-15) and, finally, training camp in Greenbriar.

Matt hosts “Hear Me Out,” Saturdays from 1-4 pm on SportsRadio 610, and “The Matt Hammond Show,” weekdays at 11 am on Facebook Live, Twitter and Periscope. You can, and totally should, follow him on Twitter.com.

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