[EDITOR’S NOTE: Just over a week away from the Houston Texans Reporting to Training Camp Mike Meltser (Mad Radio 6a-10a On SportsRadio 610) looks at the four questions that the team needs to have answered by the time Training Camp finishes up.]
1. Kevin Johnson’s return to health – With AJ Bouye leaving and signing a big contract extension with the Jaguars, the Texans are banking on Johnson to stay fully healthy in 2017. Johnathan Joseph has done a very good job over the last two seasons, but you’re always concerned about his smaller injuries and eventual decline. Kareem Jackson has been a part of the secondary for a long time, but he is a little too inconsistent at times and could get more looks at safety. Johnson has shown flashes of being a star cornerback and is a willing tackler for his lithe frame. However, he has to stay on the field, as the Texans’ strength has been their ability to put three quality CBs on the field at one time.
2. Will Tom Savage hold off Deshaun Watson? – This is obviously the headline story heading into training camp. Marc Vandermeer, Seth Payne, and I all agreed that if Savage can match his performance from training camp last year, he will open the season as the starting QB. I think it’s usually easier to wait and plug in the young upstart quarterback at some point during the season, as opposed to starting him immediately and having to sit through the growing pains. The discussion and rumblings about Watson have all been positive heading out of the offseason workouts, but I’m guessing the Texans would prefer to wait a bit before anointing him. Two other factors to consider: Bill O’Brien expressed optimism about Duane Brown coming to camp at some point during Mad Radio’s Conversation with him, but the offensive line would look scary without him at left tackle. Also, Houston faces some difficult defenses early in the season: the Jaguars have a lot of talent on that side of the ball, and the Bengals and Patriots are on the schedule in the first four weeks.
3. Should the Texans use some of their cap space to pursue a veteran at a position of need? Up to this point, Houston hasn’t really utilized a notable portion of the extra cap space afforded by the Brock Osweiler trade. That deal happened early in free agency, and the Texans weren’t in heavy pursuit of front-line free agents. Most of us expect a lot of that space, and the overall cap space the team has, to be distributed in the form of a contract extension to DeAndre Hopkins, and eventual deals down the line for Jadeveon Clowney and others. However, the extra space also allows Rick Smith to pounce on any of the surprise cuts from around the league. Last year, the Bears signed former Packers OL Josh Sitton in August. If the Texans aren’t happy with what they see out of some positions with question marks, i.e. offensive line, safety, they should be able to bring in some reinforcements that can help out.
4. How many running backs will be kept, and what will the rotation be? Last year, the Texans kept 5 running backs in the latter half of the season, a pretty heavy amount for a team not employing an extensive RB-by-committee approach. Now, they’ve added a significant investment at RB, using a 3rd round pick on former Texas back D’onta Foreman. Is he ready to beat out Alfred Blue and be the primary backup? Can Tyler Ervin continue to demonstrate the improvement he showed throughout the spring? I like Akeem Hunt as a nice change-of-pace, but roster spots are at a premium. Can Foreman/Blue/Ervin provide enough in the combined backup/special teams/returner roles so that only 4 RBs are kept? Maybe Blue is the odd man out, if Smith and Bill O’Brien are confident enough in the two younger running backs and prefer to keep the “juice” of Hunt around.