Cody Stoots: 11 observations from Texans training camp for Tue., Aug. 21

It sounds like the Texans will play more of their starters this week, including Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins. Photo by Edward Clarke

1. The Texans are simulating some of the work they will do in preparation for a regular season week this week ahead of the Rams. Bill O'Brien explained they introduced some of the regular season working operations to the work week ahead of Saturday's game. Typically, teams begin work for week one in some shape or form two weeks out, which would be next week with the preseason finale on Thursday. This is actually a nice move because it adds a layer of assessment to players not present on a traditional training camp schedule. 

2. J.J. Watt said he would like to play in the preseason game on Saturday but noted it wasn't up to him. Watt said he doesn't need to go out and get pancaked but would like some reps ahead of the regular season. He noted though, this isn't imperative saying he missed the preseason ahead of 2012 and that year it went okay for him. Watt was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. 

3. O'Brien said he expects healthy players, even starters, to play in Saturday's game with the Rams. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Tyrann Mathieu are all healthy. So are Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller, and DeAndre Hopkins. Saturday should be fun. 

4. Mathieu said he wanted to get an interception in Saturday's game and hopes he gets to play. He noted after practice he feels like he has 94 percent of the defense down and likes working with Romeo Crennel. His knowledge of the defense will be important as he plays safety primarily with rookie Justin Reid and new safety Kareem Jackson. Mathieu brings up communication often when discussing the defense. 

5. Whitney Mercilus is still sidelined. He is working on coming back from a hamstring injury. O'Brien did say he will have Mercilus for the season opener against the Patriots. 

6. It will not be easy to run the football against the Texans. The defensive line is loaded with D.J. Reader and Christian Covington filling in and around Watt and Clowney on rushing defense. Clowney effortlessly removed a lineman to blow up a rep today and Watt's speed on pursuit is closer to old Watt than we saw in his limited action last year. Combined with Mercilus when he returns and the talented inside linebackers, this defense will make opposing rushing attacks miserable. Todd Gurley on Saturday will be a nice test. 

7. With Sammie Coates (concussion) and Keke Coutee (hamstring) still out, there are plenty of reps to go around for the pass catchers. Hopkins and Fuller got open in the middle of the field with ease on a few reps. Fuller doesn't look or work like the same player. It will be interesting to see him on Saturday. He's added weight and everything is a little smoother, but he's still stupid fast. O'Brien praised his hands yesterday saying they are stronger than previous years. 

8. Bryce Jones is the new cornerback on the roster. He made his debut today and won a rep against DeAndre Hopkins. The fifth cornerback spot is up for grabs and there is no reason Jones couldn't factor in if he impressed this week and next before the roster cutdown. Dee Virgin, the thought to be the favorite to make the roster as the 5th cornerback, is putting up a fight. He had two interceptions in practice today. 

9. Brian Peters is an interesting player for the Texans in camp right now. No one has done enough to supplant him as the special team’s ace, and his knowledge of the defense makes him a useful piece of depth at inside linebacker in a pinch. Special team’s holdovers are always interesting when a new special teams coach comes in. The Texans are in their first year with Brad Seely. Between Joe Webb, Johnson Bademosi, and Peters in addition to other backups that will be asked to contribute, it seems unlikely the special teams will be the bane of their existence again. 

10. Deshaun Watson threw an interception today, the first I can remember seeing him throw in camp. Around that interception, he threw some of the crispest passes of the preseason. He hit Hopkins and Fuller in stride on a ton of plays and placed some bullets into the end zone. Watson is better than last year in a few ways, but the consistent crispness combined with the ever-improving accuracy is one of the big jumps. 

11. Nick Rose is not going to supplant Ka'imi Fairbairn as the team's kicker. It doesn't seem like Shane Lechler can be bested in the punting competition, but the rookie Trevor Daniel can boom it. Lechler is likely playing his last year, and Daniel could earn himself some practice squad work. 

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Composite image by Jack Brame.

There's an elephant in the room when it comes to the Houston Texans. No, it's not Bill O'Brien. He's the ominous black cloud that hoovers over the whole building. That cloud is like a slow moving weather system that's constantly dumping rain and flooding the city. Eventually, it'll pass, we'll rebuild and recover from it.

It's not even the McNair family. Cal and Janice are the building itself. It exists, but needs people around and operating it in order for it to fully function. Sure, it could use some work. After all, it's almost twenty years old and could probably use a facelift. It happens when buildings age and are only taken care of or held to minimal standards.

The elephant in the room is Deshaun Watson. More specifically, his progress as a franchise/superstar quarterback. I've heard different people talk about this in one way, shape, form or whatever. AJ and Fred covered it on ESPN Houston's The Blitz. My friend @itsDanielBsr tweeted it and brought it up as well. There were others who talked about this topic, but these were the two places I encountered it in which I could pay closer attention.

When it comes to Watson, most people believe he's a great talent. However, there is a growing sentiment that it's time for him to take the next step. Watson turned 25 on September 14. He signed his four-year extension about a week before his birthday. When you're getting paid like a top quarterback and people recognize you as one of the better young quarterbacks, there comes a time when you need to poop or get off the pot.

When calling Watson to the carpet, people will call O'Brien into question. O'Brien is a factor in holding Watson back some. He's been the play-caller his whole time here in Houston up until this year when he allegedly turned it over to Tim Kelly. We've all seen how that has gone. O'Brien is also the general manager that traded away Watson's top target in DeAndre Hopkins. These type of things can hinder a young quarterback's growth and development, but at what point do we stop blaming O'Brien and start looking at Watson?

Some will point to the offensive line as a key factor as to why Watson isn't progressing. We've seen him escape sacks and create plays out of thin air. But when is it time to call him to the carpet for not going through his reads and/or making a check-down? He often escapes sacks and looks downfield, but should he be looking to scramble more often? Should he be reading progressions better? These intimate details are answers we won't ever get, but we hope we can understand that Watson is making his reads and decisions the way he's supposed to.

Whether it's his big extension, his bumbling idiot of a head coach, his lack of protection, or his lack of weapons, fans will eventually stop giving Watson a pass. Del said it best on ESPN Houston's The Bench: When will people stop bringing up Clemson when talking about Watson's greatness? NFL quarterbacks have their college career talked about in their rookie seasons. After that, it's all about what have you done for me lately. I sincerely hope Watson realizes his tremendous potential. He's a star now and a superstar in the making. The one thing that he needs is the success on the field that will catapult him into the upper echelon of the other top talents at his position. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Pat Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Lamar Jackson all have either a league MVP award and/or a Super Bowl ring. If Watson is to be mentioned in that rarefied air, he needs to start taking the necessary steps. The clock is ticking and people are watching. Your move Deshaun.

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