3 critical factors to watch for at Houston Texans training camp

Houston Texans CJ Stroud
All eyes are on rookie QB CJ Stroud. Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images.

Training camp is FINALLY underway! Teams, fans, and media are all excited! You get updates every hour or so about what's going on. Sometimes, you'll get updates every few minutes depending upon if practice is going on, and if it's open to media and the public. The weather is either very hot, or somewhat manageable, contingent upon where camp is located. The open practices where fans can attend are always the best experiences. Many won't get that close to their favorite team's players and coaches ever again.

Camp takes on a different feel for teams with new coaching staffs and/or prized rookies. For the Texans, that feel is exponentially greater due to the new coach being a former player, and them having two prized rookies. Add to it the way the last few seasons have gone, and it's easy to see why this year's camp has a much different feel. Since this camp has a different feel, I have some different things I'd like to see coming out of this camp:

QB position clarified: C.J. Stroud should be named QB1 any minute now. He already has the one thing you can't teach, accuracy. Now all he needs is chemistry with his receivers to create that anticipation and timing, then master the playbook. Case Keenum was brought in as a veteran backup/mentor. What better guy to learn from than someone who's been the ultimate QB2 most of his career. Davis Mills needs to understand this “competition” is to show him off for other teams to maybe make an offer for him. In no way should he be on this roster when the final 53 is settled. Thank you for your time. We wish you well on your future endeavors.

Three-headed monster: The wide receiver position is still murky. I see a bunch of WR2s, 3s, and 4s. Of the 13 guys at the position in camp (and maybe more if they add to it), I'm guessing five or six may make the team. Of those five or six, I need three of them to establish themselves as the clear-cut WR1/2/3. Ideally I'd love to see the three of them, whoever they are, come out of camp with an uncanny connection with Stroud. That'll take more time than what they have in camp. But I believe three of these guys can step up and show themselves as the three best in this bunch. This would help ease the tension in the room when the WR position talk happens.

The lynchpin: DeMeco Ryans has said he'll be calling plays this season. As a former defensive coordinator and linebacker, he is uniquely equipped to get the most out of that side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke has 20 years of NFL coaching experience behind him. DeMeco coached against him the last couple of years and hired him because he feels he can help shape this defense in the image he envisions. I'd love nothing more than for them to have a firm grasp as to how they want to call plays, situations, and personnel. In other words, I'd like to see this defense be the calling card of this team from day one. Offenses tend to take time to establish themselves. Defenses can take advantage of this early on in the season. What a sight it would be to see this defense being able to take advantage of an offense for a change.

The first two have to do with the offense because it's been abysmal the last few seasons. A rookie QB drafted number two overall puts the offense at the forefront. It's multiplied when there hasn't been a ton of talent at the WR position. When your new head coach is a defensive guy, the defense will be the other focus. A few pieces here and there coupled with a good scheme and play calling can lead to a complete 180 on defense. That defense needs to firmly establish itself early as the staple for this team until Stroud and the offense can catch up. Let's take a look when the season starts and see how close they are.

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Will all the Texans playmakers be satisfied with their roles in the offense? Composite Getty Image.

ESPN Texans reporter DJ Bien-Aime joined The Mina Kimes Show this weekand shared his thoughts on the Texans outlook this season.

When looking at the Texans offense, Bien-Aime pointed to Houston's play calling as being a possible issue in 2024. Bobby Slowik did a terrific job in his first season as an offensive coordinator. But he will have his hands full keeping all his playmakers happy with Stefon Diggs joining the team, and Nico Collins expecting a ton of looks after signing a massive contract extension.

Which got us thinking, are there enough catches to go around?

We took a deep dive into the 2023 numbers and here's what we found. CJ Stroud averaged 21 completions per game. And here's a breakdown of how many catches his receivers averaged last year.

Nico Collins 5.3 catches per game

Stefon Diggs (with Buffalo) 6.29 catches per game

Dalton Schultz 3.93 catches per game

Tank Dell 4.27 catches per game

Texans running backs 3.05 catches per game

If we add those up, the total is 22.84. Which means the Texans top receivers should expect a similar amount of production compared to last season. Of course, players like Noah Brown, Robert Woods, and Brevin Jordan will take targets away from Stefon Diggs and company from time to time.

But it's good to know that the Texans top pass catchers should produce numbers close to their 2023 averages. Which is a big deal for a player in a contract year like Diggs.

Another thing to note. We're factoring in that the Texans are expected to run out of 11 personnel most of the time. Which means Diggs, Collins, Dell, Schultz, and Mixon will be the only pass catchers on the field the majority of the time.

Are there concerns about the defense?

Both Kimes and Bien-Aime designated Houston's secondary as the big x-factor this year. Bien-Aime named cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. as the only player in the secondary that he truly trusts. Is he right?

Be sure to watch the video above as we react to Kimes and Bien-Aime's outlook for the Texans this year, and share our thoughts on the possible pitfalls the team will have to navigate in the short and long-term.

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