Every-Thing Sports

Positions to watch at Texans training camp

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Football season is finally upon us. We've waited since the Super Bowl ended (or longer for those who eject after their team is eliminated) for another taste of football. The offseason has been tumultuous for the Texans as they fired their general manager, franchised their enigmatic for number one overall pick, failed to draft the best player at their biggest position of need, and didn't sign any top flight talent in free agency.

Training camp starts on Thursday July 25 for the Texans. This is a team that went 11-5 and won the AFC South last year. People out there are expecting them to win the division again, repeat that 11-5 record or better, or some are expecting them to possibly challenge for a Super Bowl berth. I, however, am a bit more reserved in my expectations. I can see an 8-8 type of season, or a 10-6 season. That will depend on how some key positions perform. Usually there are a few players and/or positions to look out for every camp. Here's a look at some positions (and players) that will make or break the Texans' season:

Offensive Line

The Texans missed on Andre Dillard when the Eagles swooped in front of them and drafted the best tackle prospect in the draft at the pick in front of them. They followed that up with drafting Tytus Howard with their first round pick and Max Scharping with the second of their second round pick. Signing Matt Khalil, an injury prone left tackle that once had All-Pro ability, did very little to ease fears. If Deshaun Watson is to avoid another 60+ sack season, the OL will have to improve greatly.

Edge Rusher

With Jadeveon Clowney out until he signs his franchise tender, and Whitney Mercilus in a contract year, expect this position to be hotly contested as well. Not only are guys going to get reps with Clowney out until he signs the franchise tag then reports, and Mercilus competing for his livelihood as well, not only will other guys get valuable reps, but some may get a chance to shine and prove why they may be worthy of more time.

Wide Receiver

After DeAndre Hopkins, there's a logjam of a bunch of guys at receiver. Will Fuller and Keke Coutee need to prove themselves worthy of being the number two and slot receivers on this team. Other guys may want to shoot their shots as neither of the aforementioned guys have been able to firmly establish themselves in their positions. Somebody has to step up in these backup roles, or else the team will be drafting for another position of need in 2020.

Defensive Backs

Sure this team has Justin Reid coming off a promising year, but they let Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson leave via free agency. Jonathan Joseph is as old as I am, but he's coming back for another year. Bradley Roby is signed to a one year deal, but hasn't proved he's worth more in his time in Denver. Maybe one of the two rookies the Texans drafted will step up and prove themselves worthy? However it pans out, the position is one to watch all season long.

Tight Ends

Neither of the guys they drafted last year did much to separate themselves. Enter Kahale Warring. As an athletic third rounder selected this year, he's set to come in and give Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins some much needed competition. When there's a good tight end to occupy the middle of the field, it opens up more routes for the wide receivers, and gives Watson more targets. If any of these guys can step up, this pass game has a chance to be pretty good.

Running Back

Yes, Lamar Miller is coming back, so is D'Onta Foreman. However, one is a veteran who hasn't proved he's capable of carrying the load for a real competitive team for a complete season, and the other is coming off a serious injury. Nothing was added to this position this offseason in terms of adding competition. Therefore, the team believes in these two guys being able to get it done. Also note that valued backup Alfred Blue was not retained. Losing him means more to your special teams, but having a guy like that as a backup added to the depth of the position.

i may sound down on this team, but I have my reasons.Seeing the way they've operated over the course of their history makes me extremely skeptical. Add that to the fact that they're going about it with a general manager by committee, and it ups the level of difficulty tenfold. If they should happen to catch lightening in a bottle two years in a row, I'll be the first to admit I'm wrong, but I could see another disappointing season ahead. I'd love nothing more than to admit I'm wrong, but this team has given me very little to be excited about. If you want to wear your battle red and deep steel blue fan glasses, you have your right to be wildly optimistic. I, however, tend to look at things more objectively and see this team taking a step back from what they did last year. These five position groups will go a long way into proving me right or proving me wrong.

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Yordan Alvarez came up big in Game 5. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Astros can win the pennant Friday night. Can't dangle the carrot any closer in front of the face than that. Taking the last two games at Fenway Park has the Astros in excellent position, but any notion that a third American League championship in five years is now inevitable, is silly. The Astros are probably 80 percent or better to advance, but of course the Red Sox could win games six and seven at Minute Maid Park à la the Nationals in the World Series two years ago. The Astros had all the momentum after winning three straight in D.C., came home for the coronation, and pfffft. You have momentum...until you don't. It's nothing to bank on. The Red Sox had all the "mo" after clobbering the Astros in games two and three of this AL championship series. Then Jose Altuve crushed the eighth inning tying home run in game four, ahead of the seven run volcanic eruption of a ninth inning. Nine more Astro runs later in game five, and here we are.

One key distinction that makes the Astros hand look stronger up 3-2 now than vs. the Nats, the Red Sox don't have Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer ready to pitch. Like Framber Valdez vs. Chris Sale in game five, game six is another starting pitching rematch. Alvin native Nathan Eovaldi grossly outpitched Luis Garcia in game two. We'll see if Sox manager Alex Cora winds up regretting even more using Eovaldi to start the fateful game four ninth inning. Eovaldi only threw 24 pitches, but three nights later we'll see what and how much he has in the tank.

After pitching horribly against the White Sox and then the Red Sox, and then citing a sore knee, Luis Garcia is his own huge question mark. So was Valdez before Wednesday spinning one of the great postseason pitching performances in Astros' history. Framber was awful in each of his first two postseason starts, absolutely magnificent in cruising through eight innings in game five. Should the Sox force Game Seven, Valdez certainly is a relief option on two days rest. Jose Urquidy would start, opposite Eduardo Rodriguez in a game three rematch.

Valdez and the Astros hope his next outing is Tuesday night in game one of the World Series. Ideally, at Minute Maid Park against the Atlanta Braves. Alas, the defending champion Dodgers remain alive and kicking, having won their fourth do or die game already in this postseason to send the National League Championship Series back to Atlanta. Now, if somehow we knew as fact that the Astros are going to win the World Series, I'd estimate approximately 99 percent of Astros' fans would prefer to beat L.A. Since we don't know that the Astros are going to win it all, getting the Braves would be more favorable for the Astros, if for no other reason than the Astros would get home-field advantage. Should the Braves make it, among other factoids Charlie Morton would be in his third World Series with three different teams in the last five seasons (Astros in 2017, Rays last year, Braves this). If the Braves can close out the Dodgers Saturday, Morton is Atlanta's likely game one starter at MMP. Provided the Astros are the AL Champs of course.

Watt a matchup for the Texans

The Texans play at Arizona Sunday. Yeah, and? You imagine that J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins find the two team's current situations amusing? The Texans are a 1-5 stink bomb that will keep on stinking. The Cardinals are 6-0 and an emerging Super Bowl contender. While Deshaun Watson continues collecting about 600 thousand dollars per week to do nothing (and waiting to become a Miami Dolphin?), Kyler Murray has made the leap to upper echelon NFL quarterback.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Decisions, decisions. Astros-Red Sox game 6 or Rockets home opener vs. Thunder. Tough call?

2. The Rockets will regularly be overmatched and probably lose 55 games or more again this season. At least they have young talent to offer some hope. The Texans presently have near nothing.

3. Best 2021 Astros' postseason journey signature food: Bronze-Atlanta/Los Angeles, anything? Silver-Chicago, deep dish pizza Gold-Boston, lobster roll

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