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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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