Ten Questions to Answer at the Start of Houston Texans Training Camp
It's deep in July and it doesn't feel like anyone should be talking about football, but thank the sports gods, training camp opens today for the Houston Texans down at Reliant Stadium. The real action begins Friday with the first workouts, but just seeing players and coaches getting back into the swing of it is a blessing for sports fans who have had to wait out the heat of the summer with only the dreadful Astros as company.
Photo by Groovehouse
As the local team gets in gear -- with preseason game #1 only two weeks away -- it's a good time to ask a few key questions about the team. There will be more than enough discussion as camp progresses. Every sports radio station in town will be balls to the wall with coverage as will the vast majority of media outlets. But, here are a few thoughts I had as camp gets started.
How badly is JJ Watt going to maul the league this year?
Watt had one of the greatest seasons of all time for a defensive lineman last year, but don't expect him to duplicate those numbers. That doesn't mean he won't be the same dominant beast he has been, but it is just difficult to sustain that level of intensity for a long period of time. I fully expect him to be one of the best in the league again, but I don't expect the numbers to be that high. If they are, or God help the rest of the NFL, better, he could already make an argument for being one of the best defensive tackles ever.
How will Arian Foster's load last year impact his running and will Ben Tate stay healthy?
Foster carried the ball a league high 351 times last year. With an unstable offensive line, it brought his average way down. No one wants Foster carrying the ball like that again. Historically, players with that many carries tend to have a falloff the next season. It appears Tate is healthy for training camp, which will be key for giving Foster rest. If Tate can return to the form of 2011, the Texans will have a formidable running game once again.
Will Ed Reed be ready for the season and how will rookie D.J. Swearinger respond if not?
Reed's unexpected hip surgery made Texans fans grimace, but I don't think any of us believe he will suddenly return what he was four or five years ago. Still, his veteran leadership and his ball hawking skills will be good for the Texans if he can get on the field. My money is he will given his history of toughness. Swearinger is a hard-hitting rookie who could make an impact, but secondary is one place where rookies can be exposed, so limiting his time on the field while still giving him some experience will be important.
Who will get most of the reps at inside linebacker with Brian Cushing?
For now, I think that will be Daryl Sharpton, but he has been unable to remain healthy for an entire season since drafted. Tim Dobbins is a serviceable backup, but the depth at ILB is thin. The experiment of moving Brooks Reed is exactly that, an experiment. Don't expect him to play big minutes at the position. But because the Texans play so much nickel and dime coverage, it will somewhat mitigate the depth at ILB. Still, any injuries will be a concern and Cushing needs to return to pre-injury form if the defense expects to be dominant.
What the hell is going on with the right side of the offensive line?
Last year was basically a disaster. Rotating players in an out, particularly on a zone blocking offensive line that thrives on continuity, was a nightmare and the running game suffered even if pass protection wasn't terrible. Coaches must settle on a rotation in training camp and stick with it. It appears guard Ben Jones has the ability to be the every-down guard they need, but they will need to figure out if Derek Newton is ready to take the reigns as right tackle, or will they turn it over to the veteran Ryan Harris, especially now that rookie Brennan Williams is on the PUP list.