The Texans opened their 20th training camp this week with far more questions than they have answers.
General manager Nick Caserio and coach David Culley, both in the first years of their respective roles, will have their work cut out for them after turning over much of the roster this offseason. The hope is to improve the results on the field by creating competition.
But with the uncertainty at quarterback, questions at the offensive skill positions and a lot of questions on defense, this could be shaping up to be much longer than last season’s 4-12 campaign. That doesn’t mean this season will be without intrigue.
Here are 5 things to watch for as the Texans begin training camp.
What are the Texans going to do with Deshaun Watson?
It was a mild surprise when Watson reported to training camp with all the other quarterbacks on Sunday. But with the NFL not placing Watson on the Commissioner’s Exempt List ahead of training camp as expected, Watson had little choice but to report or face a $50K-per day fine for each day missed. Moreover, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, such fines can no longer be forgiven. But make no mistake, having Watson actually take the practice field is a distraction neither the organization nor the NFL wants. Watson still wants to be traded and that will eventually happen with either Denver or Philadelphia as the most likely trade partners. But his presence will either put pressure on the organization to move him or for the NFL to put him on the Commissioner’s Exempt List while the quarterback works through his legal issues with 22 massage therapists suing him for sexual misconduct.
So what does the Texans quarterback situation look like?
Despite all the talk about an open competition, veteran Tyrod Taylor has been brought in as stop-gap quarterback until rookie third-round draft pick Davis Mills is ready. Mills’ coronation as the Texans’ quarterback of the future will either take place later in the season or most likely next year. It depends on his growth and the Texans desperation. Veteran backup Jeff Driskel has been brought in as an insurance policy because Taylor has struggled with injuries during his last two stops in Cleveland and San Diego. Notice there is no mention of Watson.
Who’s going to be the edge pass rusher getting after opposing quarterbacks?
Right now, it looks like Whitney Mercilus and second-year linebacker Jonathan Greenard are the popular choices to lead the Texans’ pass rush. However, neither has experience playing in the 4-3 defense at this level. But new addition Jacob Martin has played in the scheme, although Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense is different than the typical 4-3 scheme. Jordan Jenkins could also give the Texans some speed at the defensive end position. However it eventually plays out, look for this to be a highly competitive position throughout training camp.
Who will be the top two cornerbacks?
Caserio says he wants competition at every position. Well, he certainly has it at cornerback. The Texans have a lot of bodies and a lot of experience in the secondary. Bradley Roby has one cornerback spot locked up. The other side is a different story. Vernon Hargreaves seems the odds-on favorite. However, look for Keion Crossen, Desmond King, Terrance Mitchell, John Reid and Tavierre Thomas to push for a starting spot. The question still remains, can the Texans cover the top receivers in this league?
Can the Texans win this season?
No. Losing a generational quarterback like Watson will hurt for a long time as will former coach Bill O’Brien giving away star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for virtually nothing. Pack your patience Texans fans.