Each year, the Houston area seems to stock all 32 NFL teams with some tremendous talent.

That will be no different this year as the 2021 NFL season gets set to kick off this weekend. There are some rookies from the area getting set to make their mark and several veterans looking to improve on what they did a year ago.

Here are five Houston-area NFL players to keep an eye on as the season unfolds:


Position: Cornerback

NFL Team: Miami Dolphins

College: Baylor

High School: Wheatley

Here is the deal: Xavien Howard is coming off a stellar season in which he had an NFL-best 10 interceptions and 20 passes defended en route to earning first-team All-Pro. Without question, Howard has established himself as one of the premier corners in the league. Earlier this summer, the 2016 second-round draft pick was demanding a trade after his once top cornerback salary had dropped to sixth, but a restructured deal seems to have smoothed things over.


Position: Wide receiver

NFL Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

College: Texas A&M

High School: Galveston Ball

Here is the deal: Mike Evans has been one of the best receivers in the NFL for a while now, but now he has added Super Bowl champion to his list of superlatives. That’s what happens when you have Tom Brady throwing to you. Evans caught 70 passes for 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is the first player in NFL history to have seven consecutive 1,000-yard receiving yards since entering the league. It will be interesting if the eighth-year pro can make it eight straight as he and Buccaneers look to repeat as champs.


Position: Wide receiver

NFL Team: Dallas Cowboys

College: Oklahoma

High School: Foster

Here is the deal: CeeDee Lamb is coming off an impressive rookie season in which he caught 69 passes for 935 yards and five touchdowns. Now it will be interesting to see if his freakish athletic ability is able to take it to the next level. All of the ingredients are there to make this a special season for Lamb. He will share the field with veteran receiver Amari Cooper, which almost assures that both receivers will see single coverage. Quarterback Dak Prescott is back and healthy and running back Ezekiel Elliott is back in the right frame of mind. The only question is if there are there enough balls to keep them all happy?


Position: Quarterback

NFL Team: Philadelphia Eagles

College: Oklahoma

High School: Channelview

Here is the deal: There probably won’t be a more scrutinized player this season than Jalen Hurts. After being given the ball during the last four games of last season, it’s now his rock after the Eagles traded away traded away Carson Wentz. But without question Hurts has to prove himself as the Eagles haven’t made a big investment in the second-year player with the team opening flirting with the idea of trading for Deshaun Watson. Hurts has quite a bit of work to do after completing 52 percent of his passes as a rookie while throwing six touchdowns and four interceptions while getting sacked 13 times during a 1-3 stint for the Eagles.


Position: Defensive tackle

NFL Team: Houston Texans

College: TCU

High School: Elkins

Here is the deal: There is no other way to put it other than Ross Blacklock failed to live up to expectations last season after being drafted in the second round by his hometown team. The most memorable moment for Blacklock came in Week 2 when in the fourth quarter he was ejected from the Baltimore Ravens game for throwing a punch. He finished with just 14 tackles, which included one for loss, two quarterback hits and no sacks. But Blacklock seems to be poised for a breakthrough campaign this season. He has had an impressive training camp and seems to have earned a spot in the three-technique rotation in defensive coordinator Lovie Smith’s 4-3 scheme.

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....