As the Texans get set to open training camp on July 29, there will be considerable attention paid to the beginning of the Lovie Smith coaching era and the continued development of second-year quarterback Davis Mills.
And while those storylines are major, they are far from the only things to watch this training camp as the Texans look to break the recent trend of back-to-back four-win seasons.
The Texans’ secondary was among the worst last season and must make a major leap this season in year two of Smith’s Tampa 2 Defense. In the last couple of years, the Texans’ defensive line has undergone some major changes with the departures of stalwarts like J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, and forging a new frontier hasn’t exactly gone smoothly.
The offensive line seemed like a game of musical chairs last season, and as a result, Mills and any other quarterback who took snaps, were constantly under siege.
General Manager Nick Caserio has been on a mission to remake the Texans’ roster since his arrival in 2021, and he has done some more targeted changes this offseason which he hopes will get the franchise on track.
Here is a glance at what to watch for as the Texans get set to embark on the 2022 NFL season.
CHANGES IN SECONDARY
If you wondered what the Texans’ greatest area of concern was coming out of the 2021 season, the remaking of the secondary this offseason tells it all. The team parted ways with three starters from last season, added five veteran members and two of their first three players drafted in the first and second rounds are in the secondary, including No. 3 overall pick Derek Stingley.
Smith and Caserio have improved the talent by drafting Stingley and safety Jalen Pitre, along with the acquisitions of veterans like cornerbacks Fabian Moreau and Steven Nelson along with safety M.J. Stewart. There will be plenty of competition for starting spots and playing time in this training camp.
SOLIDIFYING THE OFFENSIVE LINE
One sure way to make your rookie quarterback look bad is to have holes in your offensive line. The Texans had plenty of those last season as the offensive line was plagued by injuries and inconsistent play across the board. But Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil is back healthy and veteran offensive line coach George Warhop has been brought in to right the ship.
The Texans have brought in veteran free agents offensive guard A.J. Cann and offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, who have both played under Warhop. That is in addition to several players who played significant snaps last season, like fourth-year offensive lineman Tytus Howard, center Justin Britt, right tackle Charlie Heck and offensive guard Max Scharping. It will be interesting to see if Howard remains at guard or moves back to his more natural right tackle spot this training camp.
DEVELOPING DEFENSIVE LINE
It may be hard to believe based on how the defensive front has performed lately, but the defensive line use to be a staple of the Texans. It appears the Texans may be on the verge of a resurgence along its defensive line with a young core that includes the likes of defensive tackles Ross Blacklock and Ray Lopez along with defensive end Jonathan Greenard.
All three made some impressive strides last season, but each must improve even more at stopping the run and putting pressure on quarterbacks to give the secondary a chance. It all starts for this trio in training camp. The Texans also re-signed veteran defensive tackle Maliek Collins this offseason and also veteran defensive ends Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes as stop-gap solutions.