Many football experts believe the foundation for a team’s success is laid early in the offseason, specifically mini-camp. Veteran free agents and players, rookie free agents and draft picks are all together for the first time on one field. For coaches and players alike, it’s the first interaction this group has had as a team.
The Texans recently began mini-camp and the preliminary reports are good according to head coach Bill O’Brien.
“It’s been fantastic,” O’Brien said. “We’ve had 100 percent participation…I think that’s great because this is the time of the year where you can really lay a good foundation. You have new players that you’ve added to the mix that get to know each other. It’s been a great group to work with. No doubt about it.”
O’Brien outlined what the team hopes to accomplish.
“The true test will be when pads go on. It’s a contact sport…You put in your base systems in all three phases and try to get a little bit better. It’s mainly a passing camp. It’s a teaching camp. It’s a non-contact camp, but you’re trying to do as good of a job as you can to teach everybody what your culture is, your philosophy, things like that.”
If the Texans are to have a chance for success in 2018 their fortunes will rely on the shoulders and knees of explosive second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson. In 2017 fans received a six-game glimpse of Watson’s playmaking ability. What they saw made them yearn for more. Unfortunately for Watson and the team, an injury in practice (ACL) caused him to miss the remaining 10 weeks of the season.
Watson has been participating in a limited role in mini-camp and has looked sharp throwing the ball.
“My knee feels well,” he said. “I’m comfortable to be able to go out there and throw and do some things on air and get the timing down with the receivers. I’ve been throwing on the field for a while now.
“It’s just one of these days to actually get back out here with the group, with the team, with the whole offense and being able to get back to the basics of football and build that chemistry and just build that leadership and that trust within each other.”
Watson shared his mini-camp goals.
“It’s really just understanding the basic core of the offense – getting those guys adapted to the new system that they are in and making sure that they’re comfortable, so whenever they go out there and step on the field, they’re confident and they can play fast and be free,” Watson said.
Defensively, the prize off-season free agent acquisition was Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu. A versatile player in the secondary, Mathieu has the ability to play in the box to stop the run and blitz. He also has the speed to cover slot receivers and be a ballhawk in the secondary.
“I take great pride in every aspect of my game,” said the former LSU All American. “Then, the physicality. I have this little man syndrome so being physical is part of my nature. It’s definitely a part of how I play.”
Mathieu discussed his transition to the Texans.
“I’m still settling in, just jelling with the guys,” he said. “It’s never too early to kind of start building some camaraderie and just getting a feel for your guys, especially on the football field,” Mathieu said.
“I’d say the first couple of days, it’s been fun, it’s been smooth. I’m just trying to handle my business. I wake up every day just trying to go to work and do what I need to get done. I’ve been around some great guys, some good dudes in the locker room. The coaches and the upper management that I’ve had to deal with, they’ve all been pleasant people. I’d say my transition has been rather smooth.”
One reason Mathieu chose to come to Houston was the opportunity to be coached by assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.
“He’s a player’s coach for sure but he does a lot of his talking in the classroom,” Mathieu said. “Once we get on the football field he kind of lets us handle our business. Learning from a guy like that I think is going to help me out a lot.”