The Houston Texans had essentially what amounts to a vacation day on Monday, an off day in the midst of training camp, free to do whatever they want. In those situations, all a head coach asks is that they come ready to practice the next day. Unfortunately, judging by the demeanor and short words of Bill O'Brien following Tuesday's practice, it felt like a solid C- on Tuesday for the Texans, as they worked in shoulder pads and shorts.
Tuesday was my first day to cover a Texans practice this preseason in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, at the Greenbrier, so part of my process was getting reacquainted (from a distance) with this team. Here are the things that have changed since last season:
There are new numbers for some!
I don't know if either of these players will factor into anything, but backup quarterback Brandon Weeden is now wearing number 3 (Previously, Number 5), and backup running back Tyler Irvin is now wearing number 21 (previously, number 34). The Weeden thing made for some uncomfortable watching on Tuesday as I kept having Tom Savage flashbacks for the first 30 minutes before my brain adjusted. As for Ervin, 21 is a much sleeker number than 34, and this is the exact same uniform number switch that A.J. Bouye underwent two seasons ago. (So hey, why not?)
There are also new body types!
One of the biggest talking points all offseason for the Texans has been the hire of Luke Richesson as the czar of everything strength and nutrition. The Texans reportedly paid a pretty penny to steal Richesson away from the Denver Broncos, and while the returns will be better judged once this team has played a full season, the changes in body type for some Texans are readily apparent. Wide receiver Will Fuller has tacked on a very evident 15 or 20 necessary pounds to his frame, Lamar Miller looks a little sleeker than last season (down maybe 8 to 10 pounds), and there are a number of linemen on both sides who appear to have benefited from Richesson's program.
There are new faces, so allow me to introduce you to a few of them!
Like every NFL team, the Texans will churn about a third of their roster from last season to this season, and some of those new faces were out there making plays on Tuesday. Safety Tyrann Mathieu looks to be in 2015 shape (NOTE: He was first team All-Pro in 2015) and was outstanding in one-on-one drills against tight ends on Tuesday. Wide receiver Sammie Coates, a pick up off the waiver wire from Cleveland, got free for a nice long touchdown in team drills, and he certainly looks the part. There are also a few rookies who were noticeable in drills yesterday — safety Justin Reid is vying for the starting safety spot opposite Mathieu, sixth round pick TE Jordan Thomas is a load and could be a steal, and Duke Ejiofor, another sixth round pick, could find his way into the rotation at outside linebacker based on the early practices.
There is a new overlord for this team!
There is one overriding feeling being at Texans camp this season that is different than every other season that I've covered the team (twelfth season overall, fifth with the Texans' flagship, SportsRadio 610) — the leader of this team, the franchise quarterback, is in place and has the universal respect of not just his peers on the Texans, but the entire National Football League. This must be THAT part of covering a team has felt like for New England, Green Bay, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and name any other team with their supreme leader in place. Yeah, the Texans had Matt Schaub in place at one time, and he played well for them, but nobody from a national outlet was clamoring for five minutes with Matt Schaub. The presence of Deshaun Watson is so palpable that it makes you giddy for Week 1 to get here, and it makes your stomach sink every time he goes to the ground.
And if you needed anything else to get you excited for some football, here is my Texans training camp tweet of the day...
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.