With every passing day, football season gets closer and closer. A little more than a week ago, the Texans rookie class assembled at NRG Stadium for the first time for minicamp. That's the NFL's answer to college's freshman orientation, where it's as much about learning little things, like where to park and where to eat, as it is about learning the playbook.
Now, this week, here come Organized Team Activities, affectionately known as "OTAs," and the upperclassmen (the veteran players) are showing up for their first commingling with the rookies. There will be no padded practices, as those will come in July, but that won't stop us from trying to read into things and sprinkle hot sauce on some of the story lines as the season approaches.
So with that said, here is a quick run through ten of this preseason's Houston Texans that I
am most intrigued to see...
10. Chris Clark
9. Kendall Lamm
8. Breno Giacomini
7. Julien Davenport
I am putting these four in a virtual tie, as these are the names in the mix to start at right tackle, which, now that Brock Osweiler is gone, is the most problematic position on the offensive side of the ball. Clark was the starter to end last season, and might have been the worst starting right tackle in football. If he's the starter again, something is horribly wrong. The team seems to like Kendall Lamm, and people around the team have been saying, "Hey, WATCH KENDALL LAMM!" but if he was good enough to get us excited, why was he watching Chris Clark from the sidelines last season? Giacomini is the veteran free agent that I knew they'd be signing at some point. He's managed to hang around the league for a decade. Finally, Davenport is the most intriguing of this group, as a fourth-round rookie draft choice. Add all of this together, and we say in unison, "DEREK NEWTON, OUR CITY TURNS ITS LONELY EYES TO YOU!"
6. Nick Martin
Speaking of injured offensive linemen, Martin is making his return to the field this week. As a rookie last season, Martin was the rare first-year player who entered training camp as the starter at his position. The coaches gushed about how advanced he was, and he seemed to have the respect of his teammates, too. Then Lamar Miller rolled over his ankle in a drill the first week of practice, and that was it. Season over. The silver lining now, heading into 2017, is that the Texans found a more than adequate replacement in Greg Mancz, so now they have some depth, and the return of Martin is essentially like picking up another second-round draft pick in the season's rookie class.
5. D'Onta Foreman
Heading into the draft, most "experts" listed the Texans' top three needs as "quarterback, offensive line and safety," in some order. I was of the opinion that they needed more juice at running back backing up Lamar Miller. The love affair with Alfred Blue must end! Thankfully, the team was not afraid to pull the trigger on selecting Foreman, who I think will be the starting tailback in 2018. I think that highly of his skill set.
4. Kevin Johnson
Each of Johnson's first two seasons in the NFL has ended in injury, with last season ending after the Sunday night October comeback against the Colts, in which Johnson broke his foot. Thankfully, the Texans had A.J. Bouye to take over Johnson's spot, and he parlayed that into a $67 million deal with Jacksonville. Now, with no Bouye there and with Kareem Jackson possibly moving to safety, Johnson will need to stay healthy if this secondary is going to reach its potential. Reportedly, Johnson has added several pounds of good, necessary muscle weight this offseason.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
3. Tom Savage
2. Deshaun Watson
We will group these two together. For Savage, it will be interesting to see how "presidential" he is as the anointed starter (for now), and how comfortable he is getting the starter's reps under center and in front of the media. For Watson, it will be fun to see if (and how quickly) he can close the gap on Savage, not so much in OTAs but later on in training camp. Outside of Houston, most people seem to think it's a foregone conclusion that Watson will eventually start this season, possibly early. Very early.
1. J.J. Watt
Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy. Please be healthy...
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.