No general manager in the NFL this offseason has produced more transactions than Texans general manager Nick Caserio, and it's not even close. At last count, the number was approaching nearly 100 moves of various types since taking over the GM role back in January, so he is on pace to set some sort of record. The current result is a roster littered with unfamiliar names and reclamation projects, with a scant few 2020 Texans still remaining, like football refugees.
Until this past week, it was all just a game being played on paper, but eventually, we knew we would see these new faces in action. On Thursday afternoon, we did just that, with about a dozen or so media members getting an opportunity to attend OTAs in person, and go through the mental gymnastics of trying to piece together what exactly this team will look like this coming season.
Here are a few observations from an OTA session where the unit that performed within view of the assembled media was the offensive side of the football:
The overall vibe is just plain weird
I thought I was mentally prepared for a Texans practice without Deshaun Watson or J.J. Watt. I was wrong. Words can't really express how utterly strange it was to be at a Texans practice that was completely void of the names that have been synonymous with this team, and it's not just the ones who have been released, traded, or being sued by 22 women. Laremy Tunsil, Justin Reid, Zach Cunningham, Tytus Howard, all of them were absent on Thursday (although all of them are in the building and around the team, just not practicing on Thursday). Making it even stranger is that presumptive starting QB Tyrod Taylor dresses for practice EXACTLY the same as Watson (complete with tight shorts and hoodie underneath the red jersey), with a similar body type and build. It's like when they replace a soap opera character with an actor who is KIND OF similar to the original actor, but you can palpably feel the difference. Which brings me to....
The countdown to Davis Mills is likely on
Look, I've been driving the train of "Hey, let's support Tyrod Taylor and show some optimism, people!", as evidenced by my post earlier this week about QB matchups. However, watching practice on Thursday in person was a stark reminder that there are very few human beings alive who can make the throws Deshaun Watson does. Tyrod Taylor is certainly not one of them. So all of those plays the last few seasons that were saved by Watson's elite ability to rifle the ball accurately down the field, sometimes on the run? Yeah, I wouldn't count on nearly as many of those. The truth of the matter is that there is a better chance rookie Davis Mills' audition to be the starting quarterback next season begins around the bye week in Week 10.
Attendance at THIS practice wasn't perfect, but attendance overall for offseason stuff has been nearly perfect
As I mentioned earlier, there were several key players who were not in uniform at Thursday's practice, and some of them weren't even on the practice field in street clothes (which likely means they were in the Methodist practice bubble doing drills, getting treatment, or working out at the stadium). However, other than Deshaun Watson, every prominent name on the roster (along with, presumably, all of the not-so-prominent ones who want a job) has been around the team, in the facility, and/or practicing on days not open to the media. This flies in the face of the seemingly league wide attempt by many veteran players to push forward with a boycott from voluntary activities. What seems to be happening instead is that some teams are telling their players that if they show up for voluntary activities, they will modify or eliminate some of the mandatory parts of the offseason, like minicamp, beginning on June 15 for the Texans. So stay tuned on that.
If you want to get stuff done, ask John McClain
Finally, there have been some major glitches with the media during this early part of the practice portion of the offseason, namely the distribution of a roster document with NO JERSEY NUMBERS (a classic New England Patriot style flex, it would seem, by management) and the withholding of Taylor from media availability, for whatever reason (probably somehow tied to Deshaun Watson and the organization's lack of an appetite for any Watson-related quotes or drama). John McClain, the Hall of Fame NFL writer for the Houston Chronicle, went off about both of these things on his video blog on the Chron website. Here is the audio:
Well, don't mess with a Hall of Fame, people! At this practice yesterday, the roster had the jersey numbers of every player, and guess who was made available via Zoom after practice —- you guessed it, TYROD TAYLOR. John McClain for President!
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