My first Cushing-free football blog post in a couple weeks -- now I know how Pedro Gomez felt after Barry Bonds retired. "What the hell am I going to talk about???"
Thankfully, the Texans start voluntary organized team activities (OTA's) this week, so there's actual football to be discussed. The key word in that sentence, at this point, is "voluntary" as wide receiver Andre Johnson has decided to partake in less-organized individual activities somewhere other than Houston as a way to say "Uh, have any of you noticed how much Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall got paid within a couple years after
my uncle negotiated that shitty contract I signed that new team-friendly deal?" So technically Andre isn't breaking any rules, as the workouts are indeed voluntary. The team would like him here, he's not, they expect him to be in training camp, let's move on.
How about a handful of things to watch in OTA's, non-Andre and non-Cushing related? Keep in mind that OTA's are a far cry from the full-bore pace of training camp, so cobbling together storylines and player assessments from these workouts is a little like trying to do a movie review after watching the trailer. I mean, what movie doesn't look at least passable in the trailer? Even Vanilla Sky looked all right in the trailer.
My point is we're going to come away thinking almost everyone looks at least okay, if not great. So we won't go overboard on the importance of these items to watch, but....well, the Astros suck, the Rockets are in the lottery tonight, and it's football, dammit!
So here we go, in no particular order....
1. DAN ORLOVSKY AND THE QUARTERBACK POSITION -- Orlovsky has now had a year to acclimate himself with the team, and as he pointed out in a recent interview with me, this is really the first time in his career where he's experienced any level of offensive continuity from year to year scheme-wise (even if Kyle Shanahan has moved on to Washington, the system remains intact). Orlovsky has all the physical tools to be a quality backup to Schaub; eliminating the mistakes that plagued him last pre-season will be key.
2. WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH -- Andre Johnson isn't here, and while it's not like 2007 when he was injured during the season and this gave Kevin Walter, Andre Davis, and Owen Daniels a chance to step into the breach, this will mean that some reps open up for others to at least make an impression. Kevin Walter and David Anderson (along with Johnson) are pretty well locked into their roles. Jacoby Jones showed flashes of being a big-play threat last year. If there's one guy who should be nervous it's probably Andre Davis whose kick return duties are at least threatened by the presence of Trindon Holliday and whose salary may not be in line with the value anymore.
3. THE QUOTABLE JONES -- Speaking of the wide receiver position, there are a handful of guys I "root for" to make the team and succeed because, I'll admit, I like them personally. Others I root for to make the team for entirely different reasons. I don't really know Jacoby Jones personally (although Sean & John Show trivia -- he was our first guest EVER on the show), but if he is going to keep cranking out quotes like this, I hope he stays a Texan for a long, long time....
I remember my rookie year, I couldn't catch a cold butt naked in Alaska in OTAs. It's true. So I told them, I said, 'Man, just play football. You're going to mess up, you're going to drop balls, you're going to struggle. Just play football like you've been doing, that's all.
That one easily tops his answer to how much he weighed before his growth spurt at Lane College -- "160 pounds, soaking wet wit' bricks in my pockets."
4. LINEBACKERS NOT NAMED CUSHING -- Time to get to know Danny Clark (again), and time to keep an eye on guys like Kevin Bentley, and a real close eye on Zac Diles since Cushing's suspension all of a sudden makes him your second-best linebacker and a pretty important player those first four games. For what it's worth, DeMeco Ryans and Bentley both missed Day One of OTA's with minor injuries.
5. THE OLD AND IMPROVED SLATON -- In 2008, Steve Slaton was everything the Texans had hoped for when they drafted him out of West Virginia times fifty. He played at around 200 pounds and was a gamebreaker. In 2009, the first thing you noticed about Slaton was how much bigger he was; fifteen pounds on a guy his height is a HUGE difference. I'm pretty sure it was mostly muscle, but he was doing commercials for Wing Stop ("I llluuuuuvvvv Wing Stop!!!") so there may have been a little bit of garlic parmsean on those extra L-B's. At any rate, Slaton is back (new and improved neck also, after surgery); key for him is getting back the burst he had as a rookie and holding onto the ball. At one point last season, he lost his starting job to Ryan Moats because of fumbling issues.
6. (BLEEP)-ING KICKERS -- For the first time in a long time, the Texans are opening up the kicking position to what is hopefully a legitimate competition, after Kris Brown beat out the other Chris Brown in a "someone named Kris/Chris Brown leaves town" match. Apparently, two crucial end-of-game missed field goals is not bad enough to lose to a game-ending goal-line fumble and an intercepted halfback pass.
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Neil Rackers is a guy who has kicked a lot of field goals and experienced a lot of NFL success. Me, I hope Rackers wins the job if for no other reason than, if he does, I can tell him how I picked him in the 15th round of my fantasy league in the year he broke the field goal record (2005), and I did so largely (hell SOLELY) because our waitress at the bar we were drafting at had a big "rack." Sadly, this may be the same rationale Charlie Casserly was using in his first two drafts for the Texans ... "Man, I'm tired, see...really tired, see...HEY, let's draft Fred WEARY!" (Also, insert your "Andre Johnson" and "Seth Wand" jokes here.)
7. ROOKIES -- It's an intriguing rookie class coming in. Everyone will be focused on first-round cornerback Kareem Jackson, as he walks into a starting position that is his to lose. Ben Tate, second-round running back out of Auburn, missed the first day with a hamstring injury. I'm most looking forward to watching sixth-round kick-return specialist Trindon Holliday and seventh-rounder Dorin Dickerson who will try to make the move from athletic tight end to big wide receiver.
Now, I'm off to go watch the trailer for the Texans 2010 season! I'm sure I'll come away thinking it's going to kick ass.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show", and follow him on Twittter at http://twittter.com/SeanCablinasian.