Houston Texans Training Camp Story Lines
What I am interested in watching at camp
Hi everyone, TC here
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It’s here! It’s finally here! Training camp is here! Football season is back in full with the players reporting to training camp this week. My schedule is looking much better for attendance this year as compared to 2022.
Before we dive into the interesting stories to watch, below is a quick update on the Houston Texans salary cap space heading into training camp. The cap space does account for CJ Stroud projected, unsigned, contract.
Rather than publish a write-up on the full 90 (+1 international) player roster, I wanted to share some specific areas of the roster carrying the most intrigue for me heading into the season.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. There is no concern that Stroud has not signed his rookie contract as of yet.
Stroud will be the most watched player on the field during training camp and preseason. I am curious to see Stroud’s demeanor and presence amongst his new teammates. Will Stroud’s accuracy carry over to the NFL? Will the short quick pass game utilized in San Francisco carry over to Houston? The organization will work to continue capitalizing on the wave of positivity captured in February up through the draft. That idea continues with the growth of CJ Stroud in 2023 and beyond.
Edge Defender Group
Houston traded a substantial draft package to move up for Will Anderson at 1.03. The expectation is for Anderson to be one of the two starting defensive ends. Who lines up opposite side? Talented, oft injured, Jonathan Greenard or savvy veteran Jerry Hughes? Can Jacob Martin regain his form from two years ago? The depth at the position is a concern as well.
Greenard is heading into a contract year with a lot of future money on the line. Explosion and agility is not Greenard’s strength, rather his strength and hand usage is his…strength. Unfortunately Greenard will always be remembered as the player O’Brien didn’t want.
Outside of Houston the expectations will be high for Anderson stemming from the above mentioned trade package to acquire Anderson in the draft. Locally with the fan base, the read I get with fans, the expectations are more tempered mixed with excitement. Will the fan base expect a lot from Anderson? Yes. Will the fan base have a less fanatical approach? I also believe that to be true.
Interior Offensive Line
The weakest link in the 2022 season was clearly the interior group. GM Nick Caserio completed a series of moves to overhaul this group this past offseason. Trading for veteran guard Shaq Mason, drafting center Juice Scruggs and center/guard Jarrett Patterson.
Run game blocking is less of a concern compared to pass blocking. Stroud can move and scramble as needed, but prefers to work within the confines of the pocket. The ability to step up into the pocket keeping his eyes down the field is Stroud’s game. The interior group performance will be essential to Stroud’s performance inside the pocket.
With the continued transition of interior pass rushers taking over the game, this further demonstrates the need for quality interior lineman. Houston fans witnessed this first hand in 2022 with Kenyon Green had month’s long baptism by fire lining up against the likes of Dexter Lawrence, Jeffery Simmons, Daron Payne, Jeff Allen, and Jordan Davis.
If second year guard Kenyon Green can find his way back to meaningful play; Houston could easily have a Top 12 offensive line. Quality offensive line play should go a long ways towards the success of rookie quarterback CJ Stroud.
John Metchie was my favorite draft selection of the 2022 draft. Currently dealing with a hamstring injury, the hope is we get to see Metchie in camp early at full strength.
Metchie will have competition from rookie wide receiver Tank Dell at the slot wide receiver position. Oddly enough the two players, Metchie and Dell, are near completely different in their body type and potential usage. Metchie has outstanding route running skills, and could read defenses for option routes. The key here is, can Metchie and Stroud see the field the same way and interpret what they see with the same outcome. To solve this Metchie needs to stay healthy and be on the field.
Metchie could prove to be the security blanket underneath for CJ Stroud in 2023. Bringing home an underwhelming stat line each week despite the importance of the performance.
The cornerback position group has quickly evolved a position of strength for Houston. Under Lovie Smith in 2022 the defense led the league in receiving touchdowns allowed. Fans will be watching Derek Stingley as will many who cover this team. I am more concerned with the battle at CB2 between disgruntled Steven Nelson and newly signed Shaq Griffin. Griffin is 4 years younger than Nelson. Both players are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in 2024.
Nelson has been angling for a new contract all offseason with no success as of yet. Griffin has battled injuries the past two seasons. Excelling in Seattle in Pete Carol’s Cover 3 scheme. DeMeco Ryans will be looking to rekindle that performance fire in Griffin. I am not saying Steven Nelson is out, but this will be a big training camp battle to watch.
Houston seems dead set on giving Christian Kirksey another shot at the middle linebacker position. In the offseason I had projected Kirksey as a potential salary cap casualty. The team signed Denzel Perryman to compete with Kirksey at the mike linebacker spot including play call duties. Perryman could be a sneaky good signing by Caserio if Perryman can regain his health and stay on the field.
Houston is allocating 8.2% of their salary cap to the linebacker position group, ranking them 10th highest in the league. Kirksey carries a $6.25 million salary cap charge with $5 million in cash earnings (without incentives included). Perryman, scheduled free agent in 2024, carries a $2.33 million salary cap charge this season with a cash outlay of $2.6 million.
Linebacker performance is key to DeMeco Ryans’ wide-9 scheme that creates a kill box (coined by Seth Payne) in the middle of the field. Kirksey is fantastic in the locker room, a characteristic trait that is invaluable off the field, but performance on the field will be the final determine factor in the team’s decision at the position.
Running Back 3
RB3 is not as sexy as other positions, but it is rather important given the life cycles of the position. This roster spot requires special teams work to even make the roster. Given this I believe Dare Ogunbowale has a leg up on veteran Mike Boone and rookie Xazavian Valladay at the start of training camp.
Injuries happen and will happen. Houston fans saw that first hand with Dameon Pierce last year. Devin Singletary is not a direct replacement type running back for Pierce. Singletary should be a solid option as RB2/change of pace running back.
The back up running backs, in 2022, all averaged 3.0 YPC. A number that drastically needs to change across the position group. The fan base likely will be rooting for Valladay to shore up the running back corp to start the season.
The running game efficiency will be critical to Bobby Slowik’s offense and the success of CJ Stroud. The team needs adequate depth at the position on the 53 man roster and across the practice squad.
So many angles and story lines to track this year. And I didn’t even get into the new coaching staff. The organization really needs to hold onto this positivity wave and ride it into the regular season.
To see the fan base charged up as it is, something we haven’t seen in a few years, is exciting to see and absorb. I am exciting to be able to attend practice yet again as media personnel. I am also truly excited to see the fans in attendance during the public practices.
Let me know in the comments below which players you are interested in watching in practice this year. I hope that you were one of the lucky ones that obtained training camp practice tickets.
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