Texans Training Camp presented by Xfinity is a scant 12 days away and people often ask me what they should watch when they come out to practice. Well, I figured the best way to answer that is to give them, and y'all, what I'll be watching during the practice. I don't often follow the ball, if that makes any sense, so I have some specific, uh, stuff, for lack of a better word, that I feel like I need to watch to get a gauge on the team on the field. So, here goes, the Ultimate 11 Things I'll be watching at Texans Training Camp 2021...after the obvious quarterbacks, of course.
11. Big Boy inside 9-on-7 work - this is one of my favorite things to watch because it's the first time that the big fellas on either side of the ball get to mix it up since they last put the pads on last January. It's loud. People are yelling. Intensity goes up a few notches. It's freakin' football!!
10. Rookie Nico Collins' route running, in addition to his ability to beat defensive backs deep - the rookie from Michigan does need a little work to become a pristine route runner but where he really shines is in taking the ball off the top of a defensive back's head deep down the field. What do they say in golf "drive for show, putt for dough"? Well, for Collins, his deep ball abilities are his driving off the tee, but refinement of his receiver skills will be what makes his dough, just like putting.
9. Linebacker combinations - there are so many combinations that defensive coordinator Lovie Smith and linebackers coach Miles Smith can play around with during training camp. As such, I'm curious how they put them all together and which one(s) stand out as a result of being grouped together.
8. I love pass rush one-on-ones, even if the guys don't love that drill all that much. It's not the end-all, be-all, but it shows me which guys project to have the wherewithal to protect/rush effectively in a team setting.
7. Justin Britt at center - he mentioned at his press conference during the offseason how much wrestling plays a role for interior players on either side of the ball. As such, I want to see the center on this team knock people off the ball, not just stalemate interior defenders.
6. Defensive back Desmond King II - I've been a fan of King's dating back to his days at Iowa. His football IQ, smarts and overall on field acumen can be a huge boost for this defense in 2021.
5. Running back Phillip Lindsay during inside run drill - He doesn't look like he'd be a guy that thrives on the interior based on his size, but he's a tough son of a gun and highly effective when running between the tackles. He's a fun dude to watch...and talk to, honestly.
4. Lonnie Johnson Jr. as a safety - I said it from the middle of his rookie year - he's a safety but he now has to take control of his game from the middle of the field and take control of this defense from that position.
3. Defensive tackle Ross Blacklock - he's as impressive physically as many guys that have worn a Texans jersey, but his rookie season was a complete wash out. He's going to feel a ton of pressure to live up to that 2nd round draft pick status in 2020 and there were glimpses at the end of last season that did get me excited about what he can do.
2. The lower body of rookie defensive tackle Roy Lopez Jr - I'm just envious, really, but his strength, explosive nature and twitch are impressive for a guy his size, in large part due to those thundering thighs, quads and backside.
1. Running back Mark Ingram II in a Texans jersey - that's just going to be odd and strange and really cool all at the same time. I'll have to remind myself, constantly, that Ingram II is indeed a Texan. That said, I want to see him capture some of that magic that he had when he went to Baltimore from New Orleans in 2019.
12 days. Can't Wait!!