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Houston Texans

Breakfast: 10 storylines to follow at Texans camp

In three days, the Texans hit the field for their first training camp practice of 2018.

The team leaves for The Greenbrier in West Virginia on Wednesday, and they'll start work the next morning.

A lot's different about the squad compared to this time last year, and there are many things to keep an eye on over the next month.

With all that in mind, for camp we're offering up a super-sized version of our typical game preview, which is a mere "Five Things to Watch". In no particular order, monitor these 10 things once camp gets going.

1. Watson's reps: Deshaun Watson will be under center as the starter this go-round in West Virginia. A month ago, head coach Bill O'Brien explained the luxury in getting Watson those starters’ reps, and it'll be fun to see what the second-year quarterback does with them.

During organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, Watson took part in 7-on-7 and individual drills, but was held out of full-team drills. That'll change and he'll get more work in the run-up to the regular season. How he's managed in West Virginia will bear watching in late July and early August.

2.O-line shakeup: Three free agent signings and a few other additions via the waiver wire, the draft and rookie free agents have made for a drastic change from the 2017 offensive line. Left tackle will likely be manned by Julién Davenport, and Nick Martin is the projected center. But three new faces will probably fill in the guard spots and the right tackle position.

There will be some mixing-and-matching at times, and the five that start in Week 1 at New England might not be the first five on July 26.

3. Tight end tussle: The Texans saw a dip in production from that position last year because of injuries. C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin combined to play in just 12 games in 2017. Fiedorowicz, has retired. Griffin is back. So is Stephen Anderson, who led the unit in yards and catches last season. Behind them are a pair of draftees in Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas. Plus, young veteran Matt Lengel impressed during OTAs and training camp. MyCole Pruitt and Jevoni Robinson are also in the mix trying to make the roster.

4. WR's not named Hopkins and Fuller: DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller are a dynamic receiving combo and when they teamed with Watson last season, they caught a combined 37 passes for 681 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Behind them on the depth chart is a mix of intriguing pass-catchers. Bruce Ellington and Braxton Miller both have experience in the offense and have shown an ability to make plays. Rookie Keke Coutee and veteran addition Sammie Coates had their moments during OTAs and minicamp. The Texans will have some tough decisions to make at the end of the preseason at this spot.

5.WR's ACTUALLY named Hopkins and Fuller: Why should you watch them? Because they're fun to watch. Do you really need any other reason? Hopkins routinely pulls off a highlight-reel catch in every practice. Fuller's got elite speed and is a true deep threat.

6. Run game adjustment: Lamar Miller is the starter, and Alfred Blue is back in a reserve role. But D'Onta Foreman's return is one many are eyeballing after he showed flashes during his rookie season last fall. An Achilles injury derailed his first campaign, and how soon he gets back from it is definitely worth monitoring. Plus, what about Tyler Ervin? He's in his third year, but missed the bulk of 2017 with a leg injury. Keep an eye on the mix of Troymaine Pope, Lavon Coleman and Terry Swanson. All three had their moments catching the ball out of the backfield this spring.

7. The 3-headed monster: J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney should all be good to go for Week 1 at New England. But how much we see of them in West Virginia is a big question. Mercilus was a full participant during minicamp and OTAs after an October pectoral injury derailed his 2017 season. Watt injured his knee a few plays after Mercilus went down, and he worked on a side field this spring. Clowney didn't practice at all this spring, but said recently he'll be good to go.

8. Safety first: The Texans added Tyrann Mathieu in free agency, and used their first draft pick on third rounder Justin Reid from Stanford. Those two are in the mix to start at safety when the Texans are in their base 3-4 defense. Andre Hal, who started all 16 games last year, and 11 in each of the previous two, was diagnosed with lymphoma in June.

Plus, veteran Kareem Jackson saw a lot of time at the safety position this spring. He spent his first eight years in the NFL at cornerback.

9. RAC's back: Romeo Crennel, nicknamed "Rac", is back as the defensive coordinator. Last season he was an associated head coach. But from 2014 through 2016, he was in charge of a defense that finished near the top of the League in yards per game allowed. In fact, two years ago, the Texans were the best in the NFL in that stat.

How he mixes and matches the front seven, as well as the secondary will be fun to watch in practice, as you'll routinely see eye-opening combinations under his watch. The players are excited he's back in charge of the defense.

10.  Return game: Getting better on special teams has been a big priority, and the team hired veteran coordinator Brad Seely and assistant Tracy Smith to help make that happen. Improving in the return game will be interesting, in large part because of the options available.

On punts, Fuller and Ervin handled the lion's share of return duties over the last two seasons. Chris Thompson was the primary kickoff returner. Coutee, Ellington and Braxton Miller might see some time there as the Texans look to get better at picking up the "hidden yards" on special teams.

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