The Texans head into the OTA (organized team activity) phase of the off-season, starting today. I figured this was as good a time as any to highlight the things I'm looking for when OTAs start and continue over the next four weeks. Here are my ten things, in no certain order, I'll be spying starting on Tuesday.
1. How healthy are the QBs
Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage. We all talked about Mallett's injury in the off-season but few talked about the knee injury Savage suffered in December v. the Colts. Both are seemingly healthy heading into OTAs, which should make for an intriguing QB competition, err, situation this spring/summer.
2. Increased comfortability of the team's tight ends
The team didn't add a tight end to the mix in the off-season but in the second year in this system, the trio of Garrett Graham, C.J Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin should see increased targets and must produce more than it did in year one.
3. The health of DT Louis Nix
And at what point does he actually start to compete for playing time in this stout defensive front.
4. The slot receiver position
The Texans signed Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts and drafted Jaelen Strong and Keith Mumphrey in the off-season. As such, I could see three of the four playing the slot but I don't ultimately think any of them are perfectly suited for that spot. That said, can Travis Labhart and recently signed rookie UDFA Chandler Worthy (Troy University) make a strong push, alongside incumbents Damaris Johnson and Keshawn Martin?
5. Kevin Johnson facing DeAndre Hopkins and the veteran receivers
Watching the first round draft pick and his fellow rookies in rookie minicamp was sort of like watching workouts at the Senior Bowl or Shrine Bowl. On Tuesday, the real test takes place as Johnson will face Hopkins, Shorts, Washington and a bunch of smart and savvy veterans. How does he fare? How does he respond to getting beat?
6. Benardrick McKinney's fit in the defense alongside the veterans
Vince Wilfork in a Texans jersey. It's just going to be strange NOT seeing him in a Patriots jersey but I can admit fully that I, and many others, have wanted to see a game changer of his pedigree at his position for a while. Seeing Wilfork sandwiched by JJ Watt and Jared Crick is going to be neat-o (as I channel my inner Peter Brady)
**7. The communication on defense
One of the things I noted last year that I LOVED in OTAs and training camp was how vocal the defense was as it communicated checks, adjustments and the sort. The rookies were extremely impressive in their first weekend on the field, but watching the veterans confidently orchestrate a practice, a drill or a period is fun to watch.
8. Practice squad players from last year and how far they've progressed
Matt Fieler, Bryan Witzmann, James Ferentz, Labhart, EZ Nwachukwu and Jace Davis are just a few that'll have my attention. Can one or more make the 53-man roster? The long road to the 53 starts on Tuesday.
9. How are the safeties configured?
Sure, there will be changes and adjustments throughout the long season, but I'm curious and excited to see how Rahim Moore, Stevie Brown, Lonnie Ballentine, Eddie Pleasant and company are mixed and matched.
10. The day will be complete seeing a relatively healthy David Quessenberry out on the field again
What he can do, what he's able to do, is actually irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. I want to just see that man on a football field chasing a dream after all he's been through.
So, those are just a few of things I have on my mind as OTAs begin. I'll shoot out some thoughts after today's OTA so be on the lookout.
Take a look at Texans players getting their Madden headshots.