Last week, I started looking forward to training camp with...wait, what, training camp is still a little over five weeks away?
Yeah, and…?? You know how fast five weeks can fly by? Faster than a Will Fuller V 40-yard dash. So, don't think I haven't already been thinking ahead to the last week in July and early August.
Like I was saying, last week, I started my two-part training camp primer with a look at a handful of the most oft discussed questions heading into late July. This week, I'll finish that short series with a look a few more keys/questions for the Texans in 2016 training camp.
1. How will the interior line shape up?
Most of the questions/comments I get about the offensive line start with Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown. That's why I mentioned him last week. There's little debate that his return is THE question for the offensive line heading into training camp. But, two starters from 2015 have to be replaced in 2016 at center and right guard. The Texans addressed the situation in the off-season in free agency and the draft. They signed Jeff Allen (Chiefs) and Tony Bergstrom (Raiders) on the first day of the 2016 free agency frenzy. Then, on night two of the NFL Draft, the Texans selected Notre Dame center Nick Martin. Throw in Xavier Su-a-Filo who started the last half of the season at left guard and that's four players for three spots.
On the surface, having quality depth in the offensive line is far from a horrible problem to have, given the injuries that the offensive line suffered throughout the first half of the 2015 season. That said, this group has to find synergy much earlier than it did last year. This will be a stout competition throughout camp.
2. How does the running back puzzle fit together in 2016?
The Texans knew they had to replace Arian Foster and did with the free agent signing of Lamar Miller. He's an excellent fit in this offense and can impact the game as Arian did in this Texans' offense; Miller will just do it in a different way. His burst and speed are top notch and his receiving skills will allow offensive coordinator George Godsey to use Miller like Foster was used in 2014.
Alongside Miller, though, that's where the intrigue starts within the Texans backfield. Alfred Blue closed the year with four or five strong performances toting the rock. Jonathan Grimes consistently made plays when he was on the field. Akeem Hunt's explosiveness was a key factor in games down the stretch. Kenny Hilliard is in his second year in the offense and will push to make the roster in 2016. Throw in dynamic rookie Tyler Ervin and the backfield becomes VERY interesting.
Ervin and Hunt have a different gear and explosiveness the Texans haven't had in quite some time, if ever. Blue and Hilliard can pound the rock on power runs and in the four-minute offense. Grimes is tremendous on third down. How all of those pieces come together over the six weeks of training camp will impact this offense, and its direction, in 2016.
Listen, I know absolutely nothing about kickers, but people ask me about that position all the time. I never really know what to tell them, to be honest. Nick Novak was 16 for 16 on field goal attempts 49 yards or less in 13 games with the Texans in 2015. Kai'mi Fairbairn was a record-setting kicker at UCLA and can bomb it, which is enticing to say the least. But, can he be as consistent as Novak was in 2015 in front of 70,000 fans on Sunday? We won't know with 100% certainty, based solely on training camp, but those six weeks will go a long way in determining who wins that job in 2016.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 12/29/2020)