The Texans got a much deserved surprise day off on the last of a three-day minicamp. Well, it might not have been much of a surprise, given the fact that they've gotten that day off the previous two years, but I digress. The next time we'll see the crew is on the eve of training camp. As we head into the team's break, training camp will be here before you know it.
As such, what are the biggest questions, thoughts and/or concerns heading into training camp, five weeks out? Glad you asked.
1. Jadeveon. Clowney.
When I'm out and about, the one player I'm asked most about is the team's 2014 first overall selection. I tell them the same thing every single time...when he's right, this defense will go to a completely different level. I can't help but think about what he did versus New England on Sunday night last year and how he might have been the most dominant defender on either side that night. That was the most impressive I've seen him since he's been here and honestly, he probably wasn't even 100%. He's a major key in this defense, not whether it succeeds or fails, but whether it becomes a dominating defense week in and week out or just very good.
2. How healthy is Pro Bowl LT Duane Brown?
The offensive line is a concern for most fans and followers of the Texans and one of the main reasons is the health of Brown. His rehab has seemingly gone well and when he does return, it's going to be one huge sigh of relief. His presence, though, is massive for this entire offense and the continuity and production of the offensive line.
3. Hop, Strong, rookies then what?
The receiver position might be the most difficult one to figure out which players make the 53-man roster. We know DeAndre Hopkins is going to make the roster, in what stands as the understatement of the year. Jaelen Strong has been the most impressive looking player during OTA/minicamps. Will Fuller and Braxton Miller were drafted to make an impact immediately. That's four spots, presumably, locked up. They've kept six receivers in the past, leaving only two spots left on the 53. Yep, that's that math teaching background at work. It's going to be a battle for those last two spots, that is, if the Texans do keep six receivers. When it's all said and done, this will be an extremely explosive crew; it's just a matter of what six playmakers it'll be.
4. Who replaces Jared Crick at defensive end?
I hear this one all the time. Christian Covington and Devon Still would be the two that I'd bet to get the first opportunity to star at that spot. Brandon Dunn made plays when he got on the field in 2015 and I like him in that competition. The thing is that in sub-package rush situations Clowney, J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and John Simon go on the field to party at the quarterback. Still, the Texans have to stop the run on first down to get that quartet on the field. Consequently, that means Covington, Still, Dunn and/or Jeoffrey Pagan must succeed at that defensive end spot early and often.
5. What tight end becomes the No. 1 passing threat at that position?
Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz have the most experience at the position but both missed the majority of OTA/minicamps rehabbing injuries. That allowed Anthony Denham and Stephen Anderson the opportunity to get a ton of reps in the team's passing camp, aka OTA/minicamp practices. Denham and Anderson are considered F-TEs, which is more of a receiving tight end, so they were going to get most of those reps anyway. But, when the pads go on and Griffin and Fiedorowicz return, how will the reps be doled out in training camp? Fiedorowicz's blocking has really improved in his two years as a Texan and had Griffin stayed healthy throughout all of 2015, there would be less concern amongst the masses. Honestly, I really like this group of four tight ends but if they only keep three, there's going to a really tough cut at the end of training camp.
That's about all for now, but we'll get back together next week to talk about the G-C-G trio, running back depth and the kicker battle. See ya then.
The Houston Texans roster in photos.