I was in Los Angeles at the NFL Digital meetings this week. At the airport on the way back, the check-in clerk asked "How are you guys going to do this year?"
I couldn't give him a record prediction but there are at least five things I can safely forecast.
1. The Texans will be physically and mentally tough
Bill O'Brien will not tolerate a team that isn't physically and mentally up to the weekly grind. Toughness was probably one of the first topics to come up in interviews for the next head coach and
O'Brien has talked about it since he landed in Houston.
What does it mean?
You might not win every weekend but the opponent is sure going to need a cold tub after a date with the Texans. One look at the way OTAs have been going and it's easy to see that toughness is going to be a long running theme around here. Just take a look at the drafted players: big physical guys who can take and deliver a punch. And you better play smart, or you'll probably have no shot at being on the Houston 53. 2. They'll be versatile
We keep hearing about a "Game Plan Offense." It means that this squad will, to a certain extent, reinvent its strategy every week and make big changes in its attack based on what's perceived to be exploitable weaknesses in the opponents. I know what you're thinking, "isn't it better to 'do what you do' and make them stop you?" Well, whatever works.
You think zone-blocking works against the Titans? Run it.
You want to dink and dunk a bit, then go long versus the Jags? Done. 3. They'll be unpredictable
Remember those two humiliating losses to the Patriots when Tom Brady would hit a big play then quick snap on the follow up play? Well, get ready to benefit from some of that. You'll see a lot of 'gear shifting' on offense. A little hurry-up here, some standard huddle there. The key is to keep certain defensive personnel groups on the field and to flat out keep other teams guessing. 4. They'll go for it on 4th down a bunch
I'll bet you lunch that O'Brien is one of those guys who won't punt much inside the opponent's 40 yard line. He was part of a Patriots staff that infamously went for it on fourth and short in their own end vs
the Colts. Ok, that one didn't work out but we're all for some out-of-the-box thinking. If the Texans are going to bounce back big in '14, they'll need some riverboat mentality out of their mentor.
5. Press conferences will be entertaining
So what if he doesn't give us any unrequired injury info and is trying to keep most of the on field stuff ziplocked. O'Brien is fun to listen to. From his "It's not life threatening" assessment of the Louis Nix III injury to his "Come on, guys, let's not make a big deal out of this" plea on his desire for players to actually walk to practice, O'Brien is a one-liner waiting to happen. And we haven't even really gotten started yet. Wait until there are some actual game situations to discuss!