After the first week of padded practices, the Texans keep marching toward opening day with a lot of positives (the good kind, not the medical test kind) as they undertake the fine tuning before opening day.
Here are some initial thoughts…
The Defense –
We won't know what the Anthony Weaver show really looks like until it premieres but it's safe to say that it will be creative and keep opposing offenses guessing. Whoever plays safety next to Justin Reid will be new but it's not like Eric Murray, Michael Thomas and Jaylen Watkins are rookies.
Speaking of rookies, I'm no expert but it appears that Ross Blacklock, Jon Greenard and John Reid should get the 'they look like they belong' label. It's tough for the new guys without the preseason game reps but this is NFL 2020 and the whole league has the same issues.
The players that were added 'on the fly' last season like Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves have had a whole off season (a zoom offseason, but hey, that's all we got!) to better acclimate to the squad. The DB group, always tight, has been completely overhauled from two years ago and it's fun to watch them gel with Justin Reid and Bradley Roby leading the way.
Let's include Jacob Martin in the group that was added on the go last year. He got here just before the opening bell, had some big moments and could flourish in his second Texans tour of duty.
If J.J. Watt has a healthy campaign and the bulk of the key contributors can stay off the injury report, this should be an effective unit.
The Offense –
It's so reassuring to see the o-line in action, even though it's all intrasquad work right now. When you think of all the questions about the line up of this group at this time last year, it's nice to know they have depth and a projected starting five that had some significant production last year.
Deshaun Watson – he's so fun to watch in practice. He makes incompletions exciting. I compare Watson to a jazz musician. He can play things straight or improvise brilliantly. The field is his canvas. Ok, I'm mixing the art and music metaphors. Who cares? He's awesome and he's ours. I've spent a lot training camp practices in my day watching quarterbacks who aren't in the same universe as Watson. We're blessed.
The wide receiver group is deep. This is hardly a headline but the Bill O'Brien ramp-up schedule has created plenty of reps for a lot of guys who are getting the air time to make an impression. I'm glad that the practice squad is 16 strong with four protected spots.
The tight ends are impossible not to notice. Jordan Akins has made some big catches and Jordan Thomas has had a lot of head-turning grabs as well. It'll be interesting to see how they carve up the playing time with Darren Fells and Kahale Warring rounding out the group.
Don't sleep on the backs. David Johnson has super soft hands and at 6-1, 224, looks imposing out there. Duke Johnson is Mr. Reliable. This is another group that may be deeper than outsiders thought even though the depth is untested.
The Vibe –
Bill O'Brien did push-ups on Friday, including a one hander to end the set. The talking and camaraderie is as good as I've heard it. Andre Ware told me yesterday that he thought the communication was better than ever.
This appears to be a very together group and that might be as important as anything, especially this year.