With his rookie campaign in the rearview mirror, Christian Covington has a confidence about him as he heads into his second NFL season.
"To be able to have your rookie year under your belt, you already know what's expected of you," Covington said in an interview with Texans TV. "You know what to expect come preseason games, come training camp. So to be able to go into a game and not have to feel all the rookie butterflies, the rookie anxiety, that makes the game a lot more easy and it's a lot better for you to be able to just play a lot more free."
Last year, the defensive lineman focused on bulking up to play nose tackle. Now he's lighter and faster at 300 pounds. Covington lost over 20 pounds heading into the 2016 season and is ready to make the most of his opportunities.
"I just want to be able to be a lot more consistent," Covington said. "I want to be able to know my assignments, know what to do a lot more consistently across the entire line. Last year, they predominantly just used me at the nose position. Now they've switched me to defensive end. So I want to be able to do everything along the line and I want to do that to the best of my abilities."
The opportunities have been abundant with the departure of Jared Crick in free agency and J.J. Watt recovering from back surgery during training camp. However just days into training camp, Covington missed valuable reps when he suffered a setback of his own before eventually bouncing back.
"Christian you know he had a slight concussion there early in camp and came back," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's really had a good camp when he's been in there. He's been very productive. He's come back stronger. He has a really good knowledge of our defense."
Covington returned to camp and made his presence known right away on the field, forcing a fumble in the first quarter of the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers. Covington's hit on running back Carlos Hyde led to John Simon's fumble recovery returned for a touchdown.
That's how the second-year Covington describes how he feels on the field. He has a better understanding of Romeo Crennel's defense and what is expected of him.
"I've been putting work in," Covington said. "I've been trying to over-emphasize that. I'm trying to over-emphasize my playing ability across the board—whether it's my pass-rushing ability, my run-stopping ability, everything. I just want to be able to be known as a complete player. I don't want to be known as just a pass rusher. I want to be able to know that when my number's called I can come in and play every single position. That's been my goal."
Take a look at the best pictures from the #Texans preseason opener against the 49ers.