On a steamy Thursday morning outside at the Houston Methodist Training Center, the Texans practiced. They're preparing for the preseason finale, which is this Sunday night against the Saints in New Orleans. After practice, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke and Special Teams Coordinator Frank Ross met with the media.Additionally, several players talked with the media in the locker room.
The process on defense
Burke and Head Coach DeMeco Ryans are running the show on defense, and the coordinator explained a bit of the process of how the duo goes about planning for the week ahead.
"I just go up and he says, 'Hey, this is what we're going to do this week, or this is what we're going to do next week, or hey, I want you to take this or can you handle this,'" Burke said. "That's kind of how we approach it. Again, it's his team and he's in charge, so it's me saying, 'Okay, he's trying to feel where his focus can lie or how much he can put it on certain parts of the team in the game."
Burke re-emphasized Thursday how vital it is for the Texans' run defense to improve.
"If you can't stop the run, and then they can work in the play action off of the same looks, now you're just swimming a little bit," Burke said. "It's hugely important. I would say that's a foundational piece for what we do and where we start our week."
C.J. Stroud has started both preseason games and will start at New Orleans for the preseason finale this Sunday. He's getting the first-team reps in practice. While Ryans hasn't said the second overall pick in this year's NFL Draft will start in Baltimore for Week 1, the rookie maintained Thursday that he's not concerned.
"I ain't really tripping," Stroud said. "I'll just do what's on my plate. I'm not worried about nobody else's plate. It's about competing every day and just getting better. My job is to go out there and play."
Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik pinpointed one clear progression mark he saw from Stroud in Saturday afternoon's preseason game with the Dolphins. Five or six plays into the game for Stroud, everything slowed down for him, according to Slowik.
"He was able to see and articulate everything that happened on the field immediately after and was very aware, and usually that's a very big indicator of, 'Oh, the game has slowed down for him,'" Slowik said. "And the more constant [that] we have that, the more often we have that, the more he can just go put his skills to use."
Year 2 of DP
Dameon Pierce established himself as one of the team's best players last year as a rookie. But on Thursday, the second-year running back stressed how he's continuing to work on improving his technique, boring down on the fundamentals, and working to continue improving his chemistry with the offensive line.
His first three carries went for a combined 13 yards against Miami, and he then gained a combined two yards on his next three rushing attempts. Pierce explained why he's ready for some more action in New Orleans.
"It's still Year 2 for me, so I have a lot of room to grow," Pierce said. "I have a lot more football to play. I have a lot more experience to gain. Preseason's a perfect way to do that in a controlled environment."
Fullbacks in demand?
Slowik was asked about the fullback position and its importance in the Texans offense. Before he was hurt early in training camp, second-year fullback Troy Hairston was competing with veteran Andrew Beck.
The offensive coordinator likes the wrinkles provided by having a fullback who's capable of running and catching the ball.
"It's always powerful when you can get to sets that people aren't always expecting," Slowik said. "Most people think 21 personnel is going to be a two-back set, and there's not a lot of that in the NFL these days. It really stresses a defense on how they want to play you structurally, and a lot of times, it simplifies for the quarterback kind of what he has to diagnose and see defensively."