Looking at the calendar on Thursday, it hit me. Well, okay, that's a lie and I can't start off the article with a lie. I didn't just look at the calendar on Thursday and think "TRAINING CAMP IS THIS MONTH!!" When the clock went from 11:59 on June 30th to 12:00, my internal alarm screamed "TRAINING CAMP IS THIS MONTH!!!" So, yeah, I've been jacked for six days, 12 minutes and 14 seconds…13 seconds…12 seconds.
Obviously, It's clear that I've been thinking, dreaming and envisioning Texans Training Camp for a while as I penned a Things to Watch in Training Camp Daily Brew a few weeks back. In case you missed it, rock on here…
I'll title this one - the five players I'll watch closely in Training Camp. Now, I already put Derek Stingley Jr. in my previous article so I won't mention him again here. But, BUT, we all know eyes are going to be squarely on #24 in his inaugural Training Camp practices. It's too easy to put down five of the best players because who doesn't like watching Brandin Cooks? Either way, my attempt was to discuss five guys for different, but significant, reasons.
1. CB Steven Nelson - Texans Head Coach Lovie Smith said it the first time he took the mic this offseason and reiterated it as often as we all needed to hear - the secondary was just not good enough in 2021. Then, the Texans answered Coach's plea, drafting Stingley at number three overall and former Baylor star Jalen Pitre early in the second round. They also signed four free agents as well, led by Nelson. The eight year veteran started every game he played the past four years and missed only three games during that stretch. However, more eyes will be on the secondary to see if it has responded to the challenge that its head coach laid out in April. As such, Nelson is an important piece in the back four's resurgence.
2. DL Ross Blacklock - The former Elkins HS/TCU star is heading into year three at a position where the Texans have depth and talent. Quite frankly, it's probably the most talented, and deepest, position on the squad heading into Training Camp, but Blacklock's growth can take that unit to a completely higher level. There have been flashes, but there needs to be a lightning strike from the uber-talented youngster in the middle. Furthermore, look at the interior players on this squad currently. Maliek Collins was re-signed to a two year deal. Roy Lopez Jr. made significant strides as a rookie and shows no signs of slowing down. The Texans drafted Thomas Booker out of Stanford. Not to mention, the versatility of DL Rasheem Green allows him to bounce inside, at times. As such, Blacklock must take his play to a different level and dominate Training Camp and preseason games.
3. WR The Chrises - Both Chris Moore and Chris Conley made impactful plays in 2021 as one year signees. Both re-signed with the Texans during the 2022 offseason. Both will remain in the crosshairs in large part due to the numbers at the position. The question will ultimately be whether the Texans carry five or six receivers. There's no such thing as a lock, but with Nico Collins, Brandin Cooks and John Metchie III more than likely sure things to be here in 2022 and Phillip Dorsett ready to pick up where he left off in 2021, there might be only one spot for a Chris at WR on the 2022 roster. As it happened last year, Chris Moore didn't make the 53-man roster out of Training Camp last year, but he was on the field by week three, finishing one catch behind Conley with 21 receptions. If the Texans keep six, I could see both Chrises staying, but if the Texans keep just five receptions, it could be a real battle for that fifth spot.
4. TE Pharoah Brown - I'll say what I've said since I first saw him at Oregon…when healthy, Pharoah Brown is one of the most highly skilled dudes at the position I've seen. Many are excited to see second year TE Brevin Jordan after his rookie campaign last year and will ogle rookie Teagan Quitoriano in 2022, so Brown might be off the radar screen for some. Not mine. During OTAs/Minicamp, Brown was in great shape, looked sharp in every aspect and could really make an impact on the Texans' offense. The utilization of the tight ends in this offense will be something I watch closely in Training Camp and in the preseason games, which will naturally take my eyes to #85. My focus will be there, regardless, because he has the TALENT to be THAT guy at the position.
5. RB Marlon Mack - When I think of Mack, I see two things. As a rookie in 2017, on a run right in front of me in week 17, he stiff-armed former Texans star DL Jadeveon Clowney right to the ground, which I'd never seen to that point. The second one was 60-minutes of you know what in the 2018 Wild Card round playoff game against the Texans. He was brilliant in that win over the Texans and it left a stain on my brain forever. He's now with the good guys, though, and fully recovered from the achilles injury he suffered during the 2020 season. During OTA's/Minicamp, he showed that he's got some juice left and some tread is definitely left on the tires. Showing it when the pads go on for Training Camp and preseason games, though, is a different story. If he has any of that 2018/2019 juice left, there's little question that the Texans run game will be significantly improved. So, all eyes on #2 in TC.
*6. I can count to five, but it's way too obvious to ever mention players to watch and not mention the QB. So, yes, I'll watch Davis Mills closely but it really goes without mentioning, really.
Man, getting jacked and excited because it's time. Well, not quite, but it's close as in 21 days, 6 hours, 34 minutes and 20 seconds…19 seconds…ahh, you get the point
Check out the first look at some of the Houston Texans roster suited up for the 2022 season.