This is the 21st season I've watched offseason practice. I'm no Johnny Harris but I have a reasonable idea of what can and cannot be deciphered from observing OTAs.
The first thing to remember is that OTAs and mandatory Mini Camp are a living breathing entity and things change from the start of the sessions through the conclusion. The passing game can tighten up, rookies can look more acclimated and the weather turns from bearable to 'I believe I can fry an egg on my car' intensity.
Position groups that are tough to evaluate this time of year –
Offensive Line – The big guys like to hit people and they're not allowed to do that here. Sure they can pass protect a bit but they enjoy running the football and other than knowing they were in the right spot and would possibly have a pancake block, in pads, they have to cope with the fact that until they put on the full uniform they can't perfect their craft.
Running Backs – There's much to learn in pass protection and play recollection but when they get a carry there's no defender that's truly allowed to put them on the ground. Yes, they run out all the plays but it can't feel the same to break through the line in a simulated running game.
Still, you can tell who has some juice. Take Rex Burkhead. He's in his 10th year and still runs as hard as an undrafted rookie trying to gain employment.
Defensive backs – Obviously they can make plays in the passing game with break-ups and great coverage. But without hitting, can a safety really do his thing? Also, corners can't utilize the physical element as much when trying to make plays.
Linebackers – see opposite of running backs.
The bottom line with the Texans in week one of OTAs is that things look relatively crisp. It's terrific to see the early days of the Pep Hamilton offense. And we already know Lovie Smith's defense can take the ball away better than most of the league. With a year in the system and new bodies added to the bunch it'll be great to see the development.
As Chicago sang it's "Only the Beginning."
Editor's Note: Vandermeer, please stop with the Classic Rock references. I'm surprised you didn't drop the Carpenter's "We've Only Just Begun" which my Mom played at her wedding. Now I'm getting misty-eyed. Just get back to your story.
Yeah, well, it's early but it looks good relative to May. I suppose I just could have tweeted that. But then we never would have had my editor make a Carpenter's reference.
Check out the best photos from Week 1 of OTAs.