With just days before the start of training camp, we had a panel of our Texans analysts, Andre Ware, Spencer Tillman, and John Harris weigh in on the major topics surrounding this year's team.
Andre Ware - ESPN college football and Texans Radio broadcast analyst
Spencer Tillman - NFL and college football analyst
John Harris - Texans football analyst and sideline reporter
On the quarterback competition:
Ware: "I'll actually start with Tom Savage. I think he's made a tremendous jump from Year 1 to 2. You can see that he's a reactionary player more so than thinking his way through the process. He knows where to go.
"You can tell he's put the work in during the offseason to really study the offense and know it, and not just out there thinking about, 'Where I need to go with the football?' He's reactionary. And that's a plus, because it pushes everybody else when you've got a hungry No. 3 that has put the time in during the offseason, showing up at 5:30 in the morning. That means now that Ryan Mallett and (Brian) Hoyer have got to get in the building. They can't allow this guy to be the first in here."
Tillman: "I think Brian obviously has the edge there as the starter. Pencil him in there but, that's because it's demonstrated ability. I think that stretch he was on, 6-3 with Cleveland before he was unseated as a result of that 1-3 stretch he went on. He had eight turnovers during that run. That's the reason why Johnny Manziel was able to unseat him. It wasn't anything that Johnny was doing necessarily.
"(Hoyer) has the advantage over Ryan Mallett because of demonstrated ability. The QB position is great because it's a competition context. Hoyer's going to be the guy, but there's going to be quite a bit of pressure if he slips up the slightest bit to get Ryan Mallett in there to make good on those physical assets that everybody's seen."
Harris: "I still think this thing goes into training camp. That's what Bill O'Brien has preached since the day he got here. I don't know that I would say that one guy was that much better than the other guy throughout OTAs and minicamp. There are some things that Brian Hoyer does that Ryan's not as good at, but there are some things that Ryan Mallett does that Brian Hoyer's not as good at.
"I think you allow this thing to play out a little bit. You go to Richmond. You've got three days against the Redskins, against a different color jersey. When we get back from Richmond, we'll see if a starting QB will be named at that point."
What to expect on offense:
Ware: "You know the guys that you put on the field can protect themselves. So, they can redirect traffic. Hoyer shows that in practice each and every day, along with Ryan Mallett. Those are the guys that get the bulk of the work. When you have a knowledgeable quarterback that doesn't need to look to the sideline, or is out there trying to figure it out, he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to get to. That allows you to be faster, and play at a little bit better pace."
Tillman: "I tweeted sometime early part of last year, that the official baton, if you will, had been passed on. That inflection point happened. It was kind of non-descript, most people probably didn't recognize it. Andre (Johnson) did a tremendous job while he was here. He's a great Texan, and always will be in our minds and eyes, but what DeAndre did last year was cement himself as a definitive No. 1.
"I don't think the production is going to drop off one bit. That's not a slight to Andre Johnson. I think we are going to be absolutely fine on that other side. The question is can you have, amongst those other three, one of them emerge, to create the kind of context on the back end that demands more attention than just one cover guy? That's what is yet to be seen. Cecil's (Shorts) got some jets. He still can move a little bit. That's going be fun to watch. My eyes will be peeled for that scenario."
Harris: "I don't know if there is a more effective weapon at the running back position. I hate using the word 'running back' for Arian Foster because, to me, he's so much more than just a running back. The Texans led the league in rushing attempts last year, and 23 is a major reason why. I think he'll get more pass attempts this year. I think as Alfred Blue grows as a runner, he can take some of those carries off Arians plate, and let Arian become a little bit more of a receiver. So, I think you'll see even more of the offensive weaponry in Arian Foster this year in this offense."
On improvements to defense:
Ware: "It's versatile because you can stop the run on first and second down. We talked about Vince Wilfork and that's an added plus right there for fans. On first downs, they're going to be one of the better run-stop defenses. As much as the game has expanded in terms of throwing the football around and sub-packages and all that, if a team can inflict their will on you by running the football, you will have a nightmare season, or game that week, whichever you choose. But, I think they'll be able to stop the run and then when you spread them out, they're able to stay there as well.
"Rahim Moore is a big, big added plus on the back end. You have the luxury with the other corners now to move Kareem (Jackson) down inside to play over the slot. There's a lot of versatility on the back end of the defense that just wasn't there a year ago (as well as) Johnathan Joseph coming back healthy to start the season."
Tillman: "They're going to be dangerous. I think they're going to be stronger…Whether Wilfork will be consistent from the beginning of the season to the end, who knows how much he's got left in the tank, but certainly he's going to be a deterrent in the middle for teams that decide to run.
"I think that potential is going to be great. The back end is going to be fantastic. It's fast. It's improved. It's deeper than it was, and that's something that we needed to address. With Kevin Johnson, you've got a No. 1 that's ready to slip into that spot right now. Now you've got three corners."
Harris: "One thing I'm most excited to see about this team, I always love to see progress from one year to the next. Bill O'Brien has talked about that each year is a different team. Last year, he went 9-7 with roughly the same team that went 2-14. Now, you bring Jadeveon Clowney into the mix, hopefully healthy. You have a 2015 draft class that features Kevin Johnson (and) Bendardrick McKinney."
On this year's draft class:
Ware: "Keith Mumphery, every time I am out there at practice, and talking to others, just seems to make plays and really make an impression on a lot of people, different people. He's making plays whether it's outside receiver or whether they move him down in the slot. I think in a pinch, they could use him at running back. He could be used in the return game as well. So, you draft a player that can give you three or four different things, and he doesn't seem to have hit a wall during OTAs and certainly the start of minicamp. He has been very, very impressive."
Tillman: "McKinney, the kid out of Mississippi State, is going to be unbelievable. You talk about running the Bulldogs at the defense, from stem to stern, that guy was wired. He can run and chase. He can move in space.
"We need some guys to stay healthy at that inside linebacker position, and he will be able to do that. With the youth and excitement, you've gotten faster on defense."
Harris: "(Chris) Covington, to me, was a third-round pick free of any injuries. Let's hope that he can get on the field and produce, and provide depth to the defensive line in 2015."
The 2015 Houston Texans Training camp presented by XFINITY starts Saturday, August 1 at the Houston Methodist Training Center.