The future is bright for the Texans.
The players cleaned out their lockers on Monday morning, the day after a disappointing 2017 came to a close with a loss at Indianapolis. But their focus wasn't on the gloominess of the past couple months. Instead, the organization looked to sunnier days.
"I'm very excited about the future ahead," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "It's good to have a quarterback. I'm looking forward to moving forward and having a great year."
Watt's season was torpedoed by a Week 5 knee injury in the loss to the Chiefs. The 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has spent quite a bit of time around quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was his 2017 end with a knee injury in early November. That time together in the training room has given Watt an even greater perspective on the possibilities for the team in the years to come.
"You can see that there's a confidence there," Watt said. "When you have more and more and more guys with that confidence, with that idea that success is on the horizon, that the best is yet to come, that's when it starts to permeate throughout the whole team."
Watson was the NFL Offensive Player of the Month in October. It was a four-game stretch that saw him and the Texans offense torch opposing defenses for an average of 40.5 points per game. That glimpse of what's possible offensively, combined with the disruptive play of Jadeveon Clowney and the return from injury of key defensive pieces like Watt, outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, and defensive linemen D.J. Reader and Christian Covington, has the Texans anxious for 2018.
"It's going to be unbelievable," linebacker Benardrick McKinney said. "J.D. J.J. Reader. Carlos (Watkins). The front seven is going to be unbelievable. It's going to be fun playing behind them."
The optimism wasn't limited to the players. Rick Smith, who's taking a one-year leave of absence from his role as General Manager, cited Watson, rookie linebacker Zach Cunningham and the other young Texans on the roster as reasons to be excited.
"The sky's the limit for the young man," Smith said. "I don't think he's the only one on this football team that's potentially there. I think there are a lot of good young players if you went down the roster, and even looked at some of the other younger players on the team and the experience they got.
The Texans players won't gather together again until mid-April when offseason conditioning begins. Many will remain around NRG Stadium in the offseason to rehab injuries and/or work out.