HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
When you have guys like Texans Ambassadors Andre Johnson and Travis Johnson, how important is it to have them around your current players?
"I think it's really important. I think when those guys show up here, Andre, all those guys, I think that's big. They're former Texans, all-time great Texans. Andre Johnson, Ring of Honor. I think when our players see that, our players realize the pride that those guys have in being Houston Texans and I think it helps the whole culture of the whole place. Every time I see Dr. Doom (Oilers LB Robert Brazile) going into the Hall of Fame this weekend and I see the Oilers, I tell them to come by practice too because I think it's important. Football is so important in the City of Houston. I think it's good when those guys come back."
What do you think of Oilers LB Robert Brazile being inducted into the Hall of Fame?
"Robert's a great guy. I've gotten to know him in the years that I've been here. He's a really good guy. I saw this quote during the Bears-Ravens game from Lawrence Taylor that said that Robert Brazile was the Lawrence Taylor before Lawrence Taylor. I think that says it all about Dr. Doom. He's a great guy. I saw him at the Senior Bowl. They had a get-together for him there. He really loves Houston and congratulations to him."
How does a guy like P Shane Lechler do what he does at such a high level for so many years?
"He just knows how to take care of his body, how to be consistent. He's got a real knack for placing the ball on his foot the correct way every time. He's a good leader on our team. We've got a good young punter so there's a competition there. Shane's doing a really good job in mentoring and competing."
How difficult is it for a punter to place the ball on their foot correctly every time?
"That's a hard skill. That's a skill that's developed over time. It's not an easy skill. These guys at this level, they can make all the punts, they can direct the punt, they can down the punt inside the 10, they can boom it when they need to boom it. It's an impressive skill that when you're an assistant coach, maybe you don't see it as much, but when you're a head coach, you appreciate it. That's for sure."
Aside from WR DeAndre Hopkins, do you want the other receivers to try to get two hands on the ball when making receptions?
"I think DeAndre Hopkins – one of his great traits is his hands. He's got great hands, but I think for some other guys, I think it's important to really try to catch it with two hands. For DeAndre, at times, he can suction it with one hand and that's just one of his big-time strengths."
What are your thoughts on the revamped secondary?
"They communicate well. We've got some good vets back there. I think the addition of Tyrann Mathieu has been really good. I think we've got a good, young safety in Justin Reid. Then you've got J-Jo (Johnathan Joseph) who's been around for a while and (is) a really smart player. We added Aaron Colvin. Kevin Johnson, I think is having a solid training camp. Kareem (Jackson) back there, moving him to safety but he's doing different things for us. You've got (Kurtis) Drummond and Corey Moore - it's very competitive – Dee Virgin. Very competitive group of guys. They get along real well, they communicate on the field real well and they compete real well."
How have you progressed offensively during camp?
"I think it's been decent. There's some areas we're a little bit behind. We'll just continue to really work hard to get better in those areas, but I think overall we've made progress every day. There's some guys in there that we brought in in the offseason and they're getting used to our language and how we do things, and I think we're getting better every day."
Which areas do you still need to improve offensively?
"Situational areas. I think we're a little bit behind in the red area, third down. Those are big-time areas. We've got to be a little more consistent in our protection, our route-running and our execution in the passing game in those areas. We need to get going on that, but I think overall we've made progress, but there's some things that we still need to improve on."
How about TE Jordan Akins? He's a rookie but not a kid.
"Yeah, he's 26 years old, he's a very, obviously, a mature guy, really hard worker, smart guy. He's picked up the offense really well. It's not easy to play that position in our offense. There's a lot that we ask of that position. I think he's done a good job, and probably having some experience under his belt helps him. He knows how to approach each day and maybe a little bit different than a 20- (or) 21-year-old guy."
How does RB Troymaine Pope look so far?
"Good. Yeah, he competes. He's competing on special teams, has done a decent job for us on offense, picking things up, knowing what to do, knowing his assignment. I think it'll be interesting to see how a lot of those guys – Pope and many other guys – how they play in the games."
What has it been like having a whole off season to work with and build around QB Deshaun Watson?
"I think last year is last year. There were a lot of different things that went on. Every year is different. I think when we came into the offseason, we kind of knew what we wanted to do. Like I said the other day, in OTAs we tried to look at a lot of different things. It's a time to experiment, it's a time to look at some different things, and then now we're drilling down into who we can be. I think we're a ways off from – it's a long road. It's a journey, and I think we're headed in the right direction but we have to keep improving."
Why is finding your identity so important?
"I think it's important to have an identity as a team. I think it's important to have an identity in all three units. We want to be a physical team, we want to be a smart team we want to be a team that can execute in all three phases at a high level and be consistent doing it. I think that's what training camp is all about."
What does LS Jon Weeks bring to the team?
"Jon Weeks is a very consistent performer, very good snapper, takes a lot of pride in what he does. Very consistent out here every day, works hard, stays after practice to work on his craft. Long snapper, short snapper. He's been a really solid guy for us over the years."
Where do undrafted players prove themselves?
"I think that's an interesting question. I think when they get in there, what I try to do is, every offense has a basic foundation, and I think what we try to do is see if they can – in a scrimmage type deal like we did today – see if they can execute the basic plays. Can these guys execute? Can they understand the language? Get lined up and then go ahead and execute whatever their assignment is on that play. We try not to – in a scrimmage situation – try not to make them think too much, because we want to give them a shot to be evaluated and be evaluated fairly. I think part of that is, when we get into 11-on-11 – let's call plays that they know so they can go out there and execute."
Is there an update on RB D'Onta Foreman?
"I think he's progressing well. I don't – you know, again, I'm not a doctor. I've said that over the years to you guys. I think he's doing well. He's on the right track, and we'll see. We'll see how it goes. But, I think he's headed in the right direction."
S TYRANN MATHIEU
What do you think about the helmet rule?
"I mean, obviously it's going to be tough (as) defenders. Most of the guys in this league right now, we've grown up watching football being played one way, which was really violent, very physical, very aggressive. So, obviously, the league is taking the standards – and we understand it for the safety of the game and different things like that – but, obviously, we're going to have to go around it and kind of work different techniques. Our coaches are going to help us out with that a lot."
When you are playing will you be thinking about it or will you just play your game?
"Well, I think that's going to be the difference. Obviously, I don't want to be slowed down, and I'm sure a lot of guys around the league, they don't want to be slowed down. So, it's going to take some time and hopefully it doesn't take too much money from us."
Do you feel you have had to rewire how to tackle?
"Not really me. I'm always trying to go for the ball anyway, so I'm not really one of those guys that's really trying to head hunt guys. For the most part, I just want to get them on the ground. So, I've never really – actually, I've never been fined for a hit like that – but, I am worried about some of my friends around the league."
How is the secondary meshing?
"We're constantly growing. Going into the second week, we've constantly just (been) working on that chemistry, working on that communication, trying to get a feel for how guys play certain techniques. We still have some time to go until things get real serious. But, I like where we are right now and I like where we're going."
How do you feel the defense has worked on not giving up the big plays?
"I think it's really being conscious of it. That is just an attitude. Obviously, going out there, challenging guys, understanding situations, understanding who you're guarding, who your opponent is, I think it could cut down a lot of the big plays. Obviously, getting some guys back healthy and then adding some guys on the back end, I think it's all going to come together for us."
Have you gotten adjusted to the change to Houston?
"It's different for me. I've been real fortunate. I've had a lot of guys on the team really support me, really wrap their arms around me and really embrace me as a leader on this team and I've just gotten here. For me, that's a big pat on the back. Obviously, I have a long way to go but I just want to show these guys every day that I'm going to show up and be ready to work."
How do you establish yourself as a leader on a new team?
"You kind of just fall in line. For me, I mentioned it earlier in camp, it's just about following the right guys, trying to have the right mindset and obviously going about things the right way. For me, obviously I had some great leaders in front of me in Arizona and even when I got here, there were already some great leaders already established on this team. So, for me, I didn't have to do too much."
How important is the preseason for you?
"Well, I think it's important for us as a group. Just getting out there, getting a feel for the calls, getting a feel for my teammates. Things are a lot different when it's a live game. We just try to go out there (and) obviously communicate well and make sure nobody gets in the end zone."
What does it do for the whole team to have a guy like QB Deshaun Watson here?
"It's a beautiful thing. Any time you have a quarterback that's special, just has that uncanny ability to just create things on the fly, it always gives you a chance to win a football game. I always mention Russell Wilson just because I played against him so much early on in my career. The things that he did for Seattle when they were completely out of a football game, he always brought them back. I think any time you have a quarterback of that caliber, it always helps you."
Is this the first offseason you've had that you weren't returning from an injury?
"I had one before. It was a really good year. That was my All-Pro season, 2015. So, I'm grateful, I'm blessed to really have a full offseason. Especially coming into a new team, being healthy, being able to be on the field, I think is going to pay off a lot for me."