ASSISTANT HEAD COACH / DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
Do you think more teams are going to spread offense?
"Yes, they are. But I think a lot of that has to do with what happens in college, because the college game is a spread you out game, and so the guys we're getting from college, their skillset is a 'spread you out' skillset. So, we're trying to take advantage of the skills that the guys bring to the table. I think that you see offenses spreading people out."
What have you seen from rookie DE Charles Omenihu?
"Well, like I said, he's got some height, he's got some strength, and he's got quickness. He can play inside and he can play outside. So, I think if he continues to work, he might have a chance to make a contribution."
What is the toughest things balancing veterans and new guys at cornerback and safety?
"Well, probably, the toughest thing is the workload and how adjust the workload. There's a tendency to give the veteran guys all the work because they know what to do and they don't screw up as much, but you have to give young guys work, and young guys are going to make mistakes and you have to live with those mistakes. But you have to also understand that ever mistake they make, they have a chance to get better."
Where do see the defense having the biggest opportunity to improve?
"Time will tell that, because we've changed some people. So, those people have to come together and develop a good chemistry in the unit. Then, we're facing some pretty good quarterbacks, and good quarterbacks always cause you problems. So, if we can get that chemistry developed by the time we start facing those quarterbacks, then that'll give us the best chance."
How have the rules caused to adjust what you do on defense?
"I think that the way the rules have changed have impacted the game, because player safety is a much bigger factor than when I first got into the league. That in conjunction with the limited days in pads, sometimes the skillset falls off a little bit, particularly early in the year, until guys get re-acclimated to the contact and to the practice and the games. Sometimes you see the beginning of the year not as good as it needs to be, but then teams pick up. I think last year was an example of that. We were 0-3 and then we got started and were able to go and win some games in a row. So, I think that combination, player safety and rules, impact the game."
Has OLB Whitney Mercilus made the best changes to his body to help the team this year?
"I think so. Having versatility – if a guy has versatility, we try to use that versatility and put him in different places and attack the offense in different ways. So, I think that he gives us that capability."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TIM KELLY
What is it like taking over a new role, going from tight ends to offensive coordinator?
"It's been great. It's a little bit more responsibility as far as getting everybody on the same page and being able to work with John Perry, Mike Devlin, Danny Barrett and Will Lawing, all in a collaborative effort, making sure that everyone is on the same page and ready to roll once we hit the field."
How much does your experience working on both sides of the ball help you to understand the whole offense?
"With my defensive background it kind of helps understand what they're trying to do, how teams may try to attack us, what they're looking at. I think the more knowledge you have of the complete game helps you out, definitely."
Do you feel ready if you had to call some plays?
"Right now I'm just really worrying about making sure that the offense is ready for OTAs when we take the field. So, I guess we will cross that bridge at a later date."
What are some of the things that have been added to your responsibilities in your new role?
"Scripting, taking care of, basically, the general organization of practice on the offensive side of the ball. That's more of the stuff that I guess I'm focused on now as opposed to just handling the tight end room. So, I would say right now that's the biggest adjustment that I've had to make."
How would you describe your offensive philosophy?
"I think being able to go out there and score a lot of points is obviously something all offensive coordinators want to be responsible for. I think having a sound, smart football team in the image that Coach (Bill) O'Brien wants it. Again, like I said, making sure everyone is prepared when we step on the field."
Without contact during OTAs, how are you evaluating the rookie offensive linemen?
"I think just being able to teach overall general scheme and techniques. I think there's a lot of carryover between the different positions. We have a saying here, 'The more you can do, the more value you have,' so letting them play guard, tackle and different positions kind of teaches them the ins and outs of offensive line play in the NFL."
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR BRAD SEELY
What do you attribute last year's success on special teams to?
"I think we improved in a lot of areas, just because I think we had a little bit of turnover in personnel and the head coach (Bill O'Brien) was outstanding about stressing the importance of being good on special teams. I think our guys really had an attitude that they thought they were a really vital part of the football team, and I think that's huge when you out there to play and they think they can help us have some success."
How important is it to have a dangerous returner on special teams?
"I think it's huge. You always like to have a great returner. We've got DeAndre Carter and I think he's a good player. He's a young player, so he's still learning on the job. He's a guy that – I think the more reps he gets, the better he'll get. But, as always, we're always looking for the best we can find. I think it's huge, especially in punt returns. Punt returns is a place where, if a guy is good back there, he can make a lot of players look good blocking for him."
How did P Trevor Daniel do last season and what do you want to see this season that you didn't see last season?
"I think he did a pretty good job as a rookie. He had some rough spots, and I'm sure he'd like to have some of those punts back, but he also did a great job of plus-50 punting for us and pinning the opponents deep. But I think, if you ask Trevor – and I'd think he'd agree with me – I think the thing we're looking for is just being more consistent."
What is the most important thing you've gotten out of your team this week during OTAs?
"I think we're trying to establish a culture. It's about effort. That's the number one thing. We're always looking for great effort. I think that's what we're doing in these practices. Guys get a little tired and we've got to keep pushing them. They understand that it's important for them to give all that they've got."
What kind of jump is it from the special teams in college to special teams in the NFL, specifically regarding FB Cullen Gillaspia?
"It's a big jump. We play really a different game than they do in college. Our rules are different. He's going to play against guys that are all as big and as fast as he is. So, he's going to find out that he's going to have to be a little more technique-oriented and do stuff a little bit more by the books, where sometimes at (Texas) A&M he could because he's a really good athlete."
What did you think about WR DeAndre Carter's performance in the return game last season?
"We were really happy with him. I thought he did a nice job. He was a guy that, I think he only put the ball on the ground one time. That's a huge part of it. He didn't fumble, he made good decisions back there as a punt returner. I think the guy's got a lot of talent. We're just excited to see him progress."
RUNNING BACKS COACH DANNY BARRETT
Where do you think RB D'Onta Foreman is right now in his recovery?
"He's light-years ahead of where he was last year at this time, coming off the injury and everything. I still think he's continuing to work hard. I think he's had a good offseason to date. The time away from here, I thought was well spent for himself. Getting ready to go physically, and I think mentally, right now, is what I look at is each and every day. Being consistent mentally as far as being locked in to what we're trying to do and improve on the little things and trying to get back to that form in which we saw prior to me coming into here, which was the 2017 season, his first year."
What is the competition for the third running back going to be like?
"Exactly, and I think that's what this offseason is giving us an opportunity to evaluate that spot. We've got a few guys, not including the rookies. You talk about Josh Ferguson, Taiwan Jones and Buddy Howell. Those guys are working hard. Obviously, those guys have to be able to help us out, not only from an offensive standpoint but also a special teams role as well. So, the battle is ongoing right now. They're all doing a very good job."
What constraints would you want in the third running back?
"Well, again, it's a few things. One, the ability to block. He has to be able to, also, be a good open-field runner once the ball is in his hands and also have the ability to read defenses. It's a combination of things from a skillset, and also from a mental standpoint. Those guys have to be sharp in knowing who their pickups are so if they're not out of the backfield, they've got to know who to pick up. Because at times, they're going to be asked to do that. Having said that, they've got to be reliable with their hands. That's the biggest thing for myself. We've been pretty good to date as far as taking care of the football, so that guy is going to have to be able to do the same thing."
Do you see possible receiver potential in RB D'Onta Foreman?
"I think it's twofold. One, I would rather have him in the backfield as opposed to lining up outside. Because now you're talking about them working against defensive backs as opposed to linebackers. We just have to be cognizant of where we line those guys up. He does possess good hands. That's one thing that we work on each and every day. I don't know if you guys see us in individuals, we're spending a lot more time this offseason just working on route running, working on catching the football out of the backfield, out in space, things like that. So, once it happens during the course of team and in the game situations, we've worked on those skills. They're all doing a good job doing that."
How good does it feel to have two strong running backs in RB Lamar Miller and RB D'Onta Foreman?
"As a coach, it's obviously good because you don't have to change up what you're doing. I think you hit it on the head. Both guys complement each other well. You have an experienced back and you have a young back. They can feed off of each other. I thought we had a pretty good combination last year with Lamar and Alfred (Blue). I just think D'Onta – again, being the younger back, having a year off has kind of helped his body but also given him a hunger to get back out there. So, I think they'll complement each other well. We don't have to change up what we're doing. They both can catch out of the backfield as well. So, again, play calling, whether it be Coach OB (Bill O'Brien) or Coach (Tim) Kelly, they can feel confident in whoever is on the football field at that position is going to get it done."
OFFENSIVE LINE COACH MIKE DEVLIN
At this time of year, what is important for you to get five guys out there that you can take into the season?
"Right now, at this time of year, like I was saying before, it's all about learning the system. You have to get five guys doing the same thing on every play. So, right now it's about learning the system, going against a great defense like Romeo Crennel's and all the different variations that he gives and their ability to see that and adjust. Right now, it's all about that."
What have you seen from T Tytus Howard in just a few weeks?
"I think coming from where he has come from, I have been impressed with both of those guys (Tytus Howard and Julien Davenport) as far as their ability to learn, their ability to work with the rest of the guys in the room. I think Tytus' athleticism has really stood out to me."
02:53How much fun did you have this past Saturday holding your camp that benefitted the Special Olympics?
"I loved it, and I really want to thank all of you guys that supported that both before and after. We were able to raise a lot of money for Special Olympics. I think we can improve it. I know this, we will try to do it in the bubble next year because it was hot. It was brutally hot. But I love coaching with the youth. I love seeing there's still a passion for the game. And then I really loved to see those special olympians out there enjoying the game for what it is, the purest."
Do you see G Martinas Rankin and G Senio Kelemete competing for left guard?
"I see right now before we put the pads on, it's an open competition. I see everybody kind of pushing each other and I have seen improvement by all of those guys. I see the fact that there is competition. I see better play from Kelemete, from Rankin and all those guys, because they know that there's people behind them."
SPECIAL ADVISOR TO THE HEAD COACH AND GENERAL MANAGER ANDRE JOHNSON
How is the new position going?
"It's going good. Just being on this side of it is different. But at the end of the day, it's football."
Do you like coaching or scouting better?
"I like both. I probably enjoyed the scouting part more in the beginning because that's what I was doing around the draft time. But that was my first time ever really doing something like that, writing reports up and stuff like that. I enjoy it. It's fun."
What are your responsibilities?
"Pretty much now, on a day to day basis, I'm just around the receivers a lot. Helping them out, just giving advice in situations when I see it. Just trying to help out with anything I see and try to help make the team better."
What are a couple of things you want to share with these guys as a coach?
"Well, a lot of the time you catch yourself. Like I'm sitting in meetings and – for instance, yesterday, I actually just got up and went to the board and just started showing guys different things, how they can improve something on the field. I think it's just more of your natural instinct, because I played the game for a long time, I love the game of football. When you're out there and you see guys doing something where they can better themselves, I think your instincts just kick in and you want to show them things that can help them."
How do you coach these guys without expecting them to play the same way you played?
"Sometimes you catch yourself explaining things and then you realize because guys don't have the experience I have and they're in their second or third year. So, things that I may see, they don't see. I think that's the biggest thing, like just catching yourself explaining things like that. Because I've been explaining something and I'm telling the guy like 'Hey, you can't feel that coverage?' and he's looking at me like 'What are you talking about?' But for me, just seeing things over and over and over, you know what to expect and I just tell them. Doing things over and over, and over, they'll eventually get to that point to where when they see different things, they'll know what's coming before it happens."
How often do younger guys seek you out for advice?
"As much as they can. I'm around them. I'm in all of the meetings and stuff like that, so if it's something then they'll come to me and ask me what I think about it. If they don't ask, I'll volunteer. So, anything I see, I just try to help. I just try to do everything I can. These are going to be the guys here playing, so you've got to make sure you teach them everything you can and try to help them become better as players."
What advice do you give WR DeAndre Hopkins?
"Well, as crazy as it may sound, he still asks me questions when he sees different things. So, with him not being able to practice right now, we watch film at times in the morning. We just talk about different things and we watch some of his tape from last season. He'll ask me what I thought about the route or what I thought about what he did. I'll give him my honest opinion. That's a relationship me and him have always had. So, even though he's not out on the field, he's still trying to find ways to get better as a player."
INSIDE LINEBACKERS COACH BOBBY KING
What does it mean as a coach to have all your starters and no issues at OTAs?
"Well they've been here now with me for three years, so there's some continuity there, there's some leadership and there's some trust. So, it's always a good thing."
How do you view ILB Benardrick McKinney in a leadership role?
"I think the world and kind of the country has caught up to the player he is. He's been a good player for a while. I've known that, this team and this city has known that. It's the respect and all the awards are well due. He's a good player."
How important is it to develop depth behind the top three guys?
"It's very important, obviously. It's been a lot of fun this year. The room has kind of been set the same from my first two years here, and now the backups have been some new guys. It's been a lot of fun coaching them. They're coming to work every day and we'll just see how it shakes out, but obviously the depth is going to be key for us."
How important is it to have durability for players like ILB Benardrick McKinney?
"He's a pretty durable guy. He don't ever tell you when he's hurt. He doesn't ever want to come out. Same with ILB Zach (Cunningham), same with Dylan (Cole). But they're durable guys and they're going to play through pain. We count on them a lot."
How much do you utilize having former players like Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach Brian Cushing and Defensive Assistant Akeem Dent on staff?
"Awesome! We did a little game stunt today and Cush (Brian Cushing) was my demonstrator. He was my center, and they couldn't knock his arm down and they knocked the offensive lineman's arm down. So, that tells you something right there about my demonstrators. It's awesome, it's a lot of fun and they're doing a great job."
TIGHT ENDS COACH WILL LAWING
What kind of improvement do you expect in TE Jordan Thomas and TE Jordan Akins in their second year?
"A lot. Any time a guy is a rookie, the jump from year one to year two is drastic. So, I'm expecting both of them to have better knowledge of the playbook, have a better routine day to day. They're doing that right now, so that's encouraging."
What about TE Kahale Warring?
"He brings a lot. He's very athletic and learning a lot. New to the game of football, but I really like what I see from him so far. He's doing a good job."
What is the thought process on deciding whether to keep four tight ends with a fullback?
"A lot of times special teams comes into play. That's being preached in our room. You've got to create value for yourself on the football team and special teams is certainly an area to do that."
How is it to coach a group of guys with different skillsets?
"It's neat, because they all bring a little bit of a different thing to the table and if you can do that you can also be able to put guys in situations to be more successful instead of having to say, 'Hey, you've got to do this, and that's not really what you're best at.' So, they all bring a different skillset and we're enjoying using them."
SECONDARY COACH ANTHONY MIDGET
What have you seen from S Tashaun Gipson Sr. and the things he brings to the table?
"He comes in and he's a guy that works hard coming in and learning the system. He practices hard, he competes and he's good in man coverage. He has the size and play strength to match tight ends, so that's been encouraging to see in these OTAs."
How has CB Lonnie Johnson Jr. doing?
"He's been doing good. He's just like all the other rookies. They're just trying to learn the system, learn how we are doing things. So, it's a learning process, but I'm excited to see him continue to grow and continue to learn."
CB Jermaine Kelly Jr. looks like he has gotten quicker. Could you tell he worked out in the offseason?
"Yeah, he was hampered last year. He didn't get a chance to play because of the injury, but it's been good to see him get healthy and compete in OTAs."
What do you envision for CB Aaron Colvin this year and what do you hope for from him?
"Well, it's the same thing, just come in and compete every day. We've got a lot of guys at his position that he's competing with and he knows that, but he's been great. He's been here all offseason. He's been working hard and I'm excited to see him in camp competing."
How excited are you about S Justin Reid in his second season?
"It's been great. Me and Justin (Reid) had a talk before everything with OTAs started and just talked about him taking that next step, and I've been seeing it on the field with his leadership. Obviously he's a smart person that studies and understands the game and it's been showing in OTAs."
How much does it help to have CB Johnathan Joseph?
"He's a player's coach because the guys listen to him. The guy is going into his 14th season, so he has a lot of experience and the guys lean on him for that. In installing meetings, Joe (Johnathan Joseph) helps the younger guys, the older guys and they gravitate to him because he's got that playing experience. He's been great. He's been awesome. I've been here six years and he's been great every year. Just a great vet to have in the room.
WIDE RECEIVERS COACH JOHN PERRY
What have you seen from WR Vyncint Smith and some of the other young receivers?
"First of all, they learn from Will (Fuller V) and Hop (DeAndre Hopkins) in terms of how to approach this professionally. Will and Hop are in every meeting, learning, answering questions, talking to the younger players, that type of stuff. Then as far as seeing what those guys do, they've had opportunities that they normally don't get and they're really taking advantage of them right now. It's really exciting to watch them do that."
What are your thoughts on WR Johnnie Dixon and WR Tyron Johnson?
"Both of those guys have position flex in terms of Tyron can play outside on either side, F or X for us, and Johnnie is a guy who can play in the slot and he can also play on the outside. So, that versatility, as you guys know, is vital in our offense and those guys are showing that they're capable of learning and capable of executing at a high rate from those positions."
What is it like to have a potentially dangerous receiving corps if everyone stays healthy?
"Those guys are just fun to coach because their professionalism is so high and they come in every day trying to work hard, trying to make the team better, whether it's themselves or aiding somebody else. So, that's really exciting. When you see the ability to threaten a defense at all three levels, that's exciting. That's always problematic for a defense and I think that's what those three guys can do."
QUARTERBACKS COACH CARL SMITH
What is it like coaching QB Deshaun Watson?
"It's been great. I've enjoyed getting to know him and watching him work."
QB Deshaun Watson is obviously someone who had a reputation preceding him. What did you think of him as you were heading into it?
"I remember I got to interview him at the combine in the train station and he was outstanding. I remember the interview. Sometimes the very top guys don't go to the train station, but I'm always impressed with the guys that do."
Do you ever share any stories of Seahawks QB Russell Wilson with QB Deshaun Watson?
"I might sometime. I haven't. They were both at the Pro Bowl this year, so they got a chance to talk through it and Russell told him what to expect."
What are your plans for this upcoming season to help QB Deshaun Watson take less hits?
"It's an important part of the game to protect the quarterback, and that's all of our job. It's all of the blockers' job, it's the receivers' job and it's the quarterback's job to protect the quarterback. It's a big part of the game."
There are a lot of young targets that QB Deshaun is working with. How do you work through a lot of young receivers not knowing the playbook as well?
"Mostly he has been with the guys that have been here, but he has had a couple of the young rookie free agents. They're all doing a good job of learning it and he's done a good job of finding them when they're open."
DEFENSIVE LINE COACH ANTHONY WEAVER
What are your thoughts on rookie DE Charles Omenihu?
"He's very raw. But like you said, he's got a bunch of tools to work with. So, we're just trying to mold him right now to get him how we want him to be, to be a Texans defensive lineman and hold that standard that we have that's really high at this point. He has the right approach to work. He comes in every day with the right mindset, so I think he'll get there."
What value do you place on sack numbers and pass rush numbers in college?
"I don't put very much value into it. It does show that he has a certain amount of instincts, which I think is important. But this game is so much different. You can get buy in college just being a better athlete than the guy across from you. That doesn't happen very often in this league. It's few and far between. When it does, you hope that guy in the division so you play him twice."
What is your expectation level for DE Carlos Watkins?
"My expectations for Carlos are sky high. I know to this point, he probably hasn't exceeded the expectations but a lot of that has been purely because of opportunity. Obviously, we lost a very good player in Christian Covington, so there's a void there, and one that I expect Carlos to step in and try to fill. He's coming into his third year. He's taking all of the coaching, he listens to the veterans and he's had a very good offseason. So, I'm looking for him to take that stride."
What do you have to do to keep the defensive ends as dominant as they've been in the past?
"I think the thing with our group in particular is always about avoiding complacency. While the gains we make may not be leaps and bounds, they're incremental. But as each one of those guys gets better incrementally, the whole group gets better. I think that's what we're always trying to do. Whether it's J.J. Watt or one of my free agent rookies coming in, we're just always trying to make incremental strides every day so that the whole gets better as a result."
How has DE/NT D.J. Reader improved over the last few seasons?
"He's a leader on this defense. He's a quiet later, but he's respected. Because obviously, he's played a lot of ball with us and has played well. He's very smart. He's very smart and he relates to almost everybody. I think that's where some of his leadership skills and traits shine. Because he'll talk to the lowest guy on the totem pole, and the highest guy on the totem pole, and treat each and every one of them the same, and can relate to them. So, not only does he have tremendous value for us as a player, but he has tremendous value for us in that locker room as well."
OFFENSIVE ASSISTANT T.J. YATES
What is it like being Coach Yates now?
"It's a little weird. It's fun, though. It's been great so far. I kind of just hopped right into it. As far as transition-wise it couldn't have gone any easier, just because obviously the familiarity with the building, the coaches, the players, the organization, everything. So, it was kind of just hopping back into it.
What is it like to be in a different role and helping some other position groups?
"As a quarterback, you kind of know your assignments, where to make your MIKE points, protections all of that stuff, but you don't actually know the nuts and bolts of what truly goes on in that room. So, obviously I have a better appreciation for what goes on up front and how much work goes in up front technique-wise. I'm learning a bunch every single day. Coach Devlin has been great so far. The offensive line has been great. We've got a really good room, a bunch of good young guys, a bunch of good veterans. I think that room is going to be definitely improved."
Have you been addressed as "coach" yet?
"A couple times, yeah. It's more of guys just joking with me. Guys that I played with will call me that on purpose. It's kind of weird. You don't really respond to it at first, but then it's pretty cool."
Is this what you thought it would be in terms of staying in the game, being around a successful program and helping people with their careers?
"Yeah, you definitely have a better appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes, coaches-wise. Just the amount of preparation that goes into every meeting, every practice, every single thing that we do. It's the hours and hours that are spent upstairs that you don't really recognize as much as a player. You know what goes on, but when you're actually in the role upstairs, you definitely have a better appreciation for it."
You know this game is tough. How does that help you in coaching some young guys in the offensive line that there are high hopes for?
"They can lean on me for advice or experience advice or anything like that, knowing that I've played and I've played in this system. It kind of helps me, obviously, coach them and help them in their maturation of the whole process. They're a great group of kids. Max (Scharping) and Tytus (Howard) have been doing a great job so far. They are learning every single day, but they're both very talented, both very intelligent and I think they're going to help us a lot.
With your experience, what's your biggest piece of advice to the younger guys?
"Coach (Mike) Devlin has also played in the league, so in our room there's a lot of talk about what actually goes on when you're in the game. So, it's a lot of conversations like that, game-time experience, what you're doing before the game, after the game, the days leading up to it. In our room, there's a lot of experience and that's helping out those young guys a lot.