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VanderBlog: My thoughts after hosting the Season Ticket Member Town Hall


DeMeco Ryans didn't just come to Houston to become a head coach. He returned to Houston to bring his style of football to a place that loves the sport as much as he does.

I hosted a Season Ticket Members-only Town Hall Wednesday night (quite the perk!) and the crowd blew me away. Fans were given free reign to step to the mic and ask direct questions of Texans football leadership, and those leaders answered honestly, thoughtfully, and from their hearts.

Fittingly, the answers were intriguing. They were also enlightening, and they showed again how clear it is that the Texans are moving in the right direction.

But don't take my word for it (actually, do!. I'm just being polite), take it from Coach Ryans himself.

One Season Ticket Member asked: "What are you trying to bring back...?"

Coach Ryans: "How I view football and how I see it is, it's a team that plays fast, a team that is the most physical team on Sundays."

Love it already. That's what Houston wants to see: Speed, power, and relentlessness.

He continued, "When you line up across from us," then he paused and smiled. "That next week you should be hurtin' a little bit. Because we want to play a physical brand of football. We want to play fast, attacking, and we want to get after people."

Alright, that's Coach Ryans' point of view. But I'm here with a stronger take, and I'm going to lay it out now.

Start with the running game. It's going to be better. By a lot. This offense is about moving the ball in creative ways and so much of it spawns from a running attack that keeps defenses off balance.

The Texans have added talent, most notably 2022 Bills leading rusher Devin Singletary. But he's not a savior or keystone, he's adding cylinders to an engine that already had a lot of horsepower. Singletary averaged a healthy 4.6 yards per carry for a 13-3 team. Dameon Pierce finished 8th in yards per game and was a lock to finish with over 1,000 yards if he stayed healthy. Put them together and you've got a 1-2 punch to rival any in the league.

At another skill position, the Texans are replacing their top four pass catchers from last year. But that's ok, because the new names are electric. Robert Woods, Noah Brown and rookies Tank Dell and Xavier Hutchinson look ready to take the aerial attack up several notches. This group has size, speed, agility, and hunger.

Woods was solid last year for the Titans returning from a knee injury, and he's acting like a player who is ready to return to top form. Noah Brown had 555 receiving yards which would have put him in second on the Texans stat sheet. Dell and Hutchinson finished second and third in the NCAA in receptions. Of course college numbers don't always shine in the exchange rate to the NFL but that kind of production is a good calling card as they launch their pro careers.

Acquiring Dalton Schultz is like adding cayenne pepper to your pizza. An extra kick that takes things to the next level! A season ago, he put up TD and catch numbers that would have led the Texans in both categories.

Plus, and this is important: he is quite literally named after Patrick Swayze’s 'Dalton' character in Road House.

Dalton had many profound lines in the film like "Pain don't hurt." This combined with outrageous bar fights, Kelly Lynch and Sam Elliott (who makes every film better) makes Roadhouse one of the most enjoyable B movies ever. Plus, Swayze is H-Town!

Back to football.

2021 draft choice Brevin Jordan is turning heads during OTA's and Teagan Quitoriano is a big body who caught only seven passes last year, but two were for scores and we're all eager for the year-one-to-year-two jump.

Asking me to evaluate the offensive line is like asking Nick Caserio to each chips and queso. It's not going to happen, even in private.

I will say that the acquisition of Shaq Mason along with the addition of Juice Scruggs (who MUST be good with a name like that) and Jarrett Patterson through the draft have created a group with high upside. You can't forget that Pro Bowler Laremy Tunsil is still the anchor here, the new system should benefit everyone involved here.

OK, this is a DeMeco Ryans team, so let's talk defense.

Seeing Jimmie Ward and Jalen Pitre practice together at safety is more satisfying than the series finale of Ted Lasso.

And I thought the show ended about as well as a beloved series could end. Keep an eye out for my petition for a spin-off; everyone better sign. If I'm Apple TV I'm bringing blank checks to the actors' homes.

Alright, really back to football now.

Derek Stingley is making a lot of plays. So is Desmond King, who's back for another campaign. Tavierre Thomas makes the back-end even deeper. There's a lot to like here. Let's see how things shake out during camp then the coaches get a great look at all the layers of the depth chart.

The Texans also have linebackers and defensive linemen for days. Think about new players like Denzel Perryman and Cory Littleton combined with returnees like Christian Kirksey and Christian Harris. There's draft choice Henry To'oTo'o and 'Don't You Forget About Me' guys Blake Cashman and Jake Hansen (who are probably too young to remember the Simple Minds song from The Breakfast Club).

At this point, my Texans All-Access (cough-cough... subscribe now, and a 5-star rating wouldn't hurt!) partner John Harris will fine me for a dated reference. The Breakfast Club is an 80s movie, though many of you know it as a popular eatery in Houston, but spelled differently.

When everyone gets healthy and clicking in camp the defensive line might make the biggest jump on the team. Putting vets Hassan Ridgeway and Sheldon Rankins on the line of scrimmage with Maliek Collins, Jonathan Greenard, Jerry Hughes, Roy Lopez, rookie Will Anderson…. I can keep going but, luckily for opposing QBs, they can't all be in the game at once!

Let's just put it this way – I count 18 defensive linemen of the roster right now and it's easy to say this will be the toughest cut on the team.

I know what you're thinking – "What about the QBs?"

I'll get to them now. You don't serve steak as the appetizer.

Editor's note: Another food reference, Vandermeer!? Please eat before you write next time.

Marc's note: Did I mention I just hosted a STM-only Town Hall? I'm puttin' in the work while everyone else enjoys the free nacho bar!

Last year at this time I wrote about the relatively small number of starts the members of the quarterback room had. Well, it's different now. Case Keenum is back in Houston with 63 starts under his belt. Davis Mills now has 25 starts, including wins in two of his last three games played.

C.J. Stroud is getting his first taste of NFL action – though he's played in the highest-profile games College Football has to offer – and it's enjoyable to watch. He had a ridiculous 85-12 TD to interception ratio at Ohio State. And accuracy numbers like that often translate well. Reaching his full potential is going to be a process. But the reviews are very positive so far.

As DeMeco Ryans says "This team is on the cusp." There's a mountain of upside. The squad is looking for a big leap this season and the future is bright with draft capital and cap space.

Plus, did you see what I just wrote? DeMeco Ryans says. The new head man has a long history of success with the Texans, and he has a rare connection with this city and its fans.

Stay tuned. And turn up the volume. This team is a band ready to rock.

But don't look for a front man – it's an ensemble. Everyone playing their part, staying in tune, and focused.

On SWARMing. On keeping the main thing, the main thing. And, based on what I saw from tonight's interactions with Season Ticket Members, on making H-Town proud.