Vandermeer's View: Moving to the Mountains

For the first time ever, the Texans are hitting the road for the entirety of training camp. As someone who works in the building, I can tell you that the support staff has spent countless hours making sure the team can go to West Virginia and hit the ground running as they embark on the 16th journey of franchise history.

They're going away to a cooler, more sequestered environment in an effort to be at that their best throughout the season and certainly, when it matters most, in January. It'll be a very different experience for the squad and one which you can follow closely right here starting with the team's arrival on July 25.

The entire group must get better. If you're not striving for improvement everywhere, you might be moving backwards. But it's the offense that has the most catching up to do after a year in which performance fell short of hopes and expectations.

The need for the raw talent at the quarterback position to take shape quickly has been written here before. The trio has a combined three starts for the franchise between them but that hardly tells the whole story. Tom Savage, DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson all had their moments in the spring and are ready to sling it through the crisp mountain air.

Last year, there were a lot of new offensive weapons to break in with then-rookies Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, Tyler Ervin and Stephen Anderson, all looking to contribute. A season of experience clearly helped them all and now it's time for the critical year one to year two jump so they can make an impact.

That's not to say this year's rookies can't be productive, but it's largely by the second year where an NFL player has to prove he's effective for the sake of his career and the team. The learning experience of 2016 will be a big plus – especially as Savage and Watson get some great live on-the-job training in the next six weeks.

Speaking of year one to year two jumps, the local poster child for this leap in improvement is linebacker Benardrick McKinney, who finished 11th in the NFL in tackles last season and, at five, had more sacks than anyone in the top 50. He looked good as a rookie but became a team pillar in his 'sophomore' season.

Camp will be different away from Houston. The team will have better weather and more bonding opportunities. John McClain always talks about Bum Phillips creating a family vibe on the road. When times get tough, you're more likely to play a little harder for your family.

But it's mostly the wear and tear of the Houston heat that the Texans are looking to get a break from. Sure, they'll be right back in it after the New England game and when they practice against the Saints, but those first three weeks of camp feature the most physically demanding practices of the year and the Texans want to use the time in the best way possible.

The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 3/1/2021)

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