Rare have been the days when you could come to a Texans training camp practice and be utterly confident in your starting quarterback. Only Matt Schaub was able to generate big numbers on a consistent basis, earning two Pro Bowl bids, and those days seem like a long time ago.
It's just year two for Deshaun Watson, and his first as the day-one starter. But he goes about his business with poise, precision and pizzazz. There's great entertainment value in watching this offense as they hone their skills in the mountains of West Virginia.
A year ago at training camp, when Watson took the field, it was almost like an alarm went off. You looked more closely, your pulse quickened. Now it's constant. He's the conductor of Bill O'Brien's attack and the Texans are pushing to pick right up where they left off when he last played in October.
An NFL camp is different when everyone in the organization's orbit has confidence in the quarterback. Most teams are upbeat this time of year, regardless. But the Texans, with all their stars projected to go opening day, operate with an extra spring in their step as they prepare to take on the tough AFC South.
From day one, the sight of J.J. Watt in uniform, arm brace and all, was a sight for sore eyes. Seeing he and Whitney Mercilus on the edge, with a getting-healthier-all-the-time Jadeveon Clowney waiting in the wings, has been like a shot of double espresso.
Oh wait, I haven't mentioned Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin yet. Yes, they are making plays. And Kevin Johnson looks spry as he's battled well in the secondary. Let's not stop there. Zack Cunningham and Dylan Cole are vets now. The linebacking corps is solid. And I haven't yet mentioned how the rookies might help.
Back to the offense. Too often, we sportscasters refer to any tight end as "the big tight end." Well, it's all too true with 270-pound Jordan Thomas who looks like a runaway offensive lineman motoring through the secondary. This is going to be fun. It's not like Thomas is the highest profile player among the rookies. But, at that size, he's impossible not to notice. You see them all fighting for snaps. Justin Reid on defense, Keke Coutee, who looks very NFL-ready and Jordan Akins are certainly holding their own.
I suppose every team boasts togetherness at this time of year. But your 2018 Texans really seem to have it. There was a goal line drill on Sunday that was as spirited as I've ever seen in Houston. All running plays, all live. And the players NOT participating seemed to get into it as much as the guys who were in the trenches, if not more.
These Texans are business-like, but in a way that lets you know they truly love their work. They collectively and wholeheartedly bought into the upgraded off-season conditioning and nutrition program. And now they are taking the next gigantic steps of building and fine tuning their on-field repertoire.
It's a good beginning.
Check out some of the best photos from Day 4 of Texans Camp at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.