A successful training camp is a big indicator of how a team might fare during the season. And some of the elements that define that success vary from year to year. Other than the most important thing, I can immediately think of two key areas of interest in 2018 as camp opens next week. We'll get to those in a bit. And I'll have plenty of extra to-dos coming up next week.
Health has to be the number one priority. But at what cost? You certainly need your stars to get work, build timing and get in 'football shape.' Yet you can ill afford to lose them to injury. That's one reason why Bill O'Brien and so many other coaches love joint practices.
I still go back and forth on how much I think Deshaun Watson will play in the preseason. But you know he'll get a ton of reps in the sessions with the 49ers prior to the second preseason tilt. He'll get to wear the 'don't-touch-the-quarterback' red jersey as he leads the Houston attack against a talented group of San Francisco defenders.
People always ask me my season predictions. I really can't say until the team is done with three preseason games. That way I know who's healthy. The starters won't play in the fourth.
Last year, the Texans broke camp with few injuries, then had their worst season to date in that department, using an NFL record 78 players. One thing that concerned me before the regular season was the hurricane (football-wise, that is. Don't @ me that I'm not acknowledging the big picture of devastation).
No one in their right mind would blame the injuries on Rita, Ike or Harvey. But it's interesting that the three seasons in their history the Texans had to deal with hurricanes, their combined record is 14-34, with a first half mark of 7-17.
Having the offense operated by Watson again will be a huge focal point of this camp. Timing and execution will be worked on as the weeks progress. Within that, the play of the offensive line has to be the biggest priority on that side of the ball - with all the new faces needing to gel from day one of the regular season, as the team opens at New England.
And on defense, a prominent item on the agenda is about getting three new faces to band together quickly as Tyrann Mathieu, Aaron Colvin and Justin Reid take on their roles in the defensive backfield. And don't forget about Kareem Jackson working at safety. It'll be interesting to see how Romeo Crennel and Anthony Midget decide to put the pieces together.
The early development of these areas, the offensive line and the secondary, will go a long way toward determining how the Texans come out of the gate. But mostly, keeping the team doctors as idle as possible will be the biggest boost.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 2/26/2021)