Vandermeer’s View: The grind of training camp

As Bill O’Brien says, “every year is different.” He’s so right. Just as I was getting used to going to West Virginia and riding a bike to practice on 65 degree mornings, I’m back on the surface of the sun.

And loving every minute of it.

I’ve been here for all the camps. This one is unique. The schedule of outside-inside-outside-inside gives the players a little break from the heat. And the meat locker near the field (actually called a Cold Recovery Zone or CRZ) is a great way to get them cooled down during the outdoor sessions.

It didn’t hurt that camp began with the lowest humidity I’ve felt this time of year maybe ever. But that already seems like a long time ago.

Between the lines, it’s too early to make any declarations. You’re going against yourself. But we know this offense, when healthy, can be explosive. And they ran the ball well for most of their nine-game winning streak. We also are looking at a defense that led the NFL in yards per rush allowed and wants to get better, particularly on the back end.

After the acquisition part of the offseason dialed down I felt like the Texans had plenty of options to help improve the areas where they needed it most. That thought is playing out well so far in camp.

When we’re talking about the groups where they added the most talent, offensive line and the secondary, it’s clear that they have a lot of options and are working on finding the right mix.

O’Brien is not ready to name a starting five to pave the way for the offense. But that’s not breaking news. “You have to get a bunch of reps and get guys on tape and see how they’re playing,” he said. So far, the line has seen more line-up changes than the cast of Law and Order. But that’s to be expected early in camp. It’s fun to see the rookie draft picks, Titus Howard and Max Scharping, get into the flow.

And in the defensive backfield, the new safeties, Jahleel Addae and Tashaun Gipson are getting plenty of work as Justin Reid ramped up to return from the NFI list. Last year’s leading special teams stopper, A.J. Moore, has been making plays and drawing praise from the head coach.

The corners are catching eyes, and the football too, on occasion. That’s not easy against a wide receiver group that has a lot of playmaking versatility. Bradley Roby, who missed the spring and Lonnie Johnson Jr., who’s dealing with an injury but is expected back soon, are doing all they can to get the Texans better outside. Aaron Colvin has been eager to prove that last year was a career fluke and that he can stay healthy and make a difference.

We all know that if the top three wide receivers can stay healthy, it’s going to be fun to watch. But don’t discount the potential of depth in this group. And don’t go the fridge on fourth down during the preseason games. The young receivers know that playing well on special teams is a requirement to getting employment here.

There’s a long way to go. This is a big week because it’s the last one without a game at the end of it. Against Green Bay, the coaching staff will have to start planning what groups they want out there and when. The joint practices will be huge in giving them an early barometer of where they are at. For now, it’s a battle to be productive and consistent in the face of competition and heat.

Check out the best shots from Day 5 of training camp in Houston.

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