With OTAs wrapping up this week, the Houston Texans have come a few steps closer to answering key questions heading into training camp. So, what are the biggest takeaways from three weeks of OTA work? Here they are (in no particular order):
-C.J. Stroud and the QBs
At the start of OTAs, Stroud was getting a fairly even number of practice reps with Davis Mills. By Week 2 of OTAs, Stroud was working with the first team. The third and final week of OTAs look much like the first (at least Tuesday's open practice did). What did we learn? Don't read too much into first and second team during June practices.
"Our entire room of quarterbacks, all three guys, have done a really good job this entire spring," Head Coach DeMeco Ryans said. "Davis [Mills], C.J. [Stroud] and Case [Keenum], all are competing, all are doing things really well. Things are starting to click with the offense. Guys are moving the ball down field, so I'm happy with where those guys are and their development."
-Early offensive scheme impressions
Ryans isn't the only link to the Gary Kubiak era, the offense will look familiar too. From play action to bootlegs and plenty of run game, expect the offense to look like modern-day descendant from the Kubiak-Shanahan tree. OC Bobby Slowik even referenced watching old Texans film when he arrived in San Francisco to learn Kyle Shanahan's offense.
"I still remember watching when I first got the offense in San Francisco, all these Houston Texan cut-ups and Andre and Schaub and David Anderson and all these guys just running the same stuff we're running right now, and the principles and the foundation of what they did is all there, but like everything, it kind of evolves as it goes," Slowik said. "Where it's at right now, the core is all the same and probably the edges have branched off maybe a hair, like the league has just changed. There's some different defenses you see. There's some different issues you get. So you find different ways to adjust to that."
This might just be music to Dameon Pierce's ears.
"I'd still say it's running back friendly," Pierce said of the new offensive scheme. "That's one thing that excites me - We run the ball. I love that. I like the dynamic that coach Slow[ik] brings."
-An attack-style defense
If Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke could describe his scheme in one word, it would be "attack." The Texans will base out of a four-down front, according to the Texans DC.
"The more that you can pressure a quarterback with four and not have to commit other resources to doing that, that helps kind of protect your coverage a little bit so you can play multiple coverages and change that element up if you can affect the quarterback and the offense with your front," Burke said. "That's kind of the general approach and philosophy that I'd say we're taking."
Throughout OTAs, Burke has been calling plays but that may or may not be the case once the regular season starts. Whether it's Burke or Ryans calling defensive plays, stay tuned for Week 1...
Showing growth week-to-week is the primary goal of OTAs, according to Ryans, and this year's rookie class passed the test. Stroud and Will Anderson, drafted No. 2 and No. 3, both had a strong OTA showing since their arrival last month.
"The rookies are all as a group are doing well," Ryans said. "I think you start with the two guys that we drafted first – C.J. [Stroud] and Will [Anderson Jr.]. Those guys have done an excellent job with what they've been tasked. They've been getting better."
Aside from the draft picks, several undrafted players have also shined throughout OTAs. During Tuesday's practice, WR Jesse Mathews caught a nice pass over the middle during team period for a first down. Last week, Case Keenum connected with Pitt WR Jared Wayne for a big play during 7-on-7s.
Overall, Ryans is pleased with the rookie class and where they are in their development so far.
"You also talk about a young guy like Jesse Matthews who's coming along, making plays, getting better," Ryans said. "Xavier Hutchinson, Tank [Dell], all of our guys have been doing a really good job. Juice [Scruggs] has done a great job with just being consistent in there – seems like a vet already with the consistency that he operates at. All around, we have a really good group of rookies and I'm excited to see them come back training camp when we put the pads on and actually get the opportunity to play some real football. I'm excited to see their growth."
The Texans will hold their mandatory veteran minicamp June 13-14 at the Houston Methodist Center.