Today the Houston Texans opened up their organized team activities, or better known as OTA’s. The Texans finished their best season as a franchise record wise with a bitter taste in their mouths, after losing to the New England Patriots in just the second round of the playoffs. The Texans look to learn from the mistakes they made late in the season last year. The goal of this team is simple, bring a Lombardi Trophy to the city of Houston. With OTA’s starting today the Texans are now taking their first steps toward this team goal. Here’s 5 things to watch for at the Texans first week of OTA’s of the 2013-2014 season.
1. Starting LB Play: The Texans finished last year with a patchwork LB unit. After Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed, and Darryl Sharpton all got injured, and nine of them finished the season or played in the playoffs. The Texans were forced to sign veteran ILB Barrett Rudd to fill in and finish the season. Now after the draft the Texans have quite a group of young LB’s. Both Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams are players that could make plays now. Put them along with an already young and athletic OLB core of Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed and the Texans have plenty at the OLB position. At ILB both Brian Cushing and Darryl Sharpton are looking to get back to 100% and ready for the season. After not being cleared last week by doctors ILB Darryl Sharpton was at the Texans workouts today. And from what I heard he looked to be healthy. That’s great news for the Texans, who also signed a couple undrafted free agents at the ILB spot. With Tim Dobbins resigned, the Texans will still have 1 spot open at ILB. Undrafted free agent JaGared Davis is a player I think could take that last spot.
2. Deep O-Line: Last season 3 Texans offensive lineman made the Pro Bowl. C Chris Meyers, LT Duane Brown, and LG Wade Smith all deserved their spots in Hawaii this past season. But even with that many O lineman making the Pro Bowl the Texans felt they had to get better up front this off season. They were able to get Ryan Harris resigned after he showed he could handle playing either T or G for the Texans. They also drafted 2 O lineman, and both Brennan Williams and David Quessenberry should make the team. Adding the 2 quality players to an already very good unit. The Texans should be able to rotate players when tired and in different situations. Gary Kubiak loves having the flexibility to do that with his offense.
3. Watching a young secondary mature: Well in the off season the Texans signed future hall of famer Ed Reed. At 35 Reed will obviously be the oldest player in the secondary for the Texans. Fellow S Daniel Manning is the next oldest at 31. Other than them 2 the Texans don’t have a CB or S on the roster in their 30’s yet. Players like Kareem Jackson, Brandon Harris, and Brice McCain are all young and all played really well when needed last year. The Texans also drafted DJ Swearinger, a S from South Carolina. He’s supposed to learn from Ed Reed and eventually take his job when Reed retires. The Texans are hoping that they can count on these young players early and often this year. In a pass happy league having plenty of DB’s that can cover is a necessity.
4. DeAndre Hopkins: With their 1st round pick the Texans picked explosive WR DeAndre Hopkins out of Clemson. Hopkins was drafted to make plays, and since he’s arrived he’s done nothing but impress. The Texans have wanted another athletic threat outside to compliment Andre Johnson and they believe they got it with this kid. Andre Johnson will be a mentor to Hopkins and will try to teach him the tricks of the trade at WR. Many people said the Texans lacked a deep threat that had the ability to stretch the field. The team’s hoping that Hopkins not only stretches the field, but that he can help get them over the hump in the AFC.
5. Earl Mitchell gets his chance: When Wade Phillips was hired as the Texans DC 2 years ago the biggest question was who’d play the NT in his 3-4 scheme. That year the Texans drafted Earl Mitchell, a DT from Arizona. Mitchell hasn’t gotten a real shot at consistent snaps because the Texans had Shaun Cody manning the middle of their D line. Now with Cody gone Mitchell will get his chance to prove he can make plays. Mitchell was mostly used in pass rushing situations when he has been on the field the last couple seasons. He wasn’t big enough to make plays against the run game. But he’s added some weight and is now big enough to help the Texans in both the pass rush and run defense. Along with Mitchell the Texans have Terrell Mclain who was signed to the team late in the season last year. Both Mclain and Mitchell have shots at the starting job, but I’m thinking Mitchell gets the start. He’s one of Wade Phillips guys, I think his ability to be disruptive in the pass game will help them immediately on field.