No matter what the situation is with Johnson, the Texans are going to embark on their 2014 season starting on Tuesday with their 1st day of a 10 day allotment of practices that the NFL allows for the upcoming season.
Heading into OTAs, there are ten things to pay attention to and hopefully some of them will come to light when OTAs ends in mid June.
Texans OTAs Dates: May 27th-29th, June 2nd-3rd, June 5th, June 9th-10th and June 12th-13th
10 Things To Watch Heading into OTAs
1. A Possible Position Change for Brooks Reed
Could this finally be the year that all the talk of Brooks Reed moving to inside linebacker finally happens? The previous Texans staff toyed with the idea during the 2013 OTAs and saw Reed get the majority of the work at inside linebacker with injuries at the position. Despite all of his work at inside linebacker, it was all for not and Reed played the entire season at outside linebacker.
Now with the addition of Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus who starts at the other outside linebacker, Reed could easily be moved. There is also reason to think keeping him at outside linebacker could be a possibility with his ability to set the edge which he has excelled at concerning the run game. Mercilus struggles with setting the edge and Clowney is learning the position so that could be an outside reason not to move Reed.
Just because Reed could move inside doesn’t mean he cannot still contribute on the edge in certain situations. At the moment, a position change could be the best thing for the front seven.
The addition of Xavier Su’a-Filo appears to be to fill the left guard with youth and another piece to solidify their offensive line for the future. Second year offensive lineman David Quessenberry showed last season during the preseason he could have easily been the steal of the Texans draft class before breaking his foot during the first week of regular season. Quessenberry has shown he can play left guard or right tackle, which is currently being filled by two-year starter Derek Newton. Newton has struggled with a knee and weight issues that have made him a below average right tackle the past two years.
Quessenberry is starter material but he will have to unseat Newton for the starting right tackle position. This should be a camp battle to watch over the summer and it starts in a day.
3. Brandon Harris, Sink or Swim
The second round pick in 2011 has been a non factor for the Texans and there has never been a real reason why he hasn’t. Some will say he is too slow or creates too many penalties but it is tough to be critical of a player with an old regime that was known to stick with their guys no matter what. Harris has really only seen time due to injuries, has not started a game in his career (31 career games) and was not even looked at despite Brice McCain’s issues the past two seasons. Harris will get his chance to start at the nickel cornerback position and could see his competition for the position from rookies Andre Hal and Marcus Williams.
It is safe to say Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage will be on the opening 53 man roster barring any injuries, but the same cannot be said for Case Keenum and T.J. Yates. The storyline will be if Fitzpatrick will be the week one starter and if the Texans are still on the market for adding another quarterback. Keenum and Yates could both easily be gone heading into the season, but if there was one to be kept at the moment look for Yates to have the upper hand due to what was seen in voluntary mini camp at the beginning of May.
5. The Wide Receiver Position After Johnson, Hopkins and Posey
Even with Andre Johnson at the moment the camp story especially with him traveling to New York City and not in any rush to appear at OTAs, he will be counted on with DeAndre Hopkins and DeVier Posey for the upcoming season as the top three. After that, the wide receiver position is open season.
Keshawn Martin has struggled since coming into the NFL, last year’s draft pick Alan Bonner was sidelined with a hamstring injury that kept him on the I.R. for the entire 2013 season. Now add in veteran Mike Thomas, Alec Lemon, Ez Nwachukwu, (rookies) Anthony McClung, Travis Labhart and LaColtan Bester, the Texans are looking for a slot wide receiver and more dynamic play-makers on the perimeter.
This position group looked all but set heading into the season but the competition has arrived and spots are up for grabs.
Randy Bullock missed his rookie season with a torn groin and then was handed the starting job in 2013 with zero other kickers in camp to create a competition. This year has changed that and the Texans have brought in one of the strongest legs to kick in the NCAA last year in Rice University’s Chris Boswell.
Boswell has been slowed early in rookie mini camp after recovering from an appendectomy, but the table is set starting at OTAs to put both kickers under the microscope. All the kicks will be looked at closely and the most consistent one during the summer will be the week one kicker for the Texans.
7. Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt
Let’s be honest, the talk of this happening prior to the draft was just speculation. Now it is a reality. Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel will have a front seven that will feature two players as gifted as J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney has plenty to prove but his presence alone will give teams issues with Watt and others.
The puzzle pieces on personnel will be tinkered with during OTAs and Training Camp and the product on the field should be interesting to watch for 2014.
8. Brian Cushing and His Practice Load
How much Cushing will practice will be something to watch. In 2013, Cushing was brought along slow after recovering from a torn ACL. This time his broken leg has healed but he was held out of voluntary mini-camp because of his injury.
Practice time is of the essence especially with the new staff in place. Cushing getting as many looks in the defense will only benefit the Texans. His health is important to the Texans defense and without him there has been some drop off.
9. Are Any of the Drafted Rookies Plugged in as Starters from Day One
Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s message to the rookies has been keep quiet which makes us think that they will not hand over any starting positions on day one. Jadeveon Clowney, Xavier Su’a-Filo, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Louis Nix III and Jay Prosch all look to be in the position to start from day one. If they are not running with the first team when OTAs arrives, training camp could easily be when everything starts to take shape for week one.
10. Rookie Free Agents Pushing for a Spot on the Team (53 Man Roster and Practice Squad)
Everyone pays attention to the rookies and especially the free agents that could make a mark on the team. There are spots to be taken and just like every year a group of rookies could sneak onto the 53 man roster or practice squad.
Players like Max Bullough (ILB), Marcus Williams (CB), Jason Ankrah (OLB), Matt Feiler (OT), Travis Labhart (WR) and Anthony McClung (WR) are all players who could impact their position groups throughout this process.