On Monday morning, your Houston Texans will kick off their Organized Team Activities for the 2013 season. It's yet another step on the long road to NFL Training Camp, but it's a step nonetheless. This will be the first time that all of your Houston Texans, rookies and veterans, step onto the field with the coaching staff. They won't be in full pads, but now Matt Schaub can begin to get on the same page with DeAndre Hopkins and Alan Bonner. The linebacker shuffle should be in full effect, too, due to injuries and shifting roles. Oh, yeah, and special teams coordinator Joe Marciano will do...something...I'm told.
There's a lot to watch, a lot of position battles, but the big key is on the defense. No, it's not Ed Reed Rehab Watch. It's the front seven. Right now, inside linebackers Brian Cushing and Darryl Sharpton will not participate in OTAs. Sharpton isn't even medically cleared. Former starting nose tackle Shaun Cody has not and, likely due to his number being given away, will not be re-signed. Former starting outside linebacker Connor Barwin is scarfing down Philly Cheesesteaks while the other starting OLB, Brooks Reed, is possibly moving inside, leaving behind Whitney Mercilus and two rookies, Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams, to hold down the OLB spots.
Even the depth has some question marks. Can Tim Jamison bounce back from his season-ending injury? Can Earl Mitchell step into the starter's role? Will another rookie, Chris Jones, have to make significant contributions right away? Is Tim Dobbins the only really reliable reserve linebacker?
The only guarantees, as this all shakes out, are the starting defensive ends. Antonio Smith, impending free agency aside, has blossomed under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and put together back-to-back career years at 30 and 31. The other guy, J.J. something-or-other, is kind of okay at playing the American football and being a good human being.
Granted, Cushing should be back in July, but there is a lot up in the air for a defensive scheme that is reliant on a fast, physical, aggressive, almost bully-like front seven. Phillips has worked miracles before. He quickly polished a the Frank Bush ' 'efense into a gem in his first season. He has also had great success working in young players before and even making position changes. As we remember, Phillips isn't afraid to simplify his defense and add to it as his talent grows and understand, but are there too many moving parts for that to matter?
This franchise has only seen success when it has fielded a talented and capable defense. This defense works because of the front seven. The aforementioned front seven is in a state of change. No one's telling anyone to hit the panic button, but if fans want to know how 2013 will go, all eyes should be on the front seven over the next few weeks. There are a lot of questions needing answers.
Chime in below, BRBers. What story has you intrigued about OTAs? Is it Schaub? Hopkins? Reed? Special Teams? Something else?