The overwhelming negativity of "Sports Twitter," and really the Internet in general, can sometimes repulse me from the whole experience. Actually, I'll be more accurate - sometimes I allow the negativity to repulse me. More than anything - your own Internet experience, in any form, is exactly what you make it. Honestly, I'm as negative as the next guy half the time, so it is what it is.
But, ya know, I'm actually legitimately optimistic about the 2016 special teams, for which an improvement is many years overdue. With the Knile Davis disaster still fresh (forever?) in our minds and so many other wrongs, there's plenty to fix.
There's no actual evidence or past history to suggest that Larry Izzo will be a success as the Texans' new special teams coordinator. This of course will be his first time leading the specials after five years as a special teams assistant for the New York Giants. We do, however, have the Texans' very own history to be able to conclude it's hard to imagine the unit as a whole NOT improving based on how ineffective it was last season. I would say that even before the addition of various potential return weapons during the offseason.
The Texans famously injected themselves with speed in the draft and free agency. We don't yet know all those who may get a look in a return capacity, but it's safe to say one or many of the group of draft picks Braxton Miller, Will Fuller, Tyler Ervin, UFA Wendall Williams, or even holdover RB Akeem Hunt will most certainly bolster the return group. Miller and Fuller weren't exactly college return stalwarts, but I suspect at least Miller will get a look in the return game. Fuller's reputation for dropping passes is less of a deterrent to him in the return game than the fact that he just didn't do it very much in college.
As to whether the Texans can improve in their special teams coverage, or their blocking for these shiny new pieces - we're all simply forced to wait and see. But really, this stuff ain't rocket science. When the return game clearly doesn't have a dynamic playmaker, coaches tend to go with the safe, sure-handed veteran. Simply having the players to get away from that cornered philosophy should be an improvement in itself. Larry Izzo really won't get much credit for that if a significantly-improved return game comes to pass, but he will certainly be the guy everyone looks to to improve the blocking and coverage schemes.
Similarly, if Ka'imi Fairbairn can do what I think we all assume he will - overtake Nick Novak as the teams' kicker - that would certainly appear to immediately bolster the kickoff team's coverage numbers, along with (hopefully) the actual field goal kicking.
The punting game (at least the punter himself) appears to be on repeat for 2016 with Shane Lechler likely to go into 2016 unchallenged for his "100-sometheenth" season. I'm sure the Texans will bring in a rookie to camp - but that won't be so much to compete as it will be to ensure the 58-year old veteran's leg doesn't snap off and fly bloodied into the onlooking crowd at open summer practices, smashing shredded tendons into the face of some J.J. Watt jersey-wearing little girl.
Obviously the unit can't get much worse - I get that. This is far from a bold statement. But what is your realistic outlook for the 2016 Houston Texans special teams unit?
Feel free to comment on that and anything else you like in Battle Red Blog's Saturday Night Open Thread below - and have a great holiday weekend!