Bill O’Brien met with the media yesterday in Indianapolis. He touched on the Texans’ well documented issues at quarterback, the team’s desire to bring A.J. Bouye back, DeAndre Hopkins’ statistically disappointing 2016 campaign, the decision to move training camp to West Virginia this year, how J.J. Watt is doing in his rehab, Lamar Miller’s workload, how O’Brien evaluates quarterbacks at the Combine, how Jadeveon Clowney is progressing after surgery, and much more.
Here’s a complete transcript of O’Brien’s Q&A. In the meantime, some highlights for you:
How important is it to keep a guy like CB A.J. Bouye?
“A.J. is a very important part of our team. I’ve said that all along. He’s a guy that has really worked hard to improve his own skillset. He played very well for us this year. He played well for us last year. John Butler, our secondary coach, has done an excellent job with him. So we really want him back. We realize that free agency and things like that – we understand the process of how it all works. Hopefully we can get him back before free agency starts but if it doesn’t, we’ll continue I know to work hard to try to get him back on our team. But we’d like to have him back.”
What do you think happened to WR DeAndre Hopkins last season that didn’t allow him to put up big numbers?
“He still had like 80-something catches. So he dropped off in catches and he dropped off in yards, but he did make some big plays for us during the season. We were 9-7, we won the AFC South. He made some important plays in those games. Third down plays, red area plays. As far as production and things like that, yeah the production dropped off a little bit but it wasn’t anything that he did. I think he’s a great player. I love coaching the guy and I’m looking forward to coaching him next year.”
Will you have an open competition at quarterback?
“Competition is open with every position on our team – obviously with the exception of a few. I mean I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that every single position is open. Obviously, there’s positions that we know certain players are going to start. But the majority of positions on our team – that’s what we’ve based our program on from the day we walked in here. We’ve based our program on competition and competing in practice. That’s kind of what we – probably like 31 other teams – that’s really what we believe in. The depth chart changes with us. I think you guys have seen that whether it’s quarterback or any other position. So that’s what our team is based on. That’s what our coaching staff believes in. Competition will always be a part of our program here.”
Can you talk about the decision to move training camp to West Virginia this year?
“I think it wasn’t just me. I think it was an organizational decision that we felt was best for our team, just from the fact of being able to go to a place that might be a little bit cooler at that time of the year, being able to go to a place where the team – you know, my first three years here we’ve gone away to scrimmage teams and they’ve been really good bonding experiences for our team, good chemistry-type experiences for our team, whether we went to Denver our first year or Washington our second year. So I think that was part of it.”
“I want to be clear too that we are going to be back in Houston, so we will have some public practices for our fans because our fans are so important to us. There will be – maybe not as many as there have been in the past, but there still will be public practices for our team. But we felt like a bunch of different factors, between myself and Rick (Smith) and Mr. (Robert C.) McNair and Cal (McNair), we felt like it was in the best interest of our team to go away for a few weeks and then come back.”
What do you hear about DE J.J. Watt and how he’s doing?
“J.J.’s doing well. I’m not a doctor. I’m not going to stand up here and give you exactly everything that’s going on with him medically because, to be honest with you, I don’t really know. I just know that in my conversations with him – I know I’m not allowed to talk about football with him and things like that. I don’t want to like get in trouble with the CBA, but I can tell you that he is doing very well. He’s in great shape. He can’t wait to be back. He’ll probably participate, to a certain extent, in OTAs. But OTAs for the linemen is a little bit different than OTAs for the receivers and the DBs. It’s more of a passing camp, a teaching camp. So, the true test for him will be training camp, and I know that he’s really looking forward to training camp and coming back and playing as good as ever in 2017.”
Are you comfortable with the workload RB Lamar Miller had in 2016?
“That’s a good question. I think he probably carried it a little bit too much early on. We were very, very dependent on him because he’s that type of player. He’s a guy that shows up every day, he’s in excellent condition, plays through pain. Had an ankle, shoulder, ribs – played through all of it, practiced through all of it. He’s what you’re looking for when you talk about a teammate and a guy in your locker room. But I think, you know, 30 carries in a couple games, thing like that, that’s probably a little bit too much. We feel like we have a pretty diverse group of running backs so I think in order to get him at his best in January, we probably need to cut down on that early in the year.”
What are the most important parts of this process for you to learn about the quarterbacks?
“Well, let me just give you a general answer and then I’ll give you a more specific answer on that. For me personally, the most important parts of the combine are the interviews at night and the medical reports. The on-field stuff I think is good, but they’re not wearing pads, the quarterbacks aren’t facing a rush. There’s some things you can take from the on-field stuff. I’m not saying it’s bad. I don’t want to go down that road. I’m just saying it’s more about the other two things for me.”
“As it relates to quarterbacks, again, when you’re able to talk to these guys in the room, you’re able to really get – you have 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is actually kind of longer than you think. You can get a lot of information out of them. You can talk to them about their offense. You know, ‘Hey, what was going on in this game protection-wise? Are you directing the run game? Are you in charge of this? How did you handle this two-minute situation?’ I’m really looking forward to talking to these guys that we’re bringing into our room about all the different games that I’ve watched on them and see what their thoughts are on them. To me, it’s the interview process with the quarterbacks, just like every other player.”
How is DE Jadeveon Clowney doing in terms of health?
“I think he’s doing well. Again, we’re not really allowed to talk to these guys too much during the offseason. We can’t pick up the phone and talk to them about football. A lot of that is done through our training room, but from the reports I get from our medical staff is that he’s doing very well. He’s training. I think he’s back and forth between South Carolina and Houston. He’s getting ready to go.”
Any reaction to what O’Brien had to say?