Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Houston Texans’ 2017 campaign as the players, coaches, and staff report for the first day of training camp. While most locals are a bit dismayed they chose to do so in the White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, the logic behind doing so is sound, because: Houston Summer.
The day Minnesota Vikings defender Korey Stringer died of heat stroke is all anyone needs to focus on to see why the Texans’ move to cooler climates was a smart one. The last thing H-Town needs is a player succumbing to the oppressive heat of late July/August.
The unfortunate side effect for us is far more selfish: I can go to NRG Park to watch training camp. White Sulphur Springs, not so much.
So instead of heading out there first thing tomorrow morning, we’re left to speculate on the variety of storylines Houston has heading into camp.
Here’s a few to think about:
· Quarterback competition: Can Tom Savage prove he belongs there and hold off Deshaun Watson?
· Running back competition: What does the drafting of Longhorn bulldozer D’Onta Foreman mean for the likes of Alfred Blue and the other tailbacks not named Lamar Miller?
· Can D.J. Reader fill the void left behind by Big Vince Wilfork and his toddler overalls?
· Is the new J.J. Watt as good or better than the old one?
· How will the offensive line shake out, especially in drills against the best front seven in the NFL?
· How spoiled will the players be practicing and staying in one of the most exclusive resorts in the United States?
· Who rolls out as the starting safeties?
· Will anyone emerge as a starting caliber right tackle?
Here are my thoughts on each question above:
· Savage can only hold on for so long before either injury or lack of production moves him aside for Watson to have his time in the sun. The Texans didn’t give up as much as they did just to have D-Wat coddle a clipboard. If they truly believed in Savage, Houston wouldn’t have traded away the farm for Watson. And the wide receiver group wouldn’t have treated Watson like he was the answer to unrelenting, emphatic prayer when he joined the team.
· Foreman and Miller will create a one-two punch the Texans haven’t had since Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Both are slippery, able to run people over if need be and straight up lethal if they get into open space.
· D.J. Reader won’t be Vince Wilfork in his prime right away, but simply sitting in the middle of Jadeveon Clowney, Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, and the rest of the front seven will allow Reader to play above his current level.
· If anyone can come off that type of injury and actually be better, it’s J.J. Watt. If you doubt him, you should take up badminton as your new favorite sport because you obviously know nothing about NFL ball.
· The offensive line is scary, and not in a good way. Especially with Duane Brown holding out. If they don’t improve dramatically, Savage won’t stand a chance, and neither will anyone else who lines up in the backfield – Miller and Foreman included.
· The New Orleans Saints used White Sulphur Springs for a training camp the past three seasons and at one point the U.S. Congress chose it as an emergency retreat in case of war. Sounds like a much better place to hang out than Jerry World up in Arlington. Especially with all those pesky Cowboy fans they have up there.
· This one is anyone’s guess at this point, but I’d expect to see a combination of Kareem Jackson, K.J. Dillon and Andre Hal – with Hal as the next A.J. Bouye.
· Right tackle? Just not feeling it yet. Hopefully I’m wrong, but if history is a true indicator, no one on the roster right now has the resume to compete at the level necessary and really make this offense work on the right side. Hopefully something changes, but Rick Smith has never seemed to value offensive linemen in the past, and I see no indication that this is going to change anytime soon.
There you have it. I won’t go so far as to call them bold predictions or “hot takes” or whatever cheesy buzzword is baiting the click hooks these days, but it’s out there now.
Have your own answers to these questions? Have any recommendations for great food in White Sulphur Springs? Want Houston to trade away the rest of the 2018 draft for a right tackle? Let us know in the comments below.