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Five Questions After Texans Training Camp

Training camp is over, but the uncertainty isn’t.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

That’s all, folks. Training camp is over. It’s done with. Yeah, there are still going to be a couple of more practices with a bunch of dreamers who won’t make the team, and there’s still two more preseason games until the real stuff starts, but officially, camp is completed. Although this time has arrived, there is still some uncertainty and things that either will need to be clarified shortly or wondered about until the season works itself out.

1.) Is Tom Savage Good?

Tom Savage has played in five professional football games, starting two. He’s about to start some more now after Bill O’Brien named him the official starting quarterback. This isn’t surprising based on what O’Brien has said before about rookie quarterbacks. But it did stuff all those Deshaun Watson hopes and dreams into the back pocket to be pulled out on a later and hopefully happier date.

Based off everything, the answer is probably no to the question at the top of this section. Savage was an older mid-round draft pick in 2014. He was passed over as a possible starter multiple times. He’s already 27 years old. Last season, when he did play, he held onto the ball for forever, had spotty accuracy, and had to sit and watch the worst quarterback in the league again, even when he was healthy enough to play in the playoffs. During the preseason, Savage hasn’t done anything to really show that he’s anything other than tall and strong.

That being said, Tom Savage is going to play for a while. The schedule is daunting and skull-scalding to start the season. Savage hasn’t played enough to permanently say that he isn’t good, just that based off everything that’s happened he probably isn’t. We will just have to wait and see on this one.

2.) When Will Duane Brown End His Holdout?

The Texans’ tackle situation is still messy. Duane Brown is still holding out with two years left on his contract. Teams hate to extend players with this amount of time remaining, but with no more guaranteed money left on his deal, the situation swirling around the Texans’ offensive line, starting a quarterback who needs time to throw the ball and process what’s in front of him, Brown’s age, and the lack of options behind him, Brown has taken all this leverage and decided to sit. Right now there isn’t an end in sight. He hasn’t made it to practice yet, hasn’t played a preseason game, and now it’s time to wonder if this will carry into the regular season.

If it does, Houston will start Chris Clark at left tackle and then some combination of Breno Giacomini, and Kendall Lamm at right tackle. I was hopeful rookie Julie’n Davenport would be in the mix for this spot, but after watching him in the preseason he is far and away from being ready. He’s giving up too many pressures and hasn’t enough competent strength to play in the NFL yet.

If Brown does miss time, this offensive line is going to be bad on the outside. The strength of this line last year was its ability to run the ball to the left side, where Brown and Xavier’ Su’a-Filo have played together for a few years now. That will be dampened with Clark over there; Clark hasn’t shown he can do much of anything in the run game. On the other side, Giacomini is strong, but he lacks quickness and is going to struggle in pass protection. Lamm hasn’t even been consistently worthwhile whenever he’s been used in six tackle sets.

The sooner Brown gets back, the better this entire offense is going to be. He’s the best offensive lineman the Texans have. Shucks, he was the best player on this entire offense last season. Without him the options are gritty, grimy, and not enticing.

3.) Who Will Play Wide Receiver?

The young starters at wide receiver are bruised and battered. Will Fuller V will miss the first two months of the season with a smashed collarbone, and hype train slot receiver Braxton Miller is also sitting in the yard with a hurt ankle. These two second-year receivers were supposed to start at out wide and in the slot, respectively, to begin the season. With them both injured, others are going to have to play.

The two options so far are Jaelen Strong and the recently signed Bruce Ellington. Strong has caught like three passes in his career, though each one has been humongous. Other than that, he’s been a combination of injured or incompetent since Houston traded up to select him in 2015. This preseason, Strong had Malcolm Butler spinning after a red zone slant route and again showed that he’s talented, but that’s never been a question. Ellington had one of the greatest preseason games of all time against the Patriots last Saturday night. He highpointed a pass, picked up some yards after the catch (unthinkable!), and showed a functional athleticism the team has been dying for.

At a minimum, Ellington should be able to provide and help on special teams. For Strong, it’s happened so many times before, where he’ll do something incredible in a flash and then disappear for the rest of time. Either way, Houston needs help from both these players with the injuries and unknown possible production of Fuller V and Miller.

4.) Who’s The Other Starting Defensive End?

One of the big holes on this defense last year was whoever played opposite of Jadeveon Clowney at defensive end. Teams ran away from Clowney’s side with success. Christian Covington was a letdown after a solid 2015. Brandon Dunn was there. Joel Heath did some stuff. But that side of the defensive line was an endless expanse for running backs to run wild and free.

This season J.J. Watt is back, so the Texans have someone who can cover every spot of the line of scrimmage no matter where he’s lined up. The other DE position isn’t as important if Watt reaches back to 2015 heights. Additionally, Houston’s defense is going to be more fluid with Watt, Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus lining up all over the place. Still, in their base 3-4 defense, Houston needs someone to step up and fill the spot.

As of right now, Heath will probably get the start. He is the most athletic of the bunch and had the best 2016. In preseason, the one player I’ve enjoyed watching on the second team, when real football comes to a stop, is undrafted Ufomba Kamalu. He’s been hard to move and has shown he ability to find the ball make tackles all over the line of scrimmage.

It doesn’t really matter who ends up at this spot because of the talent surrounding the front seven. We just don’t really know who will end up there.

5.) The Special Teams Is Going To Be Bad Again, Isn’t It?

Already this preseason the Texans’ special teams has been sloppy and has shown the same usual mistakes they always do. Or maybe it hasn’t, and all of this is a lie. Maybe my brain is just conditioned for Houston special teams to be bad, so every simple mistake or three yard return tells me they are again awful and things are much worse than they actually are. All I know is that the Texans’ special teams have been the worst in the league during Bill O’Brien’s tenure, and they were frequently terrible at times before that. So far this preseason, my warped brain is telling me they’ll be putrid again in 2017.