NFL training camps are supposed to begin at the end of this month. Houston’s rookie class has been signed. Which member of the Texans are you most excited to read about and watch, in whatever capacity you can follow the team, once training camp begins, assuming it begins?
This is the question I asked the masthead. These are their answers:
Bill O’Brien has been adamant from the very beginning that this will be a difficult season for rookies, with the lack of preseason games and training camps. O’Brien, genius he is, foresaw this and knew that his top draft capital wouldn’t be as valuable.
That being said, the player I’m most excited to hear about once training camp begins is Ross Blacklock. Houston needs interior pressure. They need to it to allow Whitney Mercilus’ wide, looping pass rushes to affect a quarterback’s drop back. This will allow Jacob Martin to run really fast around offensive tackles and not worry about landing on a different island.
D.J. Reader is gone. Angelo Blackson, Brandon Dunn, and Carlos Watkins are non-playable space-takers. J.J. Watt hasn’t consistently rushed along the interior his injury-shortened 2015 season. Houston should have invested in defensive tackle two offseasons ago. Finally, they used an early draft pick to bring in Blacklock to fill the hole left by Reader and the need to have some interior juice.
Blacklock has insane pad level. He should be able to walk in and start right away. He should be especially useful on stunts. One of the things he lacked in college were pass rush moves to beat individual blockers and create pressure on his own. In a nonexistent preseason, there may be some limitations to how much Blacklock can expand this skill-set. Hopefully, he’s able to learn quickly, because he’s integral to Houston’s defense; he has to provide adequate play to help a defense allow Deshaun Watson to outscore opponents in what should be some high-scoring games.
Considering that this may be the toughest season for rookies ever, I’m still keeping my eyes peeled on Jonathan Greenard. Seeing how he manages to mesh with the defense and grow in his first training camp will be must see TV. Durga knows that our pass rush can use all the help that it can get, and Greenard may be able to contribute. That is, if they even get to practice at all.
On the surface, I’m all in on Jonathan Greenard. My gut keeps telling me he’s akin to Charles Omenihu and Duke Ejiofor, guys with exciting upside who won’t be confused with Jadeveon Clowney or Mario Williams. I’m hoping against hope one of those players, if not all three, rise up and make their name a household commodity this year.
I’m also pulling for John Reid. The Texans have shown in the past they can pull a rabbit out of a late round or UDFA hat in the secondary. Who wouldn’t take A.J. Bouye over Lonnie Johnson Jr. or Justin Reid over Kevin Johnson?
Regardless of rookie or veteran standing, I’m oddly intrigued to see how rookie CB John Reid comes along. That position group is highly questionable going into the season and doesn’t have much in the way of veteran leadership. I think this cornerback and overall secondary group goes through a LOT of trial and error to find the right combo. I suppose with no preseason and a reduced offseason that is going to be a league-wide issue, but the Texans are really going to have to rely on their coaches to get this group of oddly-matched players to have any consistent success.
Reid seems like an “O’Brien guy,” and the players ahead of him aren’t exactly stellar. Of course, as Texans fans, we have seen the extreme struggles rookie CBs go through - Kareem Jackson, Lonnie Johnson Jr., etc. Here’s hoping Reid can raise a few eyebrows.
What about you? Which Texan are you bullish about when training camp starts?