We’re a week into the 2023 Houston Texans training camp, and while the team has yet to suit up for a preseason game there is plenty to talk about from inside the camp. The number of rookies and new faces makes this camp all the more important as we enter what feels like a new era at NRG.
This training camp has so much to talk about. There’s a new coaching staff, a QB battle, John Metchie’s return, a complicated WR group, and impressive form from second year players. Today’s question keeps everything simple for the Battle Red Blog writers:
Who are the players who have stood out the most at Training Camp so far? Who has improved their standing on the roster?
Wow, this is really early and we’ve been fooled by great practice players before. I’d say I’m most looking forward to watching the defense in general and secondary specifically. I think both Derek Stingley and Jalen Pitre have Pro Bowl ability and neither were used correctly last season. Plus with the addition of Jimmy Ward and Shaq Griffin, this will be the deepest and most talented position group on the roster. I’m usually excited about the rookies and this year is no different. There’s a different feel this year. They are all there from day one and that’s as much as you can ask.
Granted, we are only in the early stages of training camp, so the small sample of performance data is probably not a 100% reliable indicator of future success. Additionally, being labeled the the top performance out of training camp has been a sort of kiss of death as of late (see Reid, John and Brown, Pharaoh). Pierce may have snapped that curse last season, so maybe there is hope.
As for who is impressing me, well, have to go with John Metchie III. Dude is already the winner of training camp, given all he has gone through just to get to here. However, his actual camp performance at WR is offering some great signs of encouragement. Given the shortfalls at WR, this is a position of major growth, and Metchie can really do much to help himself and the roster. However, all of that pales to the biggest focus of camp: CJ Stroud. How is this guy doing? So far, it would appear that he is showing why he was the #2 pick in the draft, and why he is a rookie…all in his first camp. I guess I could understand if the team wants to not quite throw him into the fire to start the year as the starter, but this guy is the next great franchise hope. Expect to see him improve and will be surprised if he doesn’t progress to where he opens the season as the starter.
For me, I’m going to go with Will Anderson. With all the talk about the Texans reaching to get him at three, it’s really on him to show up the naysayers in national media. And, based on Mike Bullock’s excellent training camp roundup, he has lived up to expectations.
If I am going to go off the reservoir, Jake Hansen’s name has come up quite often. Now, he is in quite possibly the most competitive position group on the team, but I think he has a chance given my most recent Rosterology. I also love hearing about Xavier Hutchinson’s progress and ability to burn the likes of Derek Stingley Jr. Dalton Schultz has impressed before sustaining an injury from Jimmy Ward - who has also been good thus far.
In terms of who has improved their standing, I'll jump to Steven Nelson in my opinion. I did not expect the Texans to keep Nelson after his antics this offseason. For the Texans to resign him is impressive show of strength and gumption. I also think the addition of George Fant is great and he is going to improve the depth. I’ll also throw M.J. Stewart into this group as guys who have improved their positioning within their group.
I’ll have to go with rookie wide receivers Tank Dell and Xavier Hutchinson. Tank Dell is a big play threat each time he touches the ball and is open constantly. OC Bobby Slowik said that Tank is an elite separator. Any late-round pick has an uphill battle to gain significant reps and Hutchinson has been making plays consistently. He has a chance to make plays early for Houston.
Every summer we get Training Camp Superstars who burn ultra bright, then disappear under the bright lights of the regular season. The young player I’ve heard/read/seen the most of this season along those lines is Xazavian Valladay. Except, I don’t think this young man is another Devier Posey or Braxton Miller. Especially if the Texns offensive line can open holes and nail a block or two down field. He has crazy acceleration and a huge heart. While I don’t see Dameon Pierce losing any snaps to Valladay, the undrafted rookie looks like he’s going to make fools of a few defenders this season.
After Valladay, the next name I keep seeing is Tank Dell. And, honestly, I’m way more excited about this guy. He is freakishly shifty, deceptively fast and has good hands. As long as he can minimize the hit-taking/punishment on his smaller than optimal frame, Dell should embarrass more than his fair share of defenders this season as well. I’ve read he shows up early, stays late and is working really hard to build chemistry with his teammates, what more can you ask of him? I’m pretty sure Dell is going to make an awful lot of H-Town fans jump out of ours seats with excitement this year as he fakes a lot of defenders out of their cleats.