The Houston Texans are coming off back-to-back AFC South titles and are the favorites to make it three straight this season. The Texans have a talented roster, led by Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. Yet, this could be a make-or-break season for Houston as several of its key veterans could be entering the end of their primes.
Aging stars at key positions, combined with young talent coming up on free agency, makes for a short window of opportunity in Houston. Winning a playoff game was a good start two seasons ago, but now the Texans need to make a deep run in the postseason before they are forced to replace players like Matt Schaub, Owen Daniels and Andre Johnson.
Houston re-tooled in free agency and the draft and will now open training camp with high expectations. Let's see where the Texans stand.
The Texans weren't especially active in free agency, quietly filling holes created by a handful of departures. Safety Glover Quin leaving via free agency was the biggest blow and left a void at free safety. Houston did its best to fill the gap, signing Ed Reed in free agency and drafting D.J. Swearinger in the second round. Reed's play declined last season and he's dealing with a hip injury heading into training camp, but Swearinger should provide solid depth. Ideally, Reed would be able to give Houston a solid couple of seasons before turning the reins over to Swearinger. Injuries, however, may force Swearinger into the starting role sooner rather than later.
Connor Barwin, James Casey, Alan Ball and Kevin Walter were among the players who left in free agency. Houston added punter Shane Lechler and fullback Greg Jones in free agency. The Texans drafted wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the first round, in an attempt to finally fill the void at No. 2 receiver behind Johnson.
Training camp location and schedule
Since joining the league in 2002, the Texans have hosted training camp at their team facility in Houston and that will once again be the case this season. Unlike some teams, which have all of their practices open to the public, just seven of Houston's practices will be open.
All of the open practices will be held in the morning and are free to attend, although a limited number of tickets are available online. Here is a complete look at the open practice schedule, via Battle Red Blog:
Tuesday, July 30th (8-10 a.m.)
Wednesday, July 31st (8-10 a.m.)
Thursday, August 1st (8-10 a.m.)
Friday, August 2nd (8-10 a.m.)
Monday, August 5th (8-10 a.m.)
Tuesday, August 6th (8-10 a.m.)
Wednesday, August 7th (8-10 a.m.)
As you would expect from a back-to-back division champion, the Texans have a very talented roster. With the return of Brian Cushing from injury, there aren't too many holes to fill. The biggest position battle heading into camp will be along the offensive line.
Right tackle - Derek Newton started 14 games at right tackle last season, but didn't perform especially well and is coming off a knee injury. He finished the season with a minus-13.0 Pro Football Focus rating and was ranked as the 65th best tackle during the regular season. He missed most of the offseason recovering from knee surgery. Houston selected Brennan Williams in the third round of the NFL Draft, but he injured his knee during rookie camp and also missed offseason workouts. One of those two is likely to start at right tackle.
Inside linebacker - Cushing is back to fill one of the inside linebacker spots, but who starts beside him will be decided in training camp. Darryl Sharpton and Tim Dobbins split the starting duties last season and will likely compete for the role again this season. There is also a chance Brooks Reed could move from outside linebacker to one of the inside spots and he got some reps there during OTAs.
The Texans' complete roster can be found on the team's official website.