Top 5 Texans Post-Minicamp, Pre-Training Camp Questions

MAD Radio
June 20, 2018 - 8:17 pm

USA Today

By Mike Meltser

1. Will Jadeveon Clowney be on the field on July 23rd and receive a new deal within the 5 weeks afterwards?

Clowney missed all of OTAs after having arthroscopic knee surgery in January. The conspiracy theorist/negotiator in me wonders if JD's camp felt it was better off for him to miss these workouts, considering he has tens of millions of dollars on the line in a possible new contract. John McClain opined Friday on The Triple Threat that he doesn't see a deal getting done this offseason.

Clowney hasn't had the overall durability and pass rush productivity of two of his compatriots in the 2014 Draft, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack. Both of those guys are up for new deals as well, and it seems like each party may be waiting for one of the others to sign first. That's clearly a major complicating factor in getting a deal done with Clowney. 

Historically, the Texans haven't allowed high-priority young players to reach the franchise tag, which is the position they would be in if Clowney doesn't sign a new deal. Since Bill O'Brien said two weeks ago that Clowney will be on the field when camp begins, I have no reason to doubt that statement. I also still expect a new contract to get done; it's not a lock, but I would bet on it happening.


2. Will Brian Gaine make any moves to shore up depth?

The Texans took some hits over the last few weeks, with the news of both Andre Hal's cancer diagnosis and Martinas Rankin's foot surgery. At this point, I expect Justin Reid to start at the safety spot opposite Tyrann Mathieu. Kareem Jackson will also be in the mix, and I'm guessing that we see Kareem play some combination of corner and safety this fall. 

The depth is a question, because I don't know what to expect out of Corey Moore, Kurtis Drummond, and Treston DeCoud. I wonder if Gaine will consider bringing in one of the number of notable free agent safeties left on the board. It feels like the Texans may be done making moves, and could wait to see what they have at the position during training camp and the preseason. 

The Rankin injury is very unfortunate. I got the sense that Gaine expected him to be able to come in and at least compete for one of the tackle spots, most likely right tackle. It's extremely challenging for a rookie to come in and play along the offensive line, so wiping out an entire training camp is going to be an issue for Rankin. Will he be able to come in and help out at all in 2018?

At this point, an already-thin free agency offensive line class has been picked over a few times, so the Texans will probably need to wait and see if there are any surprising cuts around the league at this position.

UPDATE: Gaine claimed former Browns OT Roderick Johnson off waivers on Wednesday.


3. How ready will JJ Watt be at the start of training camp? 

Watt said in May that he feels great, and declared that training camp observers can make their own judgments when they see him on the field. It appears that everything is on track for Watt to return. 

I'm assuming that O'Brien will be pretty judicious in how much Watt practices during camp, and how much he plays during the preseason. The bigger question is probably how much we can expect from Watt, given that he's sustained a major back and major leg injury in the last two seasons. 


4. How quickly will D'Onta Foreman be ready to be back on the field?

The latest update on Foreman didn't give a clear answer to this question. Foreman says he's progressing very well, but it seems that he won't be ready to hit the field on July 23rd. That's not a shocker, considering that his torn Achilles tendon came somewhat late in the 2017 season, and it's obviously a significant injury for a player at that position.

Foreman's injury was particularly unfortunate given his unique combination of size and breakaway speed. I think Lamar Miller is a decent back, but O'Brien has never seemed to use him in quite the correct way. Without Foreman, it's a pretty thin RB corp: Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, and a few undrafted free agent rookies. 

The answer to this question will help determine the bigger issue of how much the Texans can expect Foreman to contribute early in the regular season.


5. Will any rookie besides Justin Reid show up ready to contribute in year one?

As mentioned above, I'm at the point where I almost expect Reid to start at safety Week 1 against the Patriots. Rankin is going to miss all of training camp. Looking at the rest of the rookie class, 4th round pick Keke Coutee is the one that stands out in terms of opportunity. Although the transition for rookie receivers is tough, he can beat out Braxton Miller and Bruce Ellington in the slot. Coutee operated out of the slot often at Texas Tech, so you're not dealing with nearly the same type of transition that Miller had in 2016. 

I don't have a great sense for what to expect from the rookie tight ends, Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas. We do know that there is opportunity at the position. By virtue of the investments in these guys, the Texans are sending a message that TE needs to improve. Akins is older than your normal draft pick; he's 26, so you figure that Houston projects him to be able to provide some type of immediate impact. Thomas has the size to be an asset as a blocker.