Football Season

Seven Takeaways from the Texans Training Camp That Show New Promise

A new head coach, a new direction, and more importantly, no drama.

By Edward "Figgy Fig" Gilliard August 4, 2022

 

Quarterback Davis Mills (10) prepares to hand off during a Houston Texans training camp session at Houston Methodist Training Center adjacent to NRG Stadium on August 3, 2022.

Around this time last year, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Houston Texans heading into training camp. Nick Caserio was hired as general manager, a decision that sent a shock wave throughout the program. The team’s new head coach, longtime NFL position coach David Culley, seemed like an unknown quantity. And the Texans were dealing with a disgruntled franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson, who at the time had 22 civil lawsuits looming over him for alleged sexual assualt (the number has since grown to 24). Training camp began with inquiries about whether Watson would play or sit out for a season, whether he would show up to camp, whether he would be traded, and how he might fare with his pending lawsuits. Texans fans don’t need reminding that Watson did not play in the season that followed, and that it did not go well overall.

But this go-round, Texans fans can take a deep breath and enjoy a comparatively drama-free preseason, as the future is looking a lot brighter heading into camp. Watson and his legal issues are now in Cleveland; a more experienced head coach, Lovie Smith, is now calling the shots; and Nick Caserio is chomping at the bit to see the rookies and second-year players he drafted out on the practice field. With training camp underway, we’ve listed some improvements that make this season a bit more hopeful for success-starved Texans fans. 

A New Direction

The vibes around the Houston Texans have improved significantly, and that started with the hiring of well-respected head coach Lovie Smith. After rumors that former backup quarterback Josh McCown, who has no head coaching experience, was in the running for the Texans job, the arrival of the former Bears and Buccaneers head coach—whose nine seasons with the Bears included a Super Bowl appearance—assuaged worries about another leadership gamble. Trading Deshaun Watson and receiving three first-round picks in exchange felt like a heavy weight lifted, and if the 2022 NFL Draft party at Miller Outdoor Theatre was any precursor, Texans fans are ready. We were entering the draft with the third and 13th overall picks, and everyone seemed super optimistic about the direction the Texans are going—it feels like a complete 180-degree shift from last year.

A New Quarterback

Going into training camp, teams typically know who their starting quarterback is. We still don’t know what second-year quarterback Davis Mills could be going forward, but the Houston Texans are giving him the keys to the franchise to start camp. The coaching staff didn’t bring in another quarterback to compete with Mills, so there’s a lot riding on him; on the other hand, there’s far less uncertainty than last year, when Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor, and  Mills (then a third-round rookie) were all on the roster. Mills did end the previous year pretty strong, throwing nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. If he doesn’t work out, the Texans have two first-round picks in 2023 and 2024 that they can possibly use on a quarterback in the next two drafts.

An Upgraded Secondary 

The defensive back positions appear substantially improved going into camp. One of the worst position groups on the team last year got a lot better with the drafting of cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., who was selected number three overall. Stingley was rated the best corner in college as a freshman, if that tells you anything. The team also added a safety, Jalen Pitre from Baylor, in the second round, which adds more options for Coach Smith’s defense. And the Texans added free agent corner Steven Nelson, who started every game for the Philadelphia Eagles last season and is expected to start opposite Stingley.

A New Offensive Coordinator  

Pep Hamilton will call plays for the Texans’ offense going into camp. We don’t know what a Pep Hamilton offense looks like, but we saw what a Bill O’Brien offense was for seven years—including the year after he was fired, when his offensive coordinator Tim Kelly stayed and ran the same offense. A lot of players and coaches love Hamilton, and he is known for his success with other quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Justin Herbert. Plus, Hamilton can’t be any worse than what we’ve seen on offense with O’Brien and Kelly. 

An Improved Offensive Line

The offensive line is a big improvement going into camp—which may not be the best compliment, since they were named one of the worst in the league. However, they did draft Kenyon Green number 15 overall (having traded down from the 13th pick), and he is expected to come in and start right away at left guard next to Laremy Tunsil, who will hold down the left tackle spot. The Texans signed free agent A.J. Cann to play right guard, and Tytus Howard, who’s been shuffling around the O-Line, will be penciled in at right tackle. Perhaps most importantly, former Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was known for having a difficult style of offense for the offensive linemen, and that will NOT be a thing going forward. It will be more of a simple scheme for the big men, which should mark a huge leap forward for the offensive line.

Right Tackle Tytus Howard

Speaking of the offensive line, as mentioned, Tytus Howard will play right tackle. When Howard was drafted in the first round in 2019, he was expected to be a “versatile” lineman who could line up anywhere. For the Texans, he has played right tackle, left tackle, right guard, and left guard, but he never got the chance to stay at one position. He will finally get that chance going into camp. The Texans picked up Howard’s fifth-year option, so he will have a lot to prove going into camp.  

No More Drama

Last but certainly not least, there is no drama leading up to camp. This might be the first time in a long time when the start of camp is drama-free. Last year, it was the numerous Watson lawsuits looming. In 2020, general manager Brian Gaine was fired and head coach Bill O’Brien took his place. In years before that, there were contract issues with players like Jadeveon Clowney and others. By contrast, this year feels like a breath of fresh air. There are no uncomfortable storylines going into camp. We can actually focus on football: on position groups like the running backs, on our nine new rookies, and most importantly on Davis Mills, to see if he’s ready to take that next step and lead the team as quarterback.  

All in all, I believe in the Texans this year. This team could go 4-13 again in 2022, but I wouldn’t bet on it—the energy is seemingly much better—and even if they do, the Texans have many different options going into 2023. And they will find out this season what Davis Mills is made of—whether he will be that diamond in the rough as starting QB. In sharp contrast with last year, things are looking good for the Houston Texans going into 2022 training camp. 

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