But, because of Hopkins' brief holdout, that didn't happen Sunday in Osweiler's first training camp practice with his new team. Instead, Osweiler played the part of a seasoned veteran leader, helping guide a mostly inexperienced crew of receivers through the unexpected absence of their established star.
“[Hopkins] has to handle his business with the team, and I need to focus on the guys that are here and ready to work,” Osweiler said after Sunday’s practice.
Second-year receiver Jaelen Strong, rookie Will Fuller and veteran slot receiver Cecil Shorts III took the majority of first-team repetitions in Hopkins’ absence, with each receiving regular, on-field tutelage from Osweiler and advice on how to better attack the ball and position themselves against defenders.
“I see a lot of talent,” Osweiler said of the receivers on the field Sunday. “I see a lot of explosiveness. Will [Fuller], as you guys know after the combine and his season last year, he’s got some wheels on him. Both those two, along with our whole receiving corps, bring a ton of talent to the field.”
“We’ve also got some veteran guys, like Cecil Shorts III,” he added. “He’s a very smart player, very intuitive.”
Head coach Bill O'Brien said his starting quarterback has shown progress on each day of work since arriving in Houston.
“There were some really good plays out there today. Some plays -- for everybody -- not just Brock, that we need to correct and get better,” O’Brien said. “But a lot of good effort. I thought the operation of the offense was decent, especially with the first group.”
Osweiler did throw an interception in seven-on-seven drills, noting that it would serve as a learning experience as the fifth-year quarterback moves forward.
“The focus is very small,” Osweiler said of training camp. “Today I went out there and I threw an interception in a team period. It was just a read where I hung with a guy too long, and lesson learned. Now I know when that play is called, if that guy doesn’t win, I am going to get off it and move on in my progressions. I got better at that play, and that mistake will never happen again.”
Osweiler has worked throughout the offseason to learn O'Brien's complex playbook, and both he and the coach were pleased with the effectiveness of the communication to open camp.
“I felt extremely comfortable today,” Osweiler said Sunday. “Whenever you are in a new system, and you go on summer break and come back for training camp Day 1, you don’t know how much is really going to stick. I felt extremely comfortable out there calling the plays, hearing the plays in the helmet. We audibled a few times at the line of scrimmage. I think most importantly our communication, whether that be in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage today, was really good.”
Osweiler said he also believes that lining up against third-year linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and Houston’s seemingly-stout defense should prove beneficial as camp progresses.
“That’s a hell of a group on that side of the ball,” Osweiler said of Houston’s defense. “What excites me about our defense is, we’re going to compete as an offensive unit against them every single day in training camp, which in the end is going to make us better. They have a ton of talent.”
Hopkins, who had 111 catches, 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns during the 2015 season, is expected to return to training camp Monday. Osweiler said Sunday that he and Hopkins continued to communicate with one another throughout the holdout, adding that he was a “great friend” and a “great teammate.”
As a result, the offense would seem to be poised for immediate improvement.
But for now, Osweiler says the focus is much simpler. The objective is to build chemistry by the time Houston opens the regular season on Sept. 12 vs. the Chicago Bears, and the only goal on Osweiler’s mind Sunday afternoon was hitting the film room to further analyze his first practice in Houston.
“Right now, my focus is getting inside, watching the tape from this practice, cleaning up things and getting into an offensive meeting,” Osweiler said. “That’s where we can communicate and put out fires, if you will, of things that did not go right -- or things that weren’t done properly — and continue to build upon that and move forward.
“I think when you have a short-term approach and you take it one day at a time and you stack those days up, come September, we will be ready to go.”
One of the primary obstacles for many players in Houston’s training camp was the high humidity and oppressive heat, with temperatures rapidly climbing above 90 degrees under a blistering sun. Osweiler, however, quipped that he and his teammates on offense barely noticed.
“I didn’t really think it was that hot,” Osweiler said with a laugh. “I don’t know what you guys are talking about.
“Training camp is a grind, and it truly is all about embracing that grind and coming out here and forgetting about the heat and working to get better every single day,” he added. “That’s what those guys do.”