HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans opened 2021 NFL training camp Tuesday at the Houston Methodist Center. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
Quarterback Deshaun Watson reported to training camp. What does that mean for his future with the Texans?
Watson’s camp is waiting to hear from the NFL about his status for the 2021 season after 22 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior were filed during the offseason. Even though he has reported to training camp, he could still be placed on commissioner's exempt list, which would mean he could not play but would be paid.
Although Watson showed up to the facility to avoid the $50,000 per day fine, it probably doesn't change much about his future with the Texans. For the majority of the offseason, Houston has had to operate as if Watson would not be their starting quarterback in 2021, and they signed Tyrod Taylor and Jeff Driskel and drafted Davis Mills to plan for a future without Watson.
Watson's desire for a trade has not changed, a source told ESPN, and the Texans are willing to field offers from interested teams.
Tyrod Taylor said he expects to start, but how will he play now that the Texans drafted Davis Mills?
While it may be good for the 2021 Texans if Taylor leads them to a successful season, that might not be what’s best for them in the long run. Houston clearly sees something in Mills, so it would be ideal to get him some playing time this season. The Texans are looking at a top draft pick in 2022, so they’ll want to have an idea whether a quarterback will be near the top of their needs. It’s also possible Houston has its own high pick and one from a potential trade of Watson.
It’s likely Caserio and Culley have an idea of how much playing time they need to see from Mills to make that determination in 2021.
With a deep backfield, how does the running back situation play out during training camp?
At least one of the veteran running backs on the roster (David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, Mark Ingram II and Rex Burkhead) is unlikely to be on the team to start the season. Because the Texans restructured Johnson’s contract in March and doubled his guaranteed money, he will probably make the team. Because Burkhead, along with Buddy Howell, can contribute on special teams, it could come down to Lindsay and Ingram for the final spot. Lindsay is the youngest of the veteran running back additions and is proven. He has more long-term upside than Ingram, who could be on his final legs.
Who are likely candidates to step up defensively for the Texans now that J.J. Watt has moved on?
It’s a new chapter for the Texans’ defense, and there are a lot of familiar faces. Safety Justin Reid is entering the final season of his rookie deal, and Houston will have a decision to make about his future with the franchise.
Texans safety coach Greg Jackson said when he watched Reid’s 2020 film, he thought it looked like Reid was “thinking too much and not just playing football.”
“In this system here, I think he’s going to rise up and I think he’s going to do some good things for us, because this defense is simple, but it’s fast and it allows you to play football,” Jackson said.
Defensive lineman Charles Omenihu is a player who the Texans hope makes an impact this season. Without Watt, Houston needs to find other players to get to the quarterback, and defensive line coach Bobby King said Omenihu's versatility gives him a lot of potential to make an impact.
“You can play him at a lot of positions and he can affect the quarterback in a lot of different ways,” King said.