Free-agent additions Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett will battle for the starting job in camp. The winner will be expected to bring stability to a position that saw four different players see action in 2014. Houston knows what they have on defense, so their playoff hopes largely ride on the play of whoever wins the job. Neither is a franchise quarterback, but if the starter can at least prove to be a competent game-manager it will be an upgrade.
Is Jadeveon Clowney healthy and ready to contribute?
Clowney, the top pick in the 2014 draft, missed most of last season and is coming off microfracture surgery. He's expected to participate in training camp and his return to form would make an already dominant defense even scarier. Houston obviously has a lot invested in Clowney and his development or lack thereof will have a major impact on the franchise’s long-term fortunes.
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What type of impact will ‘Hard Knocks’ have on the team?
The Texans will have their training camp experience documented as part of the HBO reality series. Star defensive end J.J. Watt, who doesn’t suffer from a lack of exposure, has already said he’d prefer to use camp to focus on the upcoming season, but general manager Rick Smith and owner Bob McNair both have stated they don’t believe the cameras will get in the way. The biggest uncertainty may be determining this season’s breakout star. Watt has predicted quirky offensive lineman Ben Jones, who has been known to eat bugs on occasion, will attract plenty of interest.
Is Brian Cushing back?
Cushing says he’s finally feeling like his old self more than a year after his return from a knee injury. Can the former Pro Bowler recapture his 2011 form where he had 114 tackles and four sacks? If not, his long-term future in Houston could be in question. Cushing is scheduled to earn more than $9 million a year from 2016-19, a price tag that demands production.
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How much will the team miss Andre Johnson?
Johnson spent 12 standout seasons with the Texans, but balked when head coach Bill O’Brien said the team planned a reduced role for him in 2015. DeAndre Hopkins has the talent to fill the No. 1 receiver role and the team added depth over the offseason in veterans Cecil Shorts III and Nate Washington and third-round pick Jaelen Strong. The collective stats should be there, but whether the group the Texans have assembled can make up what Johnson brought in terms of leadership is another question.