Texans prepare for camp with lofty expectations
Reaching the playoffs for the last two seasons has made the Houston Texans hungry to do much more in 2013.
''I think we'll always be disappointed if we're not a Super Bowl team, because that's our goal,'' owner Bob McNair said.
As they prepare for the start of camp this week, they certainly have the talent to be among the league's best this season with a team led by last year's defensive player of the year J.J. Watt.
The defensive end had 20 1/2 sacks last year, but is determined to improve in 2013 and is focused on becoming more of a leader for the Texans despite it being just his third season.
''Last year was fun, but nowhere near my potential,'' Watt said. ''There is no reason to try and repeat last year. I'm trying to be better than last year.''
Coach Gary Kubiak is looking forward to seeing how his players come together and how new additions like safety Ed Reed and rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins will fit in.
''This time of year, it's about chemistry of the team,'' he said. ''Putting this 2013 group together, we're going to be different, we're going to have a different personality and we're trying to start to put that together.''
Five things to look for as the Texans open camp:
1. WILL REED BE READY?: A nine-time Pro Bowler, Reed was Houston's biggest offseason addition but the question is when he'll be ready. The Texans hope he will shore up their secondary, but it's unclear if he'll be ready for the season-opener after surgery to repair a partly torn labrum on April 30. During minicamp the longtime Ravens star wouldn't put a date on when he expects to be healthy enough to play, saying he should have a better idea of the timetable for his return when training camp begins.
2. WHAT'S UP WITH WATT?: Along with his 20 1/2 sacks, Watt also had 81 tackles, four forced fumbles and defended 16 passes. It was such a dominant season that Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who began coaching in the NFL in 1976, called it the ''best season ever'' for a defensive lineman. So now the question becomes what can the player dubbed J.J. Swatt for his incredible knack for batting down passes do for an encore?
3. HOPKINS INTO THE OFFENSE: The Texans are hoping first-round draft pick Hopkins can jump right into the offense. Houston hasn't guaranteed Hopkins a starting job, but told him he could certainly earn it with a strong performance in camp. He joins Andre Johnson as the only receivers to be taken in the first round by the Texans and the 32-year-old Johnson can't wait to play with Hopkins. Hopkins led Clemson with 82 receptions for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior last season. He also played for the Tigers' basketball team as a freshman in 2010 and believes fighting for rebounds during games helps him be a better receiver.
4. CUSHING IS BACK: Early last season Houston's defense seemed unstoppable as Watt and linebacker Brian Cushing worked together to lead the unit. Then Cushing tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Week 5 and missed the rest of the season. Though the defense was solid after Cushing's injury, it never seemed to be as dominant as it was in the first few weeks. Cushing, the 2009 defensive rookie of the year, is healthy and expected to be ready for the start of camp. Now the Texans will wait to see if he can return to be the player he was before the injury and turn in a season like he did in 2011 when he finished with 114 tackles and four sacks.
5. FOSTER'S FINE: The team got a scare early in organized team activities when star running back Arian Foster strained his right calf. He didn't practice again after the injury, but Kubiak said he was fine and that he was keeping him out until training camp as a precaution. Foster, who started his NFL career as an undrafted free agent, has developed into one of the top running backs in the league and ran for 1,424 yards and 15 touchdowns last year for his third straight 1,200-yard rushing season.