Texans open camp looking to shake off last season’s struggles
HOUSTON TEXANS (4-12)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, Greenbrier, West Virginia
LAST YEAR: Texans had first losing record since 2013 as they dealt with numerous injuries, including to rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson and superstar defensive end J.J. Watt. Watson was bright spot in disappointing season for his play in seven games before he tore anterior cruciate ligament in right knee in practice. He threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns, giving Texans hope they’ve finally found franchise quarterback after years of misfires and disappointment. Another positive was continued improvement of 2014 top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. Defensive end finished second in NFL with career-high 21 tackles for losses and his 9 1/2 sacks, 21 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles were also career bests. He had career-high 59 tackles and started all 16 games for first time in career after struggling with injuries in first two NFL seasons before playing 14 games in 2016
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: S Tyrann Mathieu, G Senio Kelemete, G Zach Fulton, OT Seantrel Henderson, CB Aaron Colvin, QB Brandon Weeden.
CAMP NEEDS: Texans will have eye on two of their biggest stars who are returning to field after sustaining season-ending injuries last season. Watson must show surgically repaired right knee has healed and that he still has same burst and playmaking ability he showed as rookie last season. After Watt played eight games over last two seasons because of injuries, including broken left leg last season, Houston must see if Watt can return to Defensive Player of Year form. Texans will also use camp to see how offensive line fits together and hope revamped group protects QB much better than last season, when team allowed second-most sacks in NFL.
EXPECTATIONS: If Watson is healthy and can build on limited work as rookie, Houston’s offense will be much better. Defensive front will get boost if Watt can stay on field to play with Clowney, and secondary should be much improved with addition of Mathieu and Colvin. With Watson and Watt leading team, Texans should shake off last season’s struggles to contend for third AFC South title in four years.