Will a healthy J.J. Watt lead Houston to a championship run?
HOUSTON TEXANS (10-8)
OPEN CAMP: July 26, The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
LAST YEAR: Houston overcame J.J. Watt missing all but three games with back injury to go 9-7 and win weak AFC South for second straight year. Emergence of 2014 top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney helped ease loss of Watt and allow Houston to lead NFL in yards allowed. After getting blown out by Kansas City in wild-card round in 2016, Texans were ousted in divisional round by New England largely because of another ineffective performance by quarterback Brock Osweiler. Osweiler was inconsistent throughout first season in Houston and after season team decided $72 million investment was mistake and shipped him to Cleveland.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Rookies QB Deshaun Watson, RB D’Onta Foreman, LB Zach Cunningham, linebackers coach Mike Vrabel promoted to defensive coordinator.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Brock Osweiler, CB A.J. Bouye, S Quintin Demps, offense coordinator George Godsey.
CAMP NEEDS: Texans insist Tom Savage is starting QB, but it’s unlikely they would have traded up 13 picks to take Clemson standout Watson if they weren’t going to give him chance to win job. Watson has shown ability to thrive in big games in college, but to beat out Savage he must master coach Bill O’Brien’s offense quickly and build rapport with star receiver DeAndre Hopkins and rest of offense. Watt has declared himself fully recovered from back injury that required two surgeries; he participated in offseason workouts. Still, much of focus of camp will be on if he looks like d Defensive Player of Year in three of his four seasons before injury. Houston will also need young defensive backs such as 2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson taking step forward and moving into starting roles left vacant when Bouye and Demps departed in free agency.
EXPECTATIONS: If Watt is healthy and back to form, Houston’s defense featuring him and Clowney should be among best. Question is if Savage or Watson can step up and provide consistent quarterback play after years of problems at position. If Houston finally gets its quarterback situation solved and RB Lamar Miller has another good season, Texans could contend for championship after failing to get out of divisional round of playoffs in previous four postseason trips.
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