Training camp is quickly approaching, which means it's time to preview the most exciting part of the summer. Over the next month, Around The NFL's Conor Orr will break down all 32 teams and give us something to look for in late July.
Camp report date: Rookies: July 25; Veterans: July 30.
Camp location: NRG Park, Houston
Offseason in a nutshell: The Texans came out this March and loudly declared what the rest of the NFL had known for the past two seasons: Our offense is the problem, and we need to fix it. Flash forward three months and the Texans have a new quarterback -- Brock Osweiler -- and theoretically two new starting wide receivers alongside DeAndre Hopkins in Will Fuller and Braxton Miller. The team went younger in the running game with Lamar Miller and gobbled up one of the best interior linemen in the NFL draft, taking Notre Dame's Nick Martin in the second round and slotting him to start at center. On paper, this is a team markedly better than the one that finished 9-7 last season, although some of the teams they beat within the division are markedly better as well.
Player to watch in camp: Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney: Watching Clowney and J.J. Watt crashing Cam Newton from both sides of the line during a Week 2 Panthers victory (24-17), I became convinced that Carolina could be defeated by a team with good enough speed on the edges. It took Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, of course, but I don't think Clowney/Watt is that far away assuming Clowney can stay on the field for 16 games. Clowney has been ravaged by injuries so far, and it should be fairly easy to tell how his body is recovering early on in training camp. If a veteran is struggling with issues in camp, these are typically ailments that do not get better during the regular season. Clowney is supposedly more determined than ever to earn his No. 1 overall draft status and maybe that means treating or conditioning his body differently during the five-week dark period before training camp started. We are hoping that he does, because this defense could be extremely fun to watch in 2016.
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS:
The team had nothing but good things to say about tight ends Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson during camp this spring, which is a positive for Brock Osweiler. We're treating Osweiler like a rookie quarterback because based on his in-game experience, he still is. That means we should be focusing as much on his intermediate wide receivers that will help ease the tension early as much as the barn burners that are lining up on the outside.
By association, we can say that Osweiler is in the Peyton Manning mold, but what does that really mean? Sure, Osweiler had a first-row seat to Manning's maniacal preparation and all indications are that Osweiler was very well prepared mentally for the early stages of Texans camp. But our best guess is that he will try to be a much more vertical quarterback during his first full year as a starter, which isn't always easy to do. The Texans surrounded Osweiler with great deep-ball receivers despite the fact that some scouts worry about his mechanics when throwing deep. His deep ball accuracy over seven starts was debatable in Denver and, while that can improve over time, can it be good enough to push Houston into the playoffs again during his first season there?
There were few offensive linemen I liked more in the 2014 draft than the guard out of UCLA, but his college tape did not immediately translate into the NFL. The Texans are pumping up their former second-round pick this summer after Su'a-Filo started the final eight games of the season last year to moderate success. Should Su'a-Filo play average to slightly above-average football, this Texans team could be a force to be reckoned with up front. Of course, that also means hoping that Nick Martin has a similar developmental arc to his older brother Zack in Dallas.
Way-too-early season prediction: So much of this depends on Osweiler. The Texans have one of the biggest potential variances in win-loss total out of almost any team I've looked at this offseason. Houston could be 10-6 or 6-10 depending on how it handles a pretty brutal schedule and a division in which the Colts and Jaguars aren't going to lay down.