Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/6/13
It’s 10:30 am on Thursday, June 13th, the last day of mini-camp. The Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are complete, and mini-camp concludes in 90 minutes. The infernal Southeast Texas sun is taking mercy on no one! It’s already a sweltering 92 degrees Fahrenheit, and it may as well be 92 degrees Celsius or Kelvin… At this juncture, there’s probably little distinction among these scientific temperature scales! As they say here in Texas, “IT’S HOTTER ‘N A RED JALAPENO PATCH IN EAST HELL!”The Texans’ rookies and free agents are in great spirits. Prior to the start of the first period, undrafted (rookie) free-agent (UDFA) QB Case Keenum and journeyman free agent Stephen McGee are already on the field, working on specific game situations.The NBA Finals are also in full swing. Apparently, most of the Texans’ rookies and free agents are Miami Heat fans, as they skipped on the field chanting the same melodic refrain as the Heat fans chant in the stadium, particularly when they are rallying around the team. “Oooooooh, ooh-ooh-ooh, oooooooh” was the chant that rang out as the team began stretching and warming-up.By the end of the practice, it was evident that Coach Gary Kubiak and his staff felt a sense of accomplishment. When the final horn sounded, the Houston Texans successfully completed the 2013 OTAs and rookie mini-camp!As the team prepares for training camp, there were ten (10) lessons learned during OTAs and mini-camp:LESSON # 1 – THE HOUSTON TEXANS ARE AN IMPROVED FOOTBALL TEAM. In spite of finishing as the AFC South Champs last season with a 12-4 record, the Texans have managed to acquire players that can make an immediate impact on the team’s success. Most draft experts graded the Texans’ draft in the B+ to B range. With the free agents invited to OTAs, and subsequently, training camp, the Texans have exerted efforts to make significant improvements on both sides of the ball.LESSON # 2 – THE TEXANS NOW HAVE CONSIDERABLE DEPTH AT WIDE RECEIVER. Some draft gurus will tell you that the addition of DeAndre Hopkins automatically shores up the Texans’ corps of wideouts. As veracious as that statement is, the acquisition of Hopkins (round 1, pick # 27, Clemson) was not singular in the betterment of Houston’s receivers. Other acquisitions such as Alan Bonner (round 6, pick # 195, Jacksonville State), and free agents EZ Nwachukwu (Texas A&M), Andy Cruse (Miami-Ohio), and Alec Lemon (Syracuse) have also strengthened the Texans’ pass-catching capabilities. Incumbent Sophomores Keyshawn Martin (Michigan State), Lestar Jean (Florida Atlantic), and DeVier Posey (Ohio State), remain steadfast.  Posey has spent a considerable stint on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, but is battling gallantly to return from injuries. All-World WR Andre Johnson will be ready to go, as always!LESSON # 3 - THE TEXANS WILL BE STRONG IN ‘THE BOX.’ Led by All-Pro DE J.J. Watt, the Texans sport one of the most aggressive 3-4 fronts in the league. The additions of OLB Sam Montgomery (round 3, pick # 95, LSU), LB Trevardo Williams (round 4, pick # 124, Connecticut), and DT Chris Jones (round 6, pick # 198, Bowling Green), will fortify an already strong front, consisting of DT Earl Mitchell, DE Antonio Smith, and LBs Brian Cushing, Daryl Sharpton, Whitney Mercilus, and Brooks Reed. UDFA DT Earl Okine is also expected to be a contributor.LESSON # 4 – THE TEXANS ‘D’ WILL HAVE TO PREPARE AS IF ED REED WILL BE ON IR. The off-season blockbuster acquisition of FS Ed Reed from the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens made a statement that was CLEARLY heard throughout the NFL! Reed, the projected ‘missing piece of the puzzle’ that would bring the city its first professional football championship since 1961, has suffered with lingering injuries. His most recent injury, a labral tear (hip), apparently sustained late last season, was aggravated while working out in preparation for OTAs. The Texans haven’t missed a beat with S D.J. Swearinger (round 2, pick # 57, South Carolina), and incumbents Danieal Manning, Eddie Pleasant, and Shilo Keo.  They also have the benefit of Reed’s experience. Reed, who has no timetable on his return, expects to be playing in the season opener.LESSON # 5 – OFFENSIVE LINE ISSUES MAY BE ADDRESSED. With the departure of Texas native T Eric Winston to the Kansas City Chiefs, and G Mike Brisiel to the Oakland Raiders, both in 2011, the 2012 Houston Texans were left with some concerns in the trenches. Although the line finally jelled as the season progressed, the issues shifted to O-line depth in the off-season. Those issues may have been resolved with the emergence drafted tackles Brennan Williams (round 3, pick #  89, North Carolina), and David Quessenberry (round 6, pick # 176, San Jose State), along with UDFA guards Alex Kupper (Louisville), and Bryan Collins (SMU). These pairs of O-lineman were impressive during the rookie mini-camp and OTAs.LESSON 6 -  THE TEXANS HAVE A STABLE OF CAPABLE RUNNING BACKS. Ball-carriers? HOUSTON, WE DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM!! Aside from All-Pro Arian Foster, and mega back-up Ben Tate, The Texans have an arsenal of capable reserve running backs and fullbacks! UDFAs (RB) Dennis Johnson (Arkansas) and (FB) Zach Boren (Ohio State) have been impressive during rookie mini-camp and OTAs, while 10 year veteran Greg Jones (Florida State) is also expected to make contributions this season. LESSON 7 - OVERALL, THE HOUSTON TEXANS APPEAR TO BE A WELL-CONDITIONED TEAM! Watching… no… WITNESSING these HUGE guys run 30-minutes of ‘gassers’ in 95-plus-degree heat without anyone having to be medically evacuated is a feat within itself. Watching these guys run ‘gassers’ in those brutal conditions while barely reaching their target heart rate is absolutely amazing! The TRUE conditioning test will come during training camp. Let’s see what happens when they’re in full pads!!LESSON 8 – THE TEXANS WILL HAVE FEW (IF ANY) OFF-SEASON INCIDENTS/DISTRACTIONS. Overall the Texans’ organization does a magnificent job of keeping their players out of trouble during periods of football inactivity. In fact, the Texans remain among teams with the least off-season incidents. Kudos to Owner Bob McNair, GM Rick Smith, Head Coach Gary Kubiak, and their respective staff personnel!LESSON 9 – THE TEXANS ROOKIE CLASS OF 2013 ARE HARD WORKERS, AND WILLING TO LEARN. Enough said!LESSON 10 – THE QUARTERBACK COMPETITION WILL BE FIERCE! Matt Schaub and Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys) will probably be the ONLY quarterbacks to ever be ostracized after a 4,000-plus passing-yard season.  T.J. Yates has proven to be an excellent back-up, but can he push Schaub hard enough in training camp to make him uncomfortable in his starting position? Journeyman QB Stephen McGee joins UDFA Case Keenum (Houston) in the upcoming training camp Quarterback Carousel! UDFA Collin Klein (Kansas State) was a tryout during the rookie training camp, but was not offered a contract at the conclusion of the rookie camp.The Houston Texans will be a Super Bowl contender this season. This organization has exhausted every resource and means to improve, and it appears that dividends will be reaped as a result of those efforts. Training camp starts July 26th… Meanwhile, the ‘cream of the crop’ will continue the rise to the top…
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