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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
This is Tyrod Taylor’s team, for now. He played three drives in the preseason finale against the Buccaneers, completed 6-of-9 passes for just 31 passing yards, and lost a fumble. Trade rumors continue to swirl around disgruntled former starter Deshaun Watson. Long-time Houston beat writer Aaron Reiss reported that Watson wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause for the Philadelphia Eagles. He prefers Carolina or Miami. With Houston demanding three first-round picks and other compensation, it is hard to see a deal getting done anytime soon. The most likely scenario for 2021 is Watson remaining on the Texans 53-man roster but being a healthy scratch. He hasn't been practiced with the team for weeks, spending his time attending meetings and training sessions. He has occasionally worked out on a side field with strength and conditioning coach Mike Eubanks, but recently, he hasn't practiced, even in a scout team capacity. It looked like Davis Mills was overcoming his turnover issues that were plentiful early in camp. However, he threw three interceptions in just over a half of work against Tampa Bay. He also completed just 10-of-27 passes.
The starting offense used a four-man committee against the Buccaneers. Mark Ingram II led the way with ten snaps, but David Johnson (9 snaps), Phillip Lindsay (5 snaps), and even Rex Burkhead (3 snaps) each got time with the starting group. Guessing how the snaps will be divvied up in the regular season is next to impossible. Expect Johnson, Lindsay, and Ingram to see time regularly. The only question is whether Burkhead also factors into the weekly game plan.
Brandin Cooks is the top receiver; there’s no one even close to challenging his place atop the depth chart. He’ll be regularly targeted and could be a high-volume pass catcher as the Texans have to throw a lot while playing from behind. Chris Conley should start opposite Cooks in Week 1, but rookie Nico Collins is pushing hard for the role. Collins missed a few practices recently but played in the preseason finale and powered his way into the end zone after catching a slant. He’s displayed speed and physicality throughout the preseason. After it looked like Keke Coutee would start in the slot, his release on Tuesday came as a mild surprise. His main competition, Anthony Miller, has been sidelined since dislocating his shoulder in the first preseason game. The final wide receiver spot came down to Andre Roberts over Alex Erickson. The Texans inexplicably gave the 33-year-old Roberts over $2 million in guaranteed money on a two-year, $5.5M contract which should give him the advantage.
Jordan Akins and Pharaoh Brown should split time as the top two at the position. Rookie Brevin Jordan should also have a 53-man roster spot, but he’ll effectively redshirt this year and be inactive on game days.
The front office admitted failure after another offseason personnel move blew up in their faces. Defensive end Shaq Lawson was traded to the Jets for a late-round pick just months after the Texans acquired him via trade. Houston will eat $7 million in dead money over the next two seasons. Fellow defensive end Whitney Mercilus has not looked like a difference-maker and is yet another bad contract on the books. The Texans will face significant dead money if they cut him. The linebackers are a team strength, with both Zach Cunningham and Christian Kirksey providing veteran leadership on and off the field. Kevin Pierre-Louis is an underrated starter at outside linebacker, and top backup Kamu Grugier-Hill has looked like he could step in and play well at any of the three spots.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
Deshaun Watson faces 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, multiple law enforcement probes, and an NFL investigation. In part, because criminal prosecutors are involved, the NFL does not want its investigation to interfere and may wait until the criminal process plays out before kicking its probe into high gear. Thus, it is looking unlikely Watson will face a suspension this season unless a grand jury indicts him. However, just because he may be technically eligible to play, we have seen zero indications that the Texans are preparing to have Watson on the field this year. He has been practicing on the side field with rehabbing players despite being uninjured and has not had any reps with the starting offense. It’s trending towards Watson simply being a healthy scratch for Week 1. That leaves the Texans with Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills. Taylor has been solid throughout camp but threw for just 10 yards in three series against the Cowboys. Mills was a bit better, finishing 10-for-16 for 115 yards. As important, he didn’t turn the ball over, which is a sign of progress. Taylor will open the year as the starter. Mills has shown slow but steady improvement over the last few weeks and could replace Taylor at some point later in the season. If the year goes as expected, the Texans will have nothing to lose by playing Mills and seeing what they have.
Phillip Lindsay got the Week 1 start and played 80% of the snaps with the starters. In Week 2, it was Mark Ingram II who saw the bulk of the first-team snaps. He rushed for 24 yards on seven carries. For the second-straight week, David Johnson only saw the field on obvious passing downs. We’re left with an opaque picture of how the running back snaps will be doled out. Aaron Reiss of The Athletic is “confident Lindsay will finish in the top two on the team in carries, probably first, but Johnson vs. Ingram feels like a toss-up.” While there was speculation early in camp that Lindsay and Ingram were potentially competing for one spot, Reiss believes the Texans will keep all four of Ingram, Johnson, Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead.