Texans Mailbag: A Look Back at the Houston Texans First Week of OTAs

Answering readers questions on the first week of work at OTAs for the Houston Texans.

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I think all of Jaelen Strong’s situation is all based on his opportunities since arriving in Houston. A few things jump out in my mind with Strong as a receiver and the main one is the fact that when he touches the football good things happen. He is one of the more versatile receivers for the Texans due to his ability to play inside and outside of the formation. Last season was interesting because Strong did not show up on the stat sheet like most wanted to see. However, he was the only wide receiver that was willing to mix it up with defensive backs and linebackers in the run game. Watching film, we saw Strong spring a running back for extra yards due to Strong's willingness to block and it seemed after he went down with an ankle injury, the run game suffered some. Strong holds more value for this team than most realize and it would not be a surprise if his role continues to expand moving forward. 

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One of the things to consider regarding Brian Cushing is that the Texans defensive staff will help their players succeed especially based on down and distance. Cushing is an example of this and based on the way teams brought out offensive personnel, the team either did or did not put him out on the field. With that said, the long term plans appear inclined to include Zach Cunningham as the player who will replace Cushing at some point. Today, however, Cushing and Benardrick McKinney are the Texans best set of inside players in the team's base defense. Until Cunningham gets used to NFL life and living up to those expectations, the Texans will spoon feed him a defensive role. When the staff becomes comfortable with his play, they will expand his role. Cushing is still in line for a good portion of snaps; last season he played in 60.5% of the defensive snaps and he should be somewhere around that number once again. The Texans want to have three linebackers who they trust and who can match up against respective personnel, so this is not the time to start writing off Cushing in 2017. 

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Every defensive player who has been asked has been excited about Mike Vrabel staying on with the team as defensive coordinator. Those same players also responded even more enthusiastically about the team keeping Romeo Crennel on as the assistant head coach. It is hard to see the impact that Vrabel will have until they get on the field in game situations but he has had to change his approach - he can't run around as jacked up as he was with the linebacker group during his first three seasons. Vrabel has a more controlled demeanor on the field, taking in all the position groups and trying to see the entire picture of the defense. Remember, the past three seasons Vrabel just had to keep his eye on the one position group. Now he has to trust his position coaches to do their jobs while he steers the ship. If anything, the biggest change is on Vrabel and how to plan a defense outside on the field as well as inside the building during film sessions. 

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Where to play Jadeveon Clowney positionally continues to be a discussion point and the easiest way to think about it is that he will be an edge player the majority of the time. Clowney will be an outside linebacker in their base defense and an edge player in their four man front in their nickel and dime defensive packages, which could see him standing up or with his hand in the dirt. Also, be ready for him to be over the center or guards in defensive alignments during the season. Clowney is very scheme versatile but expect a good portion of his snaps to be taken on the edge. 

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The Texans value athleticism and since Bill O’Brien has arrived, he has asked Rick Smith to find players who are literally bigger, faster, and stronger. The game has changed since the Kubiak era but there is a clear change in the types of players the Texans want. Over the years of O’Brien there has been a mentality change and one spot it can be really seen is in the rookie free agent classes. Look how the Texans put those groups together. The majority of the rookie classes tested off the charts during the draft process from a height and weight perspective. The Texans look for attributes that translate to the field and there is a clear view of that with speed, strength, and 3-cone drills times for an example. 

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This is a loaded question but we agree with what John Harris is seeing. On Deshaun Watson, he has more than enough arm strength to make the throws and when things slow down on the field in terms of understanding the speed of the game and knowledge of the playbook, his arrow should point up. Julién Davenport is raw and he is a big kid who will take some time to get him acclimated to the game; his real test does not start until the pads are put on. Nick Martin is back to the field and he has been ready since of the end of last season (READ HERE). Martin is in the same spot physically he was then (READ HERE) and now he is back in position to take his position for what he was drafted for out of Notre Dame. The Texans still remain high on Lonnie Ballentine despite all of his injuries - none of which were of his own doing. Ballentine is already further along than most realize and this is the first time that we can recall that him being on the field for OTAs practicing, which is a huge plus. If Ballentine can stay on the field throughout the entire spring and through training camp as well, then he will be on this team. Talent is not the issue, he has just suffered a rash of injuries consecutively since arriving three seasons ago. 

And as for David Quessenberry, who rightfully so is on a lot of readers' minds…..

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Since Quessenberry’s lymphoma went into remission, he has been putting on weight and at one point late in the season, he was around 280 lbs. Now, with his treatments in the rearview mirror, Quessenberry is full steam ahead and onto working at winning a roster spot. The big thing for Quessenberry is getting his feet back under him; he has not played the game since his rookie season during camp and the preseason in 2013. He is going to have to win a roster spot and, with the first two guard spots accounted for, he is competing to be the depth on the offensive line, meaning he will have to beat out Greg Mancz, Josh Walker, and rookie Kyle Fuller to land on the roster. Also, he has been working at right tackle so the Texans are doing everything they can to give him a chance to land a roster spot. Quessenberry is a very talented player and now it is about getting him back to that point. If he can lock down a roster spot, his will continue to be one of the best stories in the NFL. 

 

Related OTAs Links: OTAs Update from Day Two: with J.J. Watt and David Quessenberry Returning | A Closer Look at Duane Brown's Holdout | DeAndre Hopkins Leaning on Wes Welker

Related Articles:  What Does Breno Giacomini Mean for the Texans? | Texans Notebook: Aaron Rodgers Likes Deshaun Watson | Treston Decoud Ready to Work for the Texans Texans Easing D'Onta Foreman into the Mix 

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