WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- When the full Houston Texans roster reported for duty here at the Greenbrier Resort Tuesday (July 25), most attention will be on a Savage, a rookie quarterback and one of the best defensive lineman in NFL history who must prove he can play again.
"It's best for the team," admitted Watson, the former Clemson standout who was a Heisman Trophy finalist, Davey O'Brien and Manning Award winner and claimed an ESPY this month for Best Male College Athlete.
"Coach OB knows a lot of football. He's been with the best, if not one of the best in NFL history, Tom Brady. He knows how everything is operated. He knows when the perfect timing will be. He knows when it's right and when it's wrong."
Meanwhile, J.J. Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, must show he can return to some semblance of his former greatness and stay healthy after undergoing a pair of back surgeries to repair a herniated disk. Watt was not in contact drills yet but was fully cleared and participated in all offseason practices. His health is paramount to the NFL's top-ranked defense.
The opening of camp was not without some drama. Tackle Duane Brown, who wants a new contract despite having two years remaining on his current deal, is officially a holdout and was placed on the team's reserve/did not report list. Brown was also absent from the team's June mandatory minicamp.
His scheduled salaries are $9.4 million this year and $9.75 million in 2018.
Top Summer Battle
With most public and media attention focused on the all-important quarterback position and Watt's return, one of the key battles to watch in camp this summer will be at strong safety.
This will a highly-contested battle for a starting job between Corey Moore, Lonnie Ballentine and, perhaps later, K.J. Dillon when he is healthy.
Moore returns with starting experience and held up solidly last season, but didn't make many big plays. Ballentine has prototypical size and speed, but keeps getting hurt. Dillon is recovering from a torn ACL suffered as a rookie last year.
TRAINING CAMP: The Greenbrier; White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
COACH: Bill O'Brien
4th season as Texans/NFL head coach
28-23 overall; 1-2 postseason
2016 finish: 1st AFC South (9-7)
TOTAL OFFENSE: 314.7 (29th)
RUSHING: 116.2 (8th)
PASSING: 198.5 (29th)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 301.3 (1st)
RUSHING: 99.7 (12th)
PASSING: 201.6 (2nd)
All times Central
Aug. 9, at Carolina (Wed), 6:30
Aug. 19, NEW ENGLAND (Sat), 7:00
Aug. 26, at New Orleans (Sat), 7:00
Aug. 31, DALLAS (Thu), 7:00
QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Tom Savage. Backups -- Brandon Weeden, Deshaun Watson.
Savage has a lot to prove as the Texans' new starter. He has had durability issues and hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in an actual game. Watson is a multi-dimensional option down the road, but Savage has been named the starter and it's not an open competition. Weeden is a reliable option who's won games for the Texans in the past.
The Texans want to be more judicious with Miller's workload after he wore down at the end of last season. When healthy, Miller is one of the better backs in the NFL. Prosch plays mostly on special teams but is a rugged lead blocker when called upon. Foreman was recently arrested on drug and gun charges and was overweight in the spring. He enters camp in coach Bill O'Brien's doghouse. Hunt has speed to burn. Blue is a solid backup who lacks explosiveness. Ervin has been a nonfactor on offense, but is getting another shot.
Fiedorowicz emerged last season as a productive pass-catcher. He's always been a stout blocker. Griffin is a big downfield target who can run after the catch.
Hopkins is looking for a bounce-back season after his production dipped last year during the failed Brock Osweiler experiment. Fuller, the fastest player on the roster, is working to improve his hands after dropping too many passes as a rookie. Miller is a converted quarterback who's starting to find his groove as a slot receiver. Strong has been a disappointing former third-round pick. He has good size and speed, but has yet to put it all together.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Duane Brown, LG Xavier Su'a-Filo, C Nick Martin, RG Jeff Allen, RT Chris Clark. Backups -- T Kendall Lamm, G Chad Slade, G David Quessenberry, C Greg Mancz, T Breno Giacomini, C Erik Austell, C Kyle Fuller, T Laurence Gibson, T Julie'n Davenport, G Josh Walker.
Brown is a three-time Pro Bowl blocker and the anchor of the line, but he opened training camp as a holdout after being absent for the entire offseason due to a contract dispute. Allen had a rough first season but has lost 20 pounds. Su'a-Filo had his best season last year, but his play hasn't justified his second-round draft status. Martin takes over in the middle and draws high marks from coaches after missing his rookie season with an ankle injury. Clark struggled at right tackle last season and needs to improve. Lamm is a capable swing tackle. Giacomini has to prove he can stay healthy. Mancz gives the Texans quality depth after starting all of last season.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- DLE J.J. Watt, NT D.J. Reader, DRE Jadeveon Clowney. Backups -- DT Eli Ankou, DE Christian Covington, DE Matt Godin, DE Joel Heath, DE Carlos Watkins, DE Daniel Ross, DE Ufomba Kamalu, NT Ricky Hatley, DE Brandon Dunn.
Clowney shed his injury-prone reputation last season and consistently disrupted offenses as he was named to the Pro Bowl. Watt is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who's made a full recovery from back surgery. Reader is a massive interior presence who takes over as the new starting nose tackle for Vince Wilfork. Covington's forte is stopping the run. The coaching staff likes Heath's long arms and versatility. Watkins was ultra-productive at Clemson and should fit in well as a rotational defensive lineman.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Whitney Mercilus, ILB Brian Cushing, ILB Benardrick McKinney, SLB Brennan Scarlett. Backups -- ILB Dylan Cole, ILB Zach Cunningham, OLB Eric Lee, ILB Sio Moore, ILB Brian Peters, OLB Gimel President, OLB Dayon Pratt, ILB Shakeel Rashad, OLB Tony Washington, ILB Avery Williams.
Mercilus is regarded by some scouts as the Texans' most complete defensive player. He has size, speed and skill. Cushing is regarded as the emotional leader of the defense, but he's coming off shoulder surgery. McKinney was named second-team All-Pro last season as he led the Texans in tackles and notched five sacks. Cunningham was a tackling machine in college, but needs to upgrade his strength and ability to shed blocks. Scarlett is the new starting strong-side linebacker as the replacement for John Simon. Peters operates as the special-teams ace.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Johnathan Joseph, RCB Kareem Jackson, FS Andre Hal, SS Corey Moore. Backups -- CB Kevin Johnson, CB Robert Nelson, CB Dee Virgin, CB Marcus Roberson, CB Denzel Rice, S Kurtis Drummond, S Lonnie Ballentine, S K.J. Dillon, S Eddie Pleasant, CB Bryce Jones, CB Treston Decoud.
Joseph returns for his 12th season and is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who's healthier this year. Hal lost his starting job last season but regained it during a down year in pass coverage and tackling. Jackson is aggressive and got picked on some in single coverage. Johnson is fully recovered from a broken foot that required surgery. Moore is a fast, sound tackler, but doesn't make many plays in pass coverage. Ballentine has had chronic injuries. Dillon is a hard hitter but is not expected to be fully ready for training camp. Decoud is a prototypical big corner who excels in press coverage. Nelson could step in as a nickel back after intercepting Andrew Luck once last season. Rice has good size and speed, but needs to keep improving his understanding of coverages.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Nick Novak, P Shane Lechler, LS Jon Weeks, KOR Tyler Ervin, PR Will Fuller, K Ka'imi Fairbairn, P Cory Carter.
Novak is a very accurate clutch kicker who keeps bailing out a horrendous red-zone offense. Lechler is one of the top punters in NFL history, seemingly ageless with strong hang time and distance. Fairbairn is expected to push Novak in camp, but Novak is the favorite to win the job. Weeks is a former Pro Bowl selection who remains one of the top long snappers in the NFL. Ervin had ball-security issues as a rookie. Fuller is explosive, but needs to stay healthy to have a full-time role on offense and returning punts.