HOUSTON - MAY 21: Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak during the first day of OTA's at the Methodist Training Center at Reliant Park on May 21, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Does it matter? What positions are open to a battle?
Off-season training activities, what are they and what are they worth? The media and most fans ignore them, partially because news and information during OTA's is guarded closely by the team, but they are important. OTA's are basically treated like the walk-through teams go through without pads a couple days before a regular season game, so for veterans the information can be a bit redundant, but it's at least a chance to start working back into game-shape. For rookies, it's the first chance coaches have to work them out in their system and start to find out what they in the young players. The players aren't wearing pads and there isn't any contact, but coaches do get to find out how quickly players can pick up the terminology and their assignments. Is this rookie reliable? Will he line up in the right place? Does he know where to go at the snap? Is he able to react instead of having to think about his assignment? While OTA's are just a glorified walk-through, you can still teach, and coach-up the young players.
The biggest headlines and the most questions during OTA's have surrounded around the health of Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub. On Johnson, his surgery (knee scope) wasn't major and everyone believes he'll be at 100% before training camp. On Schaub, he didn't fully participate in the workout but don't read too much into that. Kubiak said after the Monday practice that they were just being cautious with Schaub and that if he had to practice in 7-on-7 type drills; he could have.
With the Texans roster being the strongest it's ever been, there aren't many positions open to a camp battle, but that doesn't mean that there aren't positions to watch during the summer. First position I'm interested in is at right guard, Antoine Caldwell is the presumed starter after Mike Brisel left for Oakland, but I think rookie Brandon Brooks has a shot to take the job at some point. I was a bit surprised when they drafted him just because I wasn't sure how he'd fit into the zone-scheme at his size. At 345-350 pounds, Brooks does not fit the mold of the Texans typical lineman, but he has surprising athleticism, footwork, and his coaches are noticing. "Obviously size and strength jumps at you right now," Kubiak said, "I have to see how it starts to fit together, but he’s a hell of an athlete for 350 (pounds). That’s a great thing." Kubiak went on to tell Texans.com what Brooks chances were to become a starter, "I think it’s going to be very competitive. I think he even has some possibility to play outside but we’ll leave him inside for right now." If Brooks can continue to impress when the pads are put on, I think he has a real shot to be the starter at right guard; I was not impressed by Caldwell last season.
The other two spots I'm interested in are at inside linebacker and at the 3rd receiver spot to replace DeMeco Ryans and Jacoby Jones. At inside linebacker the favorite to win the job is Bradie James. The ex-Cowboy played under Wade Philips in Dallas, knows the system, is a good leader, and should do a nice job at replacing DeMeco. At this point in his career, James has lost a step, but like DeMeco, he'll only be a 2-down linebacker. Kubiak said of James, "A leader. You can tell he’s been a leader of a group before. He’s very much under control with the defense. Fit right in with the group real quick." The other player who I think could take that spot at some point is Daryl Sharpton who is still recovering from a quadriceps tear last season in a game vs. Jacksonville. Sharpton isn't ready to play yet, but according to the Texans Nick Scurfield, Kubiak said he'll probably be ready for the start of training camp. Sharpton is the younger, quicker player compared to Bradie James; once he's 100%, I think he'll take the job.
At the 3rd receiver spot, I favor KeShawn Martin, the rookie 4th round pick out of Michigan State. According to reports he's lived up to the billing of being extremely quick off the line and being a good route runner. The Texans will likely mix-and-match players at the 3rd receiver spot depending on situation, but I think Martin is a prototypical slot receiver and should receive the bulk of the snaps.
Players have the helmets on, the countdown to kick-off has begun.