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FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Training camp questions: Houston Texans

Tue Jul 16 3:23pm ET
Field Level Media

Turnarounds are a thing of the past for the Houston Texans.

That's the message from second-year head coach DeMeco Ryans as the AFC South champions race into training camp as the first of the NFL's 32 teams to report for the start of formal preparations for the 2024 season.

Ryans' first season in Houston couldn't have gone much better.

Houston went three seasons without a playoff appearance, spanning three coaches, 38 losses and almost 1,500 days, before Ryans and rookies C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. altered the direction the Texans with a division title and wild-card playoff win over the Cleveland Browns.

Ryans wasn't content with the breakthrough.

Houston kept adding with aggressive moves from the front office to follow up general manager Nick Caserio's swings -- and big hits -- that helped land quarterback Stroud and defensive end Anderson with back-to-back picks in the 2023 draft. The Texans acquired wide receiver Stefon Diggs from the Buffalo Bills and signed former Vikings edge rusher Danielle Hunter as the headline moves designed to help Houston keep its arrow pointing upward.

Houston's early report date is the byproduct of being featured in the annual preseason kickoff game in Canton, the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 1. The Texans face the Chicago Bears, whose veterans report Friday.

A former linebacker at Alabama and with the Texans, Ryans said he still gets first-day-of-school vibes when camp starts.

"To start back from ground zero, I love that," Ryans said. "Going back to our Day 1 fundamentals, installs, and seeing guys truly grow and seeing how far we can get before the Hall of Fame Game, see our young players get better and compete against each other. That's what I enjoy most."

Ryans said he helped counter some of the hyperbole in Houston this offseason by sharing a few statistical facts and self-witnessed realities of the NFL.

He said he told player, "I know we won some games, but guys, look, we had 10 games within one score, and these games were down to the wire and we had to find a way at the end.' That doesn't change. That's the NFL."

--Here are three training camp questions for the Texans:

1. Will there be enough targets to go around with the addition of WR Stefon Diggs?

Diggs was traded out of Buffalo because of a beefy contract -- which Houston restructured to allow Diggs to enter free agency in 2025 -- and a bristly personality that former quarterback Josh Allen dismissed as competitiveness.

Diggs was targeted 160 times last season (and 154 in 2022) but still wanted the ball more when it mattered. Nico Collins was the No. 1 target in Houston last season and led the team with 109 targets.

Stroud was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year because he was insanely accurate and efficient. He threw only five interceptions (three came in one game) by not forcing the ball and gaining early mastery of offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik's system. A vocal veteran demanding the ball isn't a concern for Ryans, he insists, but will Stroud respond otherwise in the heat of the battle?

2. Is there a star on the roster deserving of more attention?

Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. began to live up to the billing as a blue-chip talent last season and only seems to be hindered by durability questions. When he's on the field, he's an elite playmaker. Note his December production, when Stingley was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month with 19 tackles, nine passes denied, three interceptions and a tackle for loss. Working against receivers Collins, Diggs and Tank Dell on a daily basis shouldn't hold him back.

3. C.J. Stroud was sacked multiple times in 10 of his 15 games played as a rookie. Can this become worrisome for the Texans?

Stroud missed two games with a concussion last season, but following a dreadful start for the offensive line, the Texans were better than average in pass protection. Stroud was sacked 11 times in his first two NFL games and that was well before the Texans turned to a heavier dose of play-action. Adding Diggs as a reliable slot option and increased usage of tight ends all helped calm the heat in the pocket.

Remember, Slowik came with Ryans from the San Francisco 49ers and his approach won't be entirely predictable. But he does want to lean more heavily on power, and give the ball to the running back, to keep defenses guessing.

When teams went hyper-aggressive last season, Stroud won consistently.

See the wild-card playoff victory over the Browns, when Stroud was 5-for-5 against the blitz for 126 yards and a touchdown for a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

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