The “Early” Risers from Texans Training Camp
The first official week is over for the Houston Texans 2013 training camp and there has been plenty of work put in by the team. With some time off before the Texans gets back to work on Sunday, there has been a group of players that seem to have taken a good step to stand out from the group.
Veterans on the team will not be on this list because there is a good idea on what they will bring to the field when the game days begin. This list is for the players where expectations were unknown and with their performance in the past eight days they have opened some eyes.
Early Texans Risers
Of course, he was a first round pick and labeled the most NFL ready wide receiver of the draft and that is all true, but there is more. Hopkins has the skill set to contribute from day one from his ball skills, catch radius, leaping ability and overall “the ball in mine” attitude. He is performing against Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph every practice and they are showing him what he has to do to compete at a high level. He is gaining the trust of Matt Schaub with every practice, with every route ran and pass thrown his way. The offensive players realize what they have in their new wide receiver and Hopkins has instantly given the offense a much needed facelift.
The penciled in right guard for week one is not disappointing early in camp. Brooks has some strength that even his teammates recognize and he has been labeled as the team’s strongest player. It is impressive to see him stop pass rushers in their tracks when he gets his hands on them and he has been put to the test against J.J. Watt. The two have had some clashes in one on one pass drills and Brooks has held his own against the Defensive Player of the Year. His slimmed 325 lbs. frame doesn’t slow him in the run game and he moves well getting to the second level in the run game. He has all you want in an offensive lineman to be successful at the NFL level and the second year player looks much better than his rookie season.
Drops plagued him his rookie season and he was highly disappointed on the way he performed. A new year and fresh start is what Martin needed and he has looked sharp in his routes and pass catching ability. His confidence is growing and with Hopkins coming to town, Martin looks like his spot could be in the slot. Throw in his punt return ability, Martin has used this camp to refine his game even more. He has worked well with Matt Schaub and is gaining trust that the ball will be there. He could be a nice complement to a wide receiver group that needs to help Andre Johnson.
The not well-known inside linebacker is doing what he has to make this team coming out of camp. Until the signing of Joe Mays the inside linebacker was thin in experience and most importantly in depth that was “not” injured. Collins during full contact has played physical and the extra muscle he added during the offseason has helped his play. His best part of his game has to be his coverage skills and he can run with tight ends down the field, which is an area of concern for the team. Collins also adds special teams depth where he helped the team last season and even in the playoffs.
One of the rookies that is getting the biggest buzz out of camp for his ability to make big plays. People like the undersized back that brings some excitment to the field and that is what Johnson has when he touches the ball. He can accelerate when he sees the hole and make players miss in open field. He is very strong for his 5-5 frame and is a hard target to hit when he has the football. His vision is only getting better with every run he has in the zone scheme and the Texans are learning his strengths as camp progresses.
If there is one player from the defensive 2012 draft class that has taken a nice step in their development as a player, look no further than Crick. He added 10 pounds during the offseason and it has really helped him with his overall play at defensive end. One thing that slowed him his rookie season was a neck issue that made him look stiff and that is one of the noticeable differences in his overall play. He looks much more limber and able to make the moves necessary to get to the football. Crick also has flashed some good pass rushing moves to go along with his improved technique in run defense.
The rookie from UCF has really been the biggest surprise in the secondary and he has been performing well since he showed up in May at rookie mini-camp. Bouye has only improved on what Coach Vance Joseph has asked from him and add in his height 6-0 he has been intercepting footballs with ease. He is the tallest cornerback of the group and his height helps him with the bigger wide receivers. He has responded well when he did not put together his best practice, but he has always answered the call with a big play after a short let down. Bouye has a chance to be on the team in some capacity and learn behind some veteran corners who set a good example.
If there is one wide receiver that has progressed the most from rookie mini camp it has to be Lemon. There was not much excitement in his game from rookie mini-camp leading into training camp, but he has come on strong since contact has begun. He has caught everything thrown his way and made one of the best catches in camp with a one-handed snag in the corner of the endzone. Lemon has been working hard and he has really caught on to what the Texans want from their wide receivers and he has been taking the lead of the UDFA rookies.
He made his mark in rookie mini camp when he made a J.J. Watt type of interception off the edge in middle of a pass rush. Jefferson who is 6-5 and 233 lbs. is a true athletic player at outside linebacker and his wide receiver background shows. He has long legs that let him cover ground and long arms to keep defenders off of him. His real gift is his raw but effective pass rush ability, and the speed rush is his go to move. The buzz he is generating is something to watch and depending on how much he can do against the more NFL ready competition will decide what the Texans plan to do with the gifted Jefferson.