First Impression – There is a lot to like about the 2016 Texans. Some of it requires expert analysis and there will be plenty of that during training camp, but two things jump out that need no analysis. Neither is a surprise, but both must be seen to be truly appreciated.
On offense there is skill position speed unmatched in Texans history. The first impression was not drawn just because Will Fuller has 4.3 speed, or because Braxton Miller is nearly as fast and probably more elusive. It’s not that Wendall Williams is probably faster than both of them. It’s not even because 4.3s and 4.4s are routine for Texans running backs Lamar Miller, Akeem Hunt, and Tyler Ervin.
The first impression comes from the fact that three and four, even 5, of those guys routinely appear in the same offensive set. Time will tell whether all that speed can be blended into an explosive offense, but the first look is impressive. The Texans prefer to run the football, but the rushing attack won’t be ground and pound, nor will the passing game be limited to dink and dunk . Speed kills…quickly.
Watching the offense for fifteen minutes or so of 7 on 7, 9 on 9, and 11 on 11 was enough for the speed to dazzle. It wasn’t always productive, but it was undeniably impressive, full of potential. The offense wasn’t on the field very long before it was obvious that all this speed perfectly complements the impressive receiving skills of DeAndre Hopkins.
By contrast, all the defense had to do to make a lasting first impression was to take the field. Before a play was run, before a defender was tested, one thing was clear. The Texans starting linebackers are physically imposing, massive. When they line up their leader, 6’3″, 249 pound Brian Cushing looks like the runt of the litter.
Cushing’s running mate, Benardrick McKinney, is listed at 6’4″, 246 pounds, but looks bigger. On the outside Jadeveon Clowney (6’5″, 266) and Whitney Mercilus, (6’4″, 258) are imposing bookends. Before a play was run the size and demeanor of the linebackers created a first impression of a special group.
It takes way more than size to make a good linebacker, and four plodding behemoths on the field at the same time would be a disaster. These guys are different. They are fast, light on their feet and strong all at the same time. It’s too early to tell how well they cover a back out of the backfield or effectively drop into a hook zone, but quarterbacks beware…these guys are coming for you.
Cushing is the smallest of the quartet, but he certainly isn’t undersized. He’s tough, the glue that inspires the others. In Tuesday’s camp session his taunts to the offense seemed to supercharge the defense, especially the other linebackers, as they stoned the offense during goal line drills. McKinney stood out, but there was no question who the leader was.
It’s said that there is never a second chance to make a first impression. If the Texans can stay healthy and build upon the first impression they left with me, they will be fun for Texans fans to watch…less fun, though, for opposing defenses and quarterbacks.