The Houston Texans made plenty of moves to bolster the squad before the start of the 2023 season.
The Texans hired former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as the team's head coach in late January. Ryans earned high praise from former Houston head coach Gary Kubiak earlier this month.
“I can tell you this: the city of Houston's got a tremendous young man running the program,” Kubiak said. “Just get behind him. He'll do the work, and I have no doubt that he'll be successful.”
They signed former Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills quarterback Case Keenum to a two-year, $6.25 million contract in March, adding to a quarterback room that was rounded out with the addition of former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud in the 2023 NFL Draft. They traded up in the draft to take Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. to highlight a class that features former Penn State center Juice Scruggs, Houston wide receiver Tank Dell and TCU defensive end Dylan Horton. It signed a few extra veterans and brought back a few players of their own, including offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.
What are some of the biggest training camp battles for the Texans to look out for?
A reworked defense under Ryans and defensive coordinator Matt Burke will only be complete with a stout defensive line.
The Texans' defense ended last season with 39 sacks, putting them on par with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Their 2,894 rushing yards allowed put them at dead last in the NFL. Defensive end Jerry Hughes led the squad with nine sacks last season after he signed with Houston May 2022.
This season, the Texans added defensive tackles Hassan Ridgeway and Sheldon Rankins to one-year contracts. Ridgeway earned a career-high 28 tackles with San Francisco last season. Along with Anderson, the Texans' defensive line will feature Hughes and defensive Chase Winovich. Winovich, a former third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, played in eight games and started in two for the Browns in 2022.
The Texans added two former Pro Bowl linebackers, Cory Littleton and Denzel Perryman, in the offseason. Perryman finished his last two seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders with 237 tackles and 19 tackles for loss. He paved the path toward a Pro Bowl selection in 2021 after a season that saw him earn 154 tackles, five tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, three pass deflections and two fumble recoveries.
Ryans said he was fired up to work with the former Los Angeles Chargers linebacker in early July.
“I'm fired up to work with him,” Ryans said, via Texans Daily. “He's been a pleasure to have, great energy. [You] feel the leadership, what he brings to our entire team, and it's been fun to work with him. I'm excited to see him come to training camp.”
Along with former Alabama linebacker Henry To'oTo'o, the Texans' linebacking corps will feature former Crimson Tide Christian Harris. Harris and To'oTo'o played together at Alabama.
“We were best friends in college,” To'oTo'o said. “Everywhere Christian went, I went. Everywhere I went, Christian went. Being able to reunite with him and Will and Metchie is a blessing.”
If all of them can have solid training camp outings, the Texans can take one step closer to building a more reliable defense under Ryans and the team's defensive coaching staff.
Houston will have to find more solidified wide receiver starters before the start of next season to give Stroud the best chance to succeed in year one.
It ended last season with 3,642 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns, putting them at 25th and 18th in the NFL, respectively. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, now a member of the Dallas Cowboys, completed the year with a team-leading 699 receiving yards. Now-Browns tight end Jordan Akins led the squad with five receiving touchdowns.
The Texans signed wide receivers Robert Woods and Noah Brown to deals in the offseason, pairing them with a wide receiver room that features its fair share of younger options. Collins, a former third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, will look to build off a 2022 season that saw him earn 481 passing yards and two touchdowns in 10 games played.