VAN WADE — Texans may not be stout, but should be fun to watch

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, August 17, 2022

A couple weeks ago in my column I stressed how important it was for Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to make a long playoff run.

Now, for our Houston Texans, it’s all about getting better and they could be a fun team to watch.

Around this time last year, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Texans heading into training camp. Nick Caserio was hired as general manager, a decision that sent a shock wave throughout the program.

The team’s new head coach, longtime NFL position coach David Culley, seemed like an unknown quantity. And the Texans were dealing with a disgruntled franchise quarterback in Deshaun Watson, who at the time had 22 civil lawsuits looming over him for alleged sexual assault.

Training camp began with inquiries about whether Watson would play or sit out for a season, whether he would show up to camp, whether he would be traded and how he might fare with his pending lawsuits. Texans fans don’t need reminding that Watson did not play in the season that followed, and that it did not go well, overall.

But this go-round, Texans fans can take a deep breath and enjoy a comparatively drama-free preseason, as the future is looking a lot brighter heading into camp. Watson and his legal issues are now in Cleveland; a more experienced head coach, Lovie Smith, is now calling the shots; and Caserio is chomping at the bit to see the rookies and second-year players he drafted out on the practice field.

The vibes around the Houston Texans have improved significantly, and that started with the hiring of well-respected head coach in Smith. After rumors that former backup quarterback Josh McCown, who has no head coaching experience, was in the running for the Texans job, the arrival of the former Bears and Buccaneers head coach — whose nine seasons with the Bears included a Super Bowl appearance — brought up worries about another leadership gamble.

Trading Deshaun Watson and receiving three first-round picks in exchange felt like a heavy weight lifted, and if the 2022 NFL Draft party at Miller Outdoor Theatre was any precursor, Texans fans are ready.

Entering the draft with the third and 13th overall picks, and everyone super optimistic about the direction the Texans are going — it feels like a complete 180-degree shift from last year.

Going into training camp, teams typically know who their starting quarterback is. I still don’t know what second-year quarterback Davis Mills could be going forward, but the Houston Texans are giving him the keys to the franchise to start camp.

The coaching staff didn’t bring in another quarterback to compete with Mills, so there’s a lot riding on him. On the other hand, there’s far less uncertainty than last year, when Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor and  Mills (then a third-round rookie) were all on the roster. Mills did end the previous year pretty strong, throwing nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. If he doesn’t work out, the Texans have two first-round picks in 2023 and 2024 that they can possibly use on a quarterback in the next two drafts.

Last but certainly not least, there is no drama leading up to camp. This might be the first time in a long time when the start of camp is drama-free.

Last year, it was the numerous Watson lawsuits looming. In 2020, general manager Brian Gaine was fired and head coach Bill O’Brien took his place.

In years before that, there were contract issues with players like Jadeveon Clowney and others. By contrast, this year feels like a breath of fresh air. There are no uncomfortable storylines going into camp. As a fan, I can actually focus on football.

All in all, I believe in the Texans this year. This team could go 4-13 again in 2022, but I wouldn’t bet on it — the energy is seemingly much better and I can’t wait to see what the outcome will be.

Van Wade is the Orange Leader sports editor. He can be reached at van.wade@orangeleader.com.