Training camp brings out the best in players and while many new faces try to make their marks to make the roster, some have especially caught our eye through the first week of camp. The game changed for the Texans when the pads went on and some individuals have really shown they are ready for this moment. If these players show they can sustain this level of performance through the duration of camp, each of them could find himself playing a pivotal role for the Texans heading into week one.
There are so many players we could talk about but we cut it down to the players who have been the most impressive thus far. Here are the earliest risers for the Texans for the start of camp.
Entering his second year, Tyler Ervin is finding his way in all three areas of his responsibility: rushing, catching the ball, and in the return game. Demonstrating a vastly increased amount of confidence on the field, Ervin is showing that he is the best receiving back of the group, having possibly the third best hands from the entire skill group behind DeAndre Hopkins and Jaelen Strong. Ervin also has the best ability to make defenders miss in open field and is a markedly different player when compared to last camp. Ervin has been solid since the team did its off-season work and he continues to make his mark during the team's preparations for the 2017 season.
If you have been following the updates through camp, plenty has been said about Treston Decoud. Despite missing majority of the off-season work due to school obligations, Decoud has come in and shown more than capable of catching up on the time he has missed. He is the biggest cornerback on the roster and the first player the Texans have brought in with this type of skill set. His size at the line of scrimmage frustrates wide receivers and he can slow them down before they get into their routes. This allows Decoud to use his speed to make up ground and get on top of receivers, making life tough on them when the ball is thrown their way. It will be a gradual climb for Decoud to learn the defense but the entire skill set is there and he is turning heads at camp.
Coming into camp, expectations were tempered for Foreman, especially with his interesting off-season. When he arrived to the Texans for rookie mini-camp, his conditioning was not up to par and he was dealing with a run in with the law. His career with the team was off to a questionable start. However, Foreman came into camp and went right to work for the offense. He still has to learn how to run with a lower pad level, which he certainly knows now after being introduced to some NFL type hits, but when he does get his pads low, he has been an effective runner. Foreman has nice vision with the ball in his hands and good patience inside the tackles but is still in the process of learning just how fast NFL defenders can be. He has better straight line speed than we anticipated and, despite needing to work on the finer points of the game, Foreman's first week at camp has shown him to be an impressive runner.
Although he likely wishes he could have back the final day of the practice week (it was not his best showing), Jaelen Strong has been solid throughout camp. He is the second best option at receiver behind DeAndre Hopkins and gives the Texans offense a big wide receiver who can body up defenders while being been a reliable target. The work that Strong and Tom Savage have put in together over the years really shows during team drills. Strong still has work to do but, overall, he has had a strong start to training camp.
Adopting a new healthy way of eating has cut some weight off of his frame, really helping Jeff Allen improve his movement going into year two with the Texans. He does not look like the same player from last season, starting with his footwork. He has looked more comfortable and is able to move his feet much more quickly in his role at right guard. It is showing particularly in the running game where Allen has helped pushed the pile and open up some nice rushing lanes. The work he put in this off-season to get his body under control is showing with his work on the field.
Everyone loves an underdog and that is what Riley McCarron is right now. It might be a little much to expect him on the 53-man roster in the end, but McCarron is putting in work to at least make the Texans find a way to keep him in the mix for the long haul. Wearing the number 83, he looks like a cookie cutter version of his coach Wes Welker on the field, also showing he understands coverages and can get in and out of breaks. McCarron can get across the field in a hurry and escape coverages. He is a slot receiver in the making and is a perfect fit for this offense.
He missed last season due to an ankle injury which ended his season during camp but Nick Martin has been a difference maker leading up to the 2017 season. Martin’s presence makes the offensive linemen around him better and he has been setting the tone for the entire group. He has an imposing, physical presence and has been impressive in run blocking. He has shown to be skilled at holding off bigger pass rushers from pushing the pocket, allowing Tom Savage to step up in the pocket with confidence. Martin has probably been one of the top five players in camp for the Texans.
Despite being undersized for an inside linebacker, Cole is just a football player who wants to beat you. He has plus speed and quickness for a linebacker and has shown that he can run with tight ends and running backs downfield. Cole is also showing that he can make a difference on special teams in blocking or covering punts and kicks, an added plus on his big picture evaluation. Putting the pads on has helped Cole even the playing field, putting him into the mix to possibly land a NFL job somewhere in 2017.