Texans special-teams coordinator Frank Ross has an extensive scouting background from his time with the New England Patriots.
The first-year coach is applying those tools toward coaching what's shaping up as arguably the strongest unit on an overhauled roster.
The Texans signed strong-legged Australian punter Cameron Johnston, a former Philadelphia Eagles standout who has booming hangtime and distance, and brought back an accurate kicker in Ka'imi Fairbairn and former Pro Bowl long snapper Jon Weeks.
They upgraded their return game significantly with the addition of Pro Bowl return specialist Andre Roberts along with signing other players with good return skills in Desmond King and Tremon Smith. The Texans also signed former Cleveland Browns special-teams ace Tavierre Thomas along with linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill and Smith to go with running back Buddy Howell and safety A.J. Moore to cover kickoffs and punts.
The early returns through two preseason games are encouraging as Fairbairn, Johnston, Weeks, the returners and the kickoff and punt coverage have all been solid.
"Of course, at this point, you want to believe it's going to be a positive phase and outcome every week, but the bottom line is you're only as good as your last kick, you're only as good as your last coverage rep," Ross said following practice Wednesday. "That's what our mindset is. We do have some players who can really make some things happen. It's the next-play mindset we're we've got to make each rep count."
Ross was with the Colts for the past three seasons working with special-teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone. In 2019, the Colts led the NFL with a single-season franchise record 17.4 punt return average. With the Patriots, he worked as a pro scout and a scouting assistant. Ross previously worked with Texans general manager Nick Caserio and executive vice president of football operations Jack Easterby in New England and earned a Super Bowl ring.
At his alma mater John Carroll University, Ross coached the quarterbacks and was a special-teams coordinator and running backs coach. He set school receiving records for catches in a single game.
He was named MVP of the 2010 Aztec Bowl, catching seven passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns.
"'Everything we're doing is how good can our fundamentals be," Ross said. "At this point, you're starting to see the separation across the NFL. Whatever players are trying to make their team are doing exactly what they're being coached to do to the best of their abilities. Of course, yep, the translation happens when that player can perform those tasks on a repeat basis. The character and makeup of the special teams has to be high motor, intense and you have to have the old want-to."
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 years and has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128