Training Camp Preview: AFC South
Friday, July 20, 2007
With NFL training camps rapidly approaching, USA TODAY offers a look at the priorities of each team as the pads come back on for two-a-days. Click on each team's name for an expanded team report:
1. Settle the starting left tackle
The Texans enter camp hopeful that Charles Spencer will be able to return from a serious knee injury he suffered in Week 2 of last season. His rehab has been exceptional, but there is concern regarding the cartilage around the injury. Doctors are unsure if it remains intact after the injury, and they will find out when they see how the knee reacts to practicing.
If Spencer is unable to return to his starting form by the time the season opens, the Texans will have to decide if Ephraim Salaam still has the capabilities of playing every down. Last season, Salaam played through a slew of injuries and will do the same this year if given the opportunity. Jordan Black was a free agent the Texans picked up as insurance in case Spencer and Salaam are both unable to go.
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Second-year tackle Eric Winston, currently slated to start on the right side, will be given reps on the left to see if he is capable of moving back to his more natural position he played in college.
2. Improve defensive line
The Texans are doing all they can to ensure that the defensive line is the strength of the team this season. In addition to drafting Amobi Okoye with their top pick — making him their fourth-consecutive defensive lineman selected in the first-round of the draft — the Texans have changed the coaching staff. Jethro Franklin and Frank Bush are now in charge of developing a young group of linemen that struggled last season.
They are especially focusing on Williams, who is completely healed from the plantar fasciitis. He also seems to be entering with a better state of mind. The chip on his shoulder seems to be much smaller and he's more relaxed than he was at any point last season.
The coaches spent much of the offseason so far working on fundamentals — a seemingly simple idea that some linemen complained they never worked on last year. That will continue to be a big focus in training camp.
3. Establish the run game
The Texans must tweak the offense to play to the strengths of quarterback Matt Schaub. They also cannot abandon the run game like they were forced to do at times last season.
One of their biggest offseason free-agent signings was that of running back Ahman Green. The Texans will work him just once a day during two-a-days to keep him healthy. Ron Dayne will probably be on the same schedule. They must keep those two in shape and healthy in order for the offense to find success this season.
Schaub isn't as mobile of a quarterback as David Carr was, and so there will be less rolling out to the left and right. Unlike Carr, however, Schaub won't carry the burden of the entire offense on his shoulders. The Texans will work on trying to establish a strong and effective running game. Schaub will then be asked to play off the run game — taking what the defense gives them.
The Texans haven't had a solid running game in the past, and now must try to change that if they are going to become a competitive franchise week-in and week-out.
• Camp calendar: Date camp opens: July 27. Closes: Aug. 19. No scrimmages
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