Texans work to integrate new players picked up this weekend
HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans made a flurry of moves this weekend to give their team a new look. Now, as they prepare to open the season next Monday at New Orleans, the Texans must see how quickly they can integrate these new pieces.
Houston added six players in four trades this weekend, which included a deal that sent 2014 top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney to Seattle after the team couldn’t agree on a long-term deal with the defensive end.
The Texans got left tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills from Miami; added defensive end Barkevious Mingo and outside linebacker Jacob Martin in the Clowney trade;, got running back Carlos Hyde from Kansas City; and picked up cornerback Keion Crossen in a deal with New England.
Coach Bill O’Brien said they were just starting preparations for the Saints on Monday, and he expected most of the players they acquired this weekend to play in the opener. He knows there’s no way the new guys will be able to learn the entire playbook in a week, so they try to break the information up in manageable pieces to make things easier.
“What we try to do is teach them the basics,” he said. “Teach them what we call the basic information section of each playbook and also special teams, and then teach them the game plan. I think if you try to throw everything at them in one or two days and see what sticks, that’s not the right approach.”
The most important and needed of Houston’s new additions is Tunsil, acquired to improve a line which allowed an NFL-leading 62 sacks last season. O’Brien raved about his new left tackle and said he and his staff have followed Tunsil’s career since he was in college.
“I feel really good about being able to get a proven left tackle to protect Deshaun Watson,” O’Brien said. “They’re hard to draft. They’re hard to develop. Laremy Tunsil is an excellent player.”
Though Tunsil, the 13th overall pick in the 2016 draft, is known for his pass protection, O’Brien said that’s far from his only great quality.
“He can run block, he’s able to get his pads down,” O’Brien said. “He works well with the guys next to him whether it’s a tight end to his left or a guard to his right. He can pull out on screens. He’s a very smart player. He’s a very instinctive player.”
The Texans will also look for Stills to contribute immediately, with starter Keke Coutee not expected to be healthy in time for Week 1 after injuring his ankle in the first preseason game.
Although Tunsil was the headliner of the trade with Miami, Stills could prove an important addition; Houston has struggled to stay healthy at receiver behind star DeAndre Hopkins, who has missed just one game in six seasons.
Stills had 37 receptions for 553 yards and six touchdowns last season after finishing with 847 yards receiving and six scores in 2017. A fifth-round pick in 2013, Stills has 4,138 yards receiving and 32 touchdowns in his career.
“He can run all the routes on the outside,” O’Brien said. “He can play on the inside. He’s a versatile wide receiver who can do a lot of things. He’s got good hands. He’s a really good route runner, a really smooth route runner. So he has a combination of speed and route running ... that I really like having on the team.”
Along with discussing the skills Stills brings to the team, O’Brien was asked about the receiver’s activism. Stills is outspoken on social issues, and has been kneeling during the national anthem for the past four seasons to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
The Texans have not been very active in such protests, with players kneeling just once in a game two seasons ago following a comment about the demonstrations made by now-deceased team owner Bob McNair.
“My history here with the Houston Texans is I love the players, I have the players’ back and we communicate about those things,” O’Brien said. “I’m not going to really get into any discussions I would have with any player about those things, but I support the players in social justice initiatives.”
Another new face who could see significant time against the Saints is Hyde, who will back up Duke Johnson, who joined the team in a trade early last month. The Texans scrambled to beef up their running back depth after Lamar Miller, their starter for the last three seasons, sustained a season-ending knee injury in the second preseason game.
O’Brien said he likes Hyde’s size and added that he could also help out in the passing game.