Could It Be a Breakout Season for Texans Nose Tackle D.J. Reader?

As a rookie, Texans nose tackle D.J. Reader built a reputation for versatility, toughness and a willingness to accept coaching, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports.

Besides being mentored by five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork, Reader soaked up knowledge from defensive line coach Anthony Weaver and defensive ends J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Reader flashed enough ability to shed blocks as a run-stopper and pass rusher that the Texans have no concerns about his ability to replace Wilfork in the middle of the NFL’s top-ranked defense.

Reader started seven games as a rookie and finished with 22 tackles and one sack. How Reader continues to develop is a critical element for a front seven headlined by Watt, Clowney and linebackers Benardrick McKinney and Whitney Mercilus.

“We have very high expectations of D.J.,” said Weaver, a former defensive end for the Texans and Baltimore Ravens. ” I think you saw just a glimpse of what he’s capable of a year ago. He’s another guy that since he’s been back, you can tell he’s, and I think I speak for the whole defense, they all have a little bit of a chip (on their shoulders).

“Were we happy with what we did a year ago? Sure. But we all know what the ultimate goal is and I think everybody that walks into this building day-in and day-out, they come with the mindset of like, ‘How are we going to get over this hurdle? How are we going to get to where we want to be?’ And D.J., I think, he epitomizes that every time he walks in this building.”

Texans Coach Bill O’Brien Impressed Thus Far with Rookie QB Deshaun Watson

During a lengthy interview this week on the state of the Texans after their offseason program, coach Bill O’Brien talked about how impressed he’s been with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Houston Chronicle reports.

O’Brien praised the Clemson coaches for Watson’s development in college, providing him with a solid foundation for the NFL.

“He had to learn a pretty sophisticated offense at Clemson,” O’Brien said. “He had to do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. I think he was trained really well. That’s a credit to the Clemson staff.

“He’d already been in some big games when he got here. When he came here, he put his head down and came to work every day.”

Not only has O’Brien been impressed with Watson’s talent and ability to excel in big games like the national championship victory over Alabama, but he loves the quarterback’s demeanor, including his confidence.

“He’s a very poised guy,” O’Brien said. “I like the way he carries himself. I like the way he operates. He’s a rookie, and he’s not nearly where he needs to be to be a full-time starter in this league, but you can tell he’s got a lot of qualities you like.

“For being a rookie, he’s wise beyond his years. He asks great questions in the morning meeting, and you can tell he’s studied the night before. Every practice isn’t perfect. He knows he needs to get a lot better. And he did get better every day during the spring. It’s no pads, of course. It’s not real football, but he did improve in his knowledge of the offense.”

“We put a lot on his plate during the spring, and he handled it very well,” O’Brien said. “He made mistakes, and he corrected them. You don’t see him make the same mistake twice.

“He can do a lot of things. He can operate our running game and in our passing game. He’s got a lot of athleticism. I don’t think we’ll have to limit him. Training camp and preseason games will be a big test.”

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins Still Looking to Get a Long Term Deal Done

Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is expected to eventually cash in with a blockbuster contract this offseason. What remains to be determined is the approximate timing for a deal to culminate and how rich a payday it will be, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports.

No deal is imminent, but Texans general manager Rick Smith has reiterated several times that securing Hopkins on a long-term deal is a major priority for the AFC South franchise. Hopkins is entering a fifth-year option season and is due $7.915 million this season.

“Those talks are between the Texans and my agent, but this city has embraced me just like my hometown in South Carolina has,” said Hopkins, who’s represented by Creative Artists Agency. “I love being here. I love playing for this team, great organization. Bob McNair and Cal McNair, they do a great job at having an organization that speaks for itself. I thank those guys all the time for picking me 27th when nobody knew who DeAndre Hopkins was.”

The most significant wide receiver deal of this offseason was signed by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Brown received a four-year, $68 million deal that included a $19 million signing bonus for an average annual salary of $17 million.

The financial stratosphere for a wide receiver like Hopkins is a rich neighborhood, including upper echelon deals for the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones (five years, $71.256 million, $12 million signing bonus, $47 million guaranteed), the Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant (five years, $70 million, $20 million signing bonus, $45 million guaranteed) and the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas (five years, $70 million, $11 million signing bonus, $43.5 million guaranteed).

Hopkins has 317 catches, 4,487 yards and 23 touchdowns for his career, the most by any Texans player in franchise history through their first four seasons.

He has the sixth-most catches and fifth-most receiving yards by a player at age 25 in NFL history.

Hopkins emphasized that he’s not concerned with his numbers other than how many games the team wins.

Texans Ink Veteran OL Breno Giacomini

The Texans added some reinforcements for their offensive line Tuesday, signing veteran offensive tackle Breno Giacomini, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports.

Giacomini, 31, is a former New York Jets starter who played for Texans offensive line coach Mike Devlin in New York.

Giacomini could wind up competing for the starting job at right tackle, with former starter Derek Newton out for the entire season after tearing both patellar tendons last season. Chris Clark struggled in a starting role last season when Newton got hurt.

A former Green Bay Packers fifth-round draft pick from Louisville, Giacomini was cut by the Jets in February.

He started every game in 2014 and 2015, but a back injury last season forced him to be placed on the physically unable to perform list. He was placed on the active roster in October, but hurt his back again in December and was placed on injured reserve after starting five games.

Sounds Like the Texans are Very Open to Deshaun Watson Being the Starting QB in 2017

Texans see Tom Savage as their starting quarterback, but general manager Rick Smith said rookie Deshaun Watson will get a chance to compete for the job as well, Sarah Barshop of reports.

“We want to provide a competitive environment across the board. So [Watson will] compete,” Smith said Thursday on the Stephen A. Smith Show on ESPN Radio. “[But] like I said, we feel good about Tom and his abilities to manage the offense. But yeah, [Watson] will come in, and just like every other guy on the roster, he’ll have time to play.”

The Texans traded up to the No. 12 pick on Day 1 of last week’s draft, giving up two first-round picks to the Cleveland Browns to ensure they could select Watson.

Throughout the offseason, Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien have stressed how difficult it is for a rookie quarterback to play right away in the NFL because there is so much to learn. Because of this, the Texans hope to give Watson time to develop before he becomes a starter.

“Our mentality is that we try to create the most competitive environment possible, at every position,” Smith said. “So there are some things that Deshaun has to come in and learn — all these rookies. They’ve got to come in, and there’s so much that they don’t know about pro football.

“So he is in the class with the rest of those men when they report next week. There’s a lot for him to learn that way.”

A Rundown of All the Houston Texans 2017 NFL Draft Picks

Sports Illustrated has a complete rundown of all of the Texans 2017 Draft Picks and some commentary as well.

Round 1, Pick 12 (No. 12 overall, via trade with Cleveland Browns):

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Three quarterbacks in the top 12, three pricey trades up for the teams that took them. For the Texans to get from No. 25 to here, the cost was that 25th pick plus a 2018 first-rounder. Remember, the Browns already own Houston’s 2018 second-rounder, as part of the Brock Osweiler salary dump. But the Texans could not carry a playoff-ready roster into next season with Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden manning the QB depth chart. Watson threw too many interceptions in college and he’ll need time to transition into Bill O’Brien’s offense, but he is the most talented quarterback there by a wide margin. This has to work, because the Texans mortgaged their ‘18 draft to solve a mess of their own creation.? GRADE: A-

Round 2, Pick 25 (No. 57)

Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt: Finally. Cunningham should not have made it this far, plain and simple. The knock on him has been his ability to wrap, which will have to be more consistent at the next level for him to remain a 100-tackle defender. The Texans already have Brian Cushing and Bernardick McKinney inside, where Cunningham will have to play in their 3-4. Does this pick signal an impending end of the line for Cushing’s Texans career?? Grade: A

Round 3, Pick 25 (No. 89)

D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas: Bill O’Brien has said he wants to lighten Lamar Miller’s workload some this season, and Foreman absolutely will help do that. He’s a big back who runs like a small back—the cutting ability and speed could help him churn out yards in that Houston scheme.? Grade: B+

Round 4, Pick 24 (No. 130) Julién Davenport, OT, Bucknell

Round 4, Pick 36 (No. 142) Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

Round 5, Pick 25 (No. 169) Treston Decoud, S, Oregon State

Round 7, Pick 25 (No. 243) Kyle Fuller, C, Baylor

Texans Move Up to 12; Grab QB DeShaun Watson as Signal Caller of the Future

After trying to find him in free agency last season and it being a bust, the Texans are hoping their gutsy move on Thursday of moving up to grab QB DeShaun Watson will pay off.

After watching teams trade up to take quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson finally heard his name called.

The former Clemson quarterback was selected 12th overall, but not by the Browns. The Texans moved up from 25th overall to take the two-time Heisman finalist.

The Browns received Houston’s pick at 25 and also will get the Texans’ first-round pick next year. The Browns already owned the Texans’ second-round pick next year because of the trade for Brock Osweiler.

The 6-2, 221-pound Watson is the most experienced quarterback in the draft class and has the most impressive resume. Watson is a proven winner who led Clemson to a national championship last season and took the Tigers to the national title game the year before. The two-time All-American started five games as a freshman before taking over full time in 2015.

Watson threw for 4,104 yards with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as a sophomore and then tossed for 4,593 yards with 41 scores and 17 picks last year. Though he completed over 67 percent of his passes all three seasons, some view Watson as an inconsistent passer.

A Look at the 2017 Texans Schedule with a Glance at the Good and the Bad

The 2017 NFL Schedule is out as well as the 2017 Houston Texans Schedule, and here’s a look at the slate for the upcoming season, with the home games in bold:

Sep. 10 Jacksonville Jaguars 12:00 PM

Sep. 14 at Cincinnati Bengals (Thu) 7:25 PM

Sep. 24 at New England Patriots 12:00 PM

Oct. 1 Tennessee Titans 12:00 PM

Oct. 8 Kansas City Chiefs * 7:30 PM

Oct. 15 Cleveland Browns 12:00 PM

Oct. 22 BYE

Oct. 29 at Seattle Seahawks 3:05 PM

Nov. 5 Indianapolis Colts 12:00 PM

Nov. 12 at Los Angeles Rams 3:05 PM

Nov. 19 Arizona Cardinals 12:00 PM

Nov. 27 at Baltimore Ravens (Mon) 7:30 PM

Dec. 3 at Tennessee Titans 12:00 PM

Dec. 10 San Francisco 49ers 12:00 PM

Dec. 17 at Jacksonville Jaguars 12:00 PM

Dec. 25 Pittsburgh Steelers (Mon) 3:30 PM

Dec. 31 at Indianapolis Colts 12:00 PM

What’s Good about this Schedule: There’s a great shot for the Texans to take early control of the AFC South, as they will play three straight home games to start October against the Titans, Chiefs and Browns. One would think if they are going to be a contender in the AFC they would have to sweep those three games.

What’s Bad about this Schedule: Two of the last three are on the road and both against divisional teams in the Jags and Colts, with a tough home game on Christmas day against the Steelers mixed in between. Those two divisional games could decide if this team is back in the playoffs or not.