Mandatory minicamp begins Tuesday for the Houston Texans after three weeks of hot, fast-paced, information-packed organized team activities. So far, everything has been voluntary.
Texans players learned a lot about their changing systems and coaches learned a lot about their new players. Watching, the rest of us also learned a few things. Here's a rundown:
1. Head coach Bill O'Brien brought in a staff that is comprised of a group of bright, energetic coaches, many of whom are embarking on a different kind of challenge than they've had before. Guys such as defensive backs coach John Butler, linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, running backs coach Charles London, tight ends coach John Perry and strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald have either never coached in the NFL before or never been position coaches in the NFL before. Quarterbacks coach George Godsey, the team's de facto offensive coordinator, was an offensive quality control coach and then tight ends coach in New England, but before that coached three seasons at UCF. They bring fresh perspectives, along with O'Brien, to a level of football that can get stodgy and set in its ways. Adaptability and a willingness to try new things can be hugely beneficial in the NFL, but aren't always practiced around the league.
2. Rookies have been told to keep their mouths shut and fall in line. There were signs that this was coming. During the Texans' voluntary minicamp, which fell right before the draft, O'Brien said rookies' jobs were to be quiet and follow the veterans. During the draft, he said rookies don't know anything. He said it all with a smile, but with each passing rookie we to talk, or try to talk to, it's clear that message has been driven home. Many give some variation of "I'm trying to put the team first and get better every day" as an answer to nearly every question. The message is that regardless of what they did in college, they're starting over now. It's not a message rookies often got in the past.
3. Jadeveon Clowney will be a stud. I'm not concerned about the sports hernia surgery. His summer will be about rehab now, and the Texans are expecting him ready by the start of training camp. But even if it takes a few days longer than that, he'll be fine. Clowney has impressed his team with his attitude, work ethic and ability. He doesn't know everything about the Texans' defense or about playing outside linebacker, yet. But the coaching staff is loading him with tons of information and he's doing everything he can to retain it.
4. Derek Newton is the Texans' starting right tackle. O'Brien hasn't announced starters at many positions. Some are obvious and so they are not talked about. Some are considered open competitions (ahem, quarterback). When asked how he views the situation at right tackle, O'Brien said clearly Newton is the starter. The much maligned seventh-round pick from 2011 is getting a fresh start with this staff and in this system. He wants to put 2013 behind him and they're happy to help him do that.
5. Andre Johnson is a man of his word. Johnson didn't go to the Texans' voluntary minicamp in May and then made his intention clear he wasn't going to attend organized team activities or the team's mandatory minicamp. O'Brien said last week he didn't know whether Johnson would be in attendance this week. I wouldn't bet on it.