Statistically, 2022 may not have been the most successful year for the Houston Texans, but in terms of their team development, it was a relative success.
Despite not having a draft pick until the third round, of the five players drafted, all started at least two games each, and they all remain on the roster heading into year two - with most battling for first-team reps.
"I'd say all five of them have definitely improved relative to where they were - call it a year ago at this time," general manager Nick Caserio. "It speaks to their attitude. It speaks to their work ethic. It speaks to the work that they've put in in the offseason program with Mike Eubanks and the sports performance group and staff.
If all five prove to have taken a step forward this season, given what they were able to produce as rookies, this 2021 class could be set for a solid year.
Third-round quarterback Davis Mills, 23, was thrown in the deep end in Week 2 after starter Tyrod Taylor went down injured.
His inexperience was evident early on, and his mid-season return to the bench did him good, after which he finished the season with an impressive five-game stretch and won the starting job.
Fellow third-rounder, wide receiver Nico Collins started eight of 14 appearances, recording 33 receptions for 446 yards, 22 first downs, and a touchdown. This season he looks a safe bet to start opposite Brandin Cooks.
Fifth-round tight end Brevin Jordan started two of nine games during what was a relatively quiet season compared to his fellow rookies. However, he flashed as a red zone threat recording 10 first downs and three touchdowns on just 20 receptions.
All three of Houston's offensive sophomores have been subject to widely positive reviews this summer.
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"They've been available," Caserio said. "They've been on the field, they've reshaped their bodies, they've gotten stronger, they're more experienced, they have a routine that's been established and now they're able to go out there and just focus on playing football and improving as a player."
Defensively the story was much the same in 2021.
23-year-old linebacker Garret Wallow, a fifth-round pick, played every game as a core special teamer and also went on to make two starts and contribute defensively as the season wore on. Wallow racked up 23 tackles, two tackles for a loss, and one sack. His best game came against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 14 where he had a joint-team-leading 11 tackles.
Sixth-rounder Lopez was a real surprise. Starting as early as Week 2, the 24-year-old was one of Houston's more consistent defenders starting 15 of his 16 appearances and finishing with 31 tackles, five tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, and one sack.
Caserio isn't one to reveal much of anything publically. So when he does speak, you listen.
Houston's sophomores have impressed Caserio and if he feels that way, you can bet the coaching staff does too.
Mills, Collins, Lopez, and Co. could be on their way to a strong 2022 season.
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