Yes, 2020 was a season to forget for almost everyone involved with the Houston Texans, including many of the players. Thankfully, with a new season and new front office comes a chance to start anew, and second-year defensive tackle Ross Blacklock is excited to get going.
"Man, I’m just excited," said Blacklock, according to Aaron Wilson. "It’s almost like starting all over again for another rookie year. I’m excited for what’s to come: new defense, new coaches, new players. Everybody seems really hungry. It’s a competitive roster, which is going to make it better for everybody. I think it’s going to be a good change for us and I’m just excited to see what’s going to happen this year."
The second-rounder out of TCU had a rookie campaign to forget while existing at the heart of one of the worst defensive lines in the league last season. While he played in 15 games, he started just one, recording a lowly 14 combined tackles and two quarterback hits serving mostly as a backup.
"I had my tough moments and frustrations and my good moments," said Blacklock. "It’s just all about learning. I know I’m not going to have all the answers my first year. I think when it all develops, I’ll be a pretty good player. One thing I learned is you’ve got to keep working."
"When you’re around the best of the best, there’s always room for improvement. I’ve always prided myself on trying to be the best I can be and just never get down on myself. I know that it’s always an improvement year and an improvement league. As long as you’re seeing improvement, don’t beat yourself up."
A rookie season is often tough, adjusting to a whole new level of football as well as life outside of school, so it's good to see how much Blacklock learned from a difficult season.
One of the big changes heading Blacklock's way is an alteration. of defensive scheme. With coordinator Lovie Smith taking over in Houston, he brings with him his well-known 4-3/Tampa 2, and Blacklock believes this should suit him well.
"My senior year (at TCU), we got the opportunity to attack more than read," said Blacklock. "I know in this defense that we get to attack more and that’s kind of like my strong suit. Changing from reading to going to attacking, I think that will be a good thing for me."
However, Blacklock will have plenty of competition for that starting role with general manager Nick Caserio having loaded up at all positions to create as much competition as possible. That being said, a desire for versatility should play Blacklock's hands when it comes to getting those snaps.
"I’m versatile, I can play wherever they need me," said Blacklock. "I’m just excited for the opportunity. I know there are a lot of guys we’ve got in the rotation. I want to be one of those guys. I’m just excited to see where everybody ends up and how this team does. I’m definitely ready to compete."
Along with Caserio and Smith, another new addition is that of head coach David Culley. A well-respected veteran of the league, Culley brings with him a very different style of coaching than his predecessor Bill O'Brien, whose notoriously hard-nosed style couldn't be much further removed from Culley's seemingly calm demeanor.
"I’ve talked to coach David a couple of times, good dude, very humble, very kind, very caring about his job," said Blacklock. "It sounds like he loves what he does. It’s exciting to bring that energy into the building. I feel like that’s what we needed."
Once training camp kicks off, Blacklock not only is getting used to a new scheme and coaching staff, but an adjusted playing weight having dropped 10 pounds since last season.
"I definitely haven’t had this body type in a while," said Blacklock who said he feels "great" having gone from approximately 305 to 295 pounds after an offseason spent training at NRG Stadium according to Wilson.
Yes, 2021 is set to be a year of change for the Texans, and certainly another big year for Blacklock, of whom a lot is expected.
Fingers crossed the former Horned Frog can use his experiences and knowledge from the past year to find his place this season as an anchor for Smith's new-look defense.
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