HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The first day of Houston Texans training camp was fast and furious Wednesday.
DeMeco Ryans admitted he felt some nerves for his first camp practice as the team's new head coach. New franchise quarterback, CJ Stroud, also took the field for the first time since he signed his rookie contract.
In addition, right tackle Tytus Howard has a new contract of his own, but all of that was overshadowed by the return of John Metchie III.
The second-year receiver from Alabama has been cleared for camp after undergoing leukemia treatments.
Metchie had a big smile on his face when he took the field and shared hugs with his teammates.
"Having Metchie out - it was awesome to see," Ryans said. "You see a guy who's been through so much. It's a credit to him and the work that he's put in."
"He's a guy that I want on my team, because I know there's no quit in a guy like that," Texans safety Jalen Pitre added. "He's going to continue to show up and fight."
The Texans also sent a message with a new contract for their right tackle.
General manager Nick Caserio confirmed that a deal is in place to keep Howard in Houston long-term.
ESPN reported Howard's extension is worth $56 million over three seasons. Howard and left tackle Laremy Tunsil offer Stroud an elite level of protection.
"Tytus has been a good player," Caserio said. "He's a good kid. He works his a-- off. He's tough. He's competitive."
ABC13 Sports also noticed Stroud making every throw in the playbook. His arm strength stands out. We saw it up close on a deep strike to Nico Collins.
Collins told us Stroud has every chance to be "special" for the Texans.
Lastly, Ryans' energy and leadership could be felt on the field. He laughed and smiled with his players, but when it was time to work, everyone knows it's all business. Wednesday was a good start for the coach and his team with a long road ahead.
Eight practices will be open to fans starting Friday at the Texans' Houston Methodist Training Center, but most of the free tickets are gone.
At last check, tickets were still available for the Aug. 8 practice.
Two of the open practices in mid-August will be with the Miami Dolphins.
Here are the practices open and free to fans. All sessions begin at 9 a.m. unless noted otherwise:
- Friday, July 28
- Sunday, July 30
- Friday, Aug. 4
- Saturday, Aug. 5: 6 p.m. start
- Sunday, Aug. 13
- Wednesday, Aug. 16: Joint practice with Miami Dolphins
- Thursday, Aug. 17: Joint practice with Miami Dolphins
Texans' training camp can be a great opportunity to not only see the players up close and personal, but also to get autographs.
This year, that tradition will continue, with open practices also set to include fan giveaways, live music and food trucks.
But what fans really want to see is the Texans getting wins. The Texans are 11-38-1 since 2019, the worst in the NFL over three seasons.
Can new head coach and former Texan Demeco Ryans turn the team around, especially its defense?
Last season, the Texans ranked 30th in total defense (379.5 yards per game), 27th in scoring defense (24.7 points) and allowed the sixth-most rushing yards in NFL history (2,894) under former coach Lovie Smith. Ryans comes to Houston from the San Francisco 49ers, where as coordinator his defensive unit ranked first in scoring defense (16.8) and tied for the second-most takeaways (30).
It's unfair to expect him to get the Texans to the 49ers' level in Year 1, but he'll need to use his defensive prowess to transform the Texans' unit in hopes of winning games for a franchise that only has 11 wins in the past three seasons.
What will make training camp a success?
We'll be watching out for rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, who's had a banner summer, from attending that star-studded white party in the Hamptons on the Fourth of July to playing football on the beach with comedian Kevin Hart, except now it's time to get some reps in with Texans receivers.
But back to the question.
It will be a success if Stroud looks ready.
Last training camp, the Texans hoped Davis Mills could develop into a franchise quarterback after finishing with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his rookie season. But Mills finished tied with a league-high 15 interceptions as the Texans finished 3-13-1. His struggles led to Houston drafting Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick in April.
The Texans rotated Mills and Stroud throughout spring practices with the first-team offense, but it will likely be Stroud in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens. If Stroud has command of the offense and displays his strongest trait from college (accuracy) in preseason games and joint practices, then the Texans will be comfortable with Stroud's development.
What is the most impactful offseason addition?
Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins.
The Texans beefed up the defensive line with Rankins from the New York Jets to help a struggling defense. The Texans run the same scheme as the Jets, who are coach Robert Saleh -- the defensive coordinator for the 49ers before Ryans. When Rankins played last season, the unit allowed 3.82 yards per rush compared to 4.13 without him.
The Texans are hopeful Rankins can impact the defensive line's interior play, making life easier for No. 3 overall pick Will Anderson Jr. as he transitions to the NFL from Alabama. A unit led by Maliek Collins, Rankins, Anderson and Jerry Hughes, who had nine sacks last season, could reverse the fortunes of last season against the run.
Who has the most fantasy potential?
The easy answer: Running back Dameon Pierce.
In 13 games, Pierce finished with 1,104 yards (37th overall in the NFL) and was seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (939) before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 14 against the Dallas Cowboys. Pierce thrived amid a struggling offense that averaged 17 points per game, tied for 30th, and still produced.
First-year offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik's scheme -- which has a history of elevating running back production -- should increase Pierce's output on the ground. Also, throughout the spring, the Texans utilized him more in the passing game.
ESPN's DJ Bien-Aime contributed to this report.