AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans
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The Houston Texans were the surprise team of the 2023 NFL season. First-year head coach DeMeco Ryans took this squad from worst to first in the AFC South and even defeated the 11-6 Cleveland Browns in the wild-card round for the franchise's fifth-ever postseason win.

One of the main reasons why the Texans were so successful last year was because of their draft. With their first two selections, Houston took eventual Offensive Rookie of the Year in quarterback C.J. Stroud and the eventual Defensive Rookie of the Year in defensive end Will Anderson Jr. They both made immediate impacts, and now expectations in H-Town have skyrocketed. 

This week, Anderson spoke with CBS Sports about Houston's preparations for the 2024 season. Understand that the "Texans hype" didn't die with their divisional-round loss to the Baltimore Ravens. General manager Nick Caserio kept it rolling afterwards with arguably the best offseason in the NFL

Houston traded for wide receiver Stefon Diggs and running back Joe Mixon, then added several defensive starters in free agency such as pass rusher Danielle Hunter, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and versatile defensive lineman Denico Autry. Despite all of the new faces, Anderson said these players have fit right in during OTAs and minicamp. 

"Man the vibes were high," said Anderson. "All those guys got to come out there and be a part of what we have going on. Honestly, it's so crazy, because sometimes when you get new guys the locker room is kinda like, 'Eh, we don't know.' It just takes awhile. But when I tell you when they got in the locker room, it just felt like everybody had been on the team for about 10 years. The buzz in the locker room, the jokes in the locker room, everything like that. It was really beautiful to see. 

"Then the chemistry on the field -- C.J. to Diggs, me and Danielle, the linebackers -- Azeez, having him he's been a great addition, he's been leading the defense. So it's been fun."

Anderson wanted to shout-out all of his new teammates, but there is a Texans rookie who has been making some waves in Georgia cornerback Kamari Lassiter. Anderson believes he is going to help improve a pass defense that finished in the bottom 10 last year. 

"He has some juice to him, very electric," said Anderson. "He knows how to play ball, he knows the mentality that he has to have to play on this team. He has the right type of character, the right type of DNA and I think he will make a lot of great plays for us this year."

NFL Honors
LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 8: Will Anderson Jr of the Houston Texans poses for a portrait after winning Defensive Rookie of the year at the 13th Annual NFL Honors on February 8, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Todd Rosenberg / Getty Images

Anderson was awarded Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording 45 tackles, seven sacks and 22 QB hits in 15 games played. He recorded the third-most pressures by a rookie over the last five seasons with 59. Only Micah Parsons and Nick Bosa had more in their first NFL seasons. 

When asked what the secret was to making that kind of immediate impact in the NFL, Anderson responded by saying that his achievement was not only about his play on the field, but a reflection of how effective those behind the scenes with the Texans were, such as assistant coaches and those in the player personnel department. 

"I think the secret is just to improve each week and get better each week," said Anderson. "I think that's something that I really wanted to focus on was each week, what was my growth, what was I getting better at? How was I attacking my game plan, what was I studying?"

Anderson appears to have a bright future in football, but he's not yet the player he will become. When asked what he's focused on improving in Year 2, he brought up mastering the intricate art of the pass rush.

"I just want to be able to get more comfortable in making my moves and also just getting more extension at the top of my rush and really just finishing on the quarterback with precision, and making sure that I'm going for the ball," said Anderson. "Really just being confident in my moves and perfecting them, so this whole offseason, that's what I've been working on and building my confidence in."

The Texans have a unique coach in Ryans. At 39 years old, he's one of the youngest head coaches in the NFL, yet he was able to take a 3-13-1 team to 10-7 and win a playoff game in his first season. Ryans also brings an advantageous perspective to the sideline having been a former Pro Bowl linebacker for the Texans. When asked how Ryans has changed over the last year -- going from a first-year head coach to a lead man expected to guide a contender to glory -- Anderson said he hasn't changed at all. Ryans keeps the team "uncomfortable." There's still much to prove, and you don't know what tomorrow will bring. It's about attacking each day and each opportunity. 

"Honestly, he's been the exact same because his expectations are higher than anybody else's expectations can be for the team," said Anderson. "He's always on edge, and that's how he keeps us -- always on edge. He's always telling us this game could disappear at any moment, so take advantage of it. And he brought up a great point, he was like, 'This is this year's team for this year. We only have one year together, you never know what might happen,' so we put all the chips on the table, and that's how he does every year."

So, now that the Texans are expected to be a contender in the AFC, how does Anderson handle the hype? Yes, he hears the noise. But he's more focused on the process.  

"Of course you're going to see stuff like that, but I think it's very important that we keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing right now is just us being able to control what we can control," said Anderson. "And that's everybody showing up for workouts, everybody making sure that they're honing in on their playbook and everybody coming to practice, competing and having fun, so when the season comes, we can go out and compete and win games, and we can focus on getting to the ultimate goal, which is the Super Bowl. But for right now this offseason, we just want to keep building that team chemistry and making sure that nobody's expectations are higher than the expectations that we have for ourselves."

Anderson spoke to CBS Sports in promoting "USAA's Huddle Up for Hurricane Prep"

"I teamed up with USAA, Official Salute to Service Partner, and Harris County Office of Emergency Management to help raise awareness on hurricane preparation. June marks the beginning of hurricane season, and Texas ranks top 10 in most hurricane-prone states. So we just want to raise awareness in the community on how to prepare and plan and recover from hurricanes."