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14 Training Camp Observations: Day 9

Posted Aug 4, 2014

Texans Analyst John Harris shared 14 observations from Monday morning's training camp practice.

The new head coach of the Texans is full of surprises lately. A two hour workout this morning? Shorts and jerseys only? What's next, plates of cupcakes for his players on the way back to the locker room? Oh, I kid, I kid.

I know there's a well thought out method to his message and to his way. That said, I'm impressed with the work this team gets from team drills without pads. As the workout was shorter than usual and I was on the radio for a good majority of the workout, I didn't get to my observations record but hopefully 14, including one from yesterday, will appease the masses.

 

1. Before I get into today's observations, I have to rewind to yesterday. After I submitted my Sunday TC observations, I packed up and headed into the cafeteria for a drink on the way home. There's no telling who you'll see in there at any time, which is always a bit fascinating. Typically, I stay out of the way, grab my water or Diet Coke and head back out. Staying quiet and doing my job, ya know?

Anyhow, there's a refrigerator with waters just inside the door and I usually grab one from there and then pop right back out. But on Sunday as I opened the door, I saw the quarterbacks and a couple of other players locked in on the television screen in front of them, each watching intently. Curious as to what interests NFL players on television, I eschewed my plan and headed for the Diet Coke refrigerator, just to see what they were watching. In stealth mode, I grabbed my Diet Coke and turned around to see them watching ESPN's Sport Science with John Brenkus. The subject? Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney.

I heard one of them say "is this it?". With that I looked back up and saw 'The Hit'. At the same time, I heard Brenkus talking about pounds of force and science mumbo jumbo that I disdained as a civil engineering major over two decades ago. But it was their rapt attention to watching their new teammate on television that stoked my curiosity. I can only imagine what would've happened had Clowney walked in. "Hey whatcha y'all doing?" "Ah, nothing, just watching you on television." Surprisingly, that's never happened to me and never will.

 

2. Monday's was the first workout without a full complement of fans in the stands. It seemed almost eerie to not see the mob scene at the barriers for autographs, handshakes and selfies.

 

3. As Marc Vandermeer and I started the show today, I noticed what looked like a kickoff return drill. But then I saw DeAndre Hopkins on the field. I thought about all the different reverses and trick plays he could run from that position on kickoff return. Then as the ball was kicked, I realized that it was just work for the onside kick hands team. My brain can get away from me; that's a fact.

 

4. A decent amount of Two Spot work today, giving all three quarterbacks a bunch of reps in team situations.

 

5. The first offense worked on goal line today again in a number of different forms. But early in practice, Brandon Harris broke up a fade route intended for Hopkins. I can imagine Ryan Fitzpatrick is learning Hop's "throwing radius" and definitely stretching the boundaries of what he can catch. It almost had no chance from the time it left Fitz's hand but it's Hop, so there's no such thing as "never had a chance".

 

6. I've noted the number of situations the team's worked through and today was no different. At one point, the first kickoff team was lined up against no scouts and only returner Joe Adams back in the end zone to receive. K Randy Bullock bombed one that nearly took out the tent in the end zone. O'Brien instructed Adams to just grab it and run. Once he got to the five yard line, O'Brien yelled "he fumbled it, offense recovers at the five yard line...sudden change".

 

7. After that "sudden change" situation, the first offense worked more on two minute end of game, down by two points, one time out situations. 

 

8. During that drill, I noticed Fitzpatrick change his arm slot two or three different times. I'm so intrigued by throwers that can do that like a Major League Baseball shortstop. Lions QB Matt Stafford is the king at doing that but Fitz seemingly has about three or four different release points, which just amazes me.

 

9. After kicking a FG, the offense went back on the field and worked on being backed up to their own end zone. The ball was placed on the two yard line and on the first snap, Hopkins jumped offsides. I couldn't see who it was immediately but I then saw No. 10 circling the field and I knew.

DJ Swearinger, playing official with none on the field today, walked up, grabbed the rock and moved it half the distance to the goalline. The only thing missing was the former South Carolina star turning his mic on and telling the entire crowd that the Clemson guy committed the penalty.

 

10. The defense was the clear winner of the "backed up" situation. DE Jared Crick knocked down a pass and DE JJ Watt altered a third down throw as well.

 

11. Then it was on to "Last play of the game", aka the Hail Mary. The ball was placed on the 50, the 35, 25, 10 and 5 for one final play. Once the offense got to the five, CB AJ Bouye knocked away a fade route intended for Hopkins, one of his many excellent plays in camp.

 

12. Tom Savage got some reps at the 25 but on his first rep, he didn't get the play off in the time allotted and O'Brien exclaimed "game over, next rep". Later on a goal line drill, Savage more than redeemed himself with a brilliant touch throw to Dennis Johnson down the sideline for a touchdown.

 

13. CB Marcus Williams has flashed at times during camp but he nearly made his best play of the two weeks when he darted in front of a receiver and nearly had a pick six. He couldn't hang on to the pass. I'm not going to fall into the "that's why he plays defensive back" trap because he does have excellent hands and ball skills. Not to mention, I was a defensive back so I stick up for them most of the time.

 

14. After practice, each player, each position group gets in a ton of extra work once O'Brien has excused them from practice. I can't tell you the number of different things I've seen players doing after practice, some with coaches nearby, some completely on their own. There are players all over the three practice fields; all the way down on field three Watt worked on his timing of batting balls down. On field two, Whitney Mercilus and a couple of other OLB worked on pass rush 1-on-1s with some offensive linemen. On field one, Shiloh Keo and Chris Clemons worked on shadowing receiver releases. They weren't the only ones. Heck, I was on field one trying to avoid getting hit by footballs thrown by Arian Foster and Dennis Johnson as I interviewed Brandon Harris, so I got some additional work in too.

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