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17 Training Camp Observations: Day 8

Posted Aug 3, 2014

Texans Analyst John Harris shared his observations from Day 8 of training camp.

Walking from NRG to the practice fields, I immediately knew Sunday's workout would be a tad bit different. After months of seeing offense in blue jerseys and defense in white, I saw one of the Texans tight ends in white just ahead of me.

There was a definite method to the madness as head coach Bill O'Brien used Sunday's workout to get a ton of team and situational work done. The workout was a little shorter and the team was not in pads, so the observations are a little all over the place. Still rocking 17 though, just for you.

 

1. I often keep my thoughts to things I've observed out on the field that day, but one I omitted from Saturday's practice was the addition of former Oklahoma G Bronson Irwin. The Sooner started 26 games over the past two years and was recently released by the Seahawks. Trust me when I say that he's been thrown right into the mix...quickly.

 

2. An offensive lineman update: OT Will Yeatman is recovering from a concussion suffered on Friday. Bryan Witzmann cleared waivers after an upper body injury and was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) for the season. 

 

3. Another practice, another long period of situational work for all three groups - offense, defense and special teams. I know O'Brien has the situations he wants his team to work on but I wait with baited breath to hear the next one. I want O'B to take the situations to the next level with "ALRIGHT, FANMAN FLEW INTO THE STADIUM AND LANDED ON FOSTER WHO CAN'T MOVE AND WE HAVE NO TIME OUTS AND WE'RE DOWN BY 5 WITH 20 SECONDS LEFT...PLAY IT OUT". Hey, it's happened before...in a boxing match.

 

4. One of the first offense's initial situations was two minute, one time-out, ball at the minus 20...get in FG range for a game winner. Old school end of game situation but one thing that stood out was how fast the offense executed. It ran one play, lined up, got the play call and ran the next one. I counted anywhere from eight to 10 seconds in between plays when the ball stayed in bounds. That's blazingly fast. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick appeared most comfortable playing fast but don't get it twisted, he was in 100% command of the offense.

 

5. When the second offense replicated that situation, QB Case Keenum threw a dart to TE Ryan Griffin down the seam for a big play. Unfortunately for Keenum and the offense, the drive essentially came up dry on fourth down as CB Brandon Harris broke up the last pass.

 

6. The second offensive line had trouble picking up the varied pressures the first defense threw at them. Then again, Brice Schwab and Irwin, the right side of that OL, have been here for three days. Combined. So, it's to be expected.

 

7. ILB Mike Mohamed will never impress in individual drills or 1-on-1 situations, but in the big picture, he just gets it. He's as smart a football player as there is. He stepped into the passing lane to break up a throw during one of the team periods. Marc Vandermeer caught up with him after practice, so check that interview out on Texans Training Camp Live on our flagship Sports Radio 610 tomorrow morning from 8 am to 10 am.

 

8. Playing fast is one thing, but playing fast AND in total control is another. Anything slow is not going to cut it on this roster. The main distinction Fitzpatrick and Keenum, in particular, is that Fitz is doing everything fast and is still in total control. Fitz can see the change that needs to made, voices the changes to the offense and executes. That process is tripping Keenum up at this point. On a 3rd down and ten, he didn't change the play fast enough. O'Brien whistled a delay game penalty and ended the drive on the spot.

 

9. To that point, that play truly made clear what O'Brien expects and wants from that position. See it, change it, call it and go. When he and GM Rick Smith said they wanted smart football players, they weren't blowing smoke. But beyond that, they want players to digest quickly and react accordingly. Take the quarterback position and multiply that by ten.

 

10. Sometimes the intelligence is found in little things. I saw ILB Max Bullough counting to make sure he had eleven players for a field goal attempt. Now, Bullough comes from a football family, with a couple of coaches in that mix, but to know to do something that seemingly easy, yet vital, was impressive. Before you think that's not a huge deal, think back to how many times you've seen a FG defense have 12 or 10 players on the field and it costs a team points. Way too numerous to mention.

 

11. The first offense came back on the field and started a drive heading toward us in the south end zone. Fitzpatrick threw a pass with bad media intentions; that one was taking one of us out. Well, until DeAndre Hopkins skied to high point the rock AND get both feet in bounds for the TD. Each member of the offense sprinted down to the end zone to celebrate with him. I didn't even have to send that one up to the booth, I saw those two feet go "tap, tap" six feet away from me. Hop's been outstanding the past two days with Andre Johnson recovering from injury.

 

12. The refs weren't on site today but had they been, Harris would've been flagged a few times for holding as he was on Saturday. After a meeting with NFL referee Tony Corrente and other NFL officials on Friday, it's evident that there's no bigger point of emphasis than DBs getting "handsy". Expect a lot of holding or illegal use of hands flags until DBs make the adjustment.

 

13. S Jawanza Starling stood out during a "plus territory" team drill. He read a bootleg perfectly, taking away the TE from the other side of the field on first down. He broke up a pass on third down to force a FG attempt.

 

14. QB Tom Savage threw what I thought was his best ball of training camp on his drive, the pseudo start of the 2nd half. He drove a curl route to EZ Nwachukwu for a first down to keep his group on the field. A few plays later, RB Dennis Johnson capped the drive, going untouched for a touchdown. A number of good things happened on Savage's drive.

 

15. The first offense's next drive lasted one play as DeVier Posey got wide open downfield for a catch from Fitzpatrick. I like what Posey has done during camp and can't wait to see what he does this pre-season in preparation for Washington on September 7.

 

16. RB Jonathan Grimes may have missed the first few days of camp with a hamstring issue, but he's looked good since returning. He doesn't appear to have any lingering issues and looks sharp in all facets of the offense. O'Brien pointed out that he believed Grimes was a three down back when asked about that on Saturday.

 

17. There were a number of big names sitting out on Sunday and one of those was LB Brian Cushing. But what I loved seeing was Cushing with his ankles taped up and shoes spatted up as if he were ready to play tomorrow. Maybe it was just a fashion statement and if so, count me in. I've got no problem showing up at practice spatted up ready to go. There's no telling when it'll come in handy talking on the radio, ya know.

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