The second day in pads was a bit all over the place and it wasn't always pretty. But, that's to be expected for certain. The coaching staff introduced new situations to the team during the workout today and with that, there were some noticeable highs and some frustrating lows.
Hiccups are a part of this, and any, business for that matter, but what has not waned is the effort and the competitive level of this organization. Although I didn't get to see every part of practice (half line run drill and I missed it?!? Dang it!), I was still able to make a few observations. How many today? XX...in Super Bowl speak that means 20. That's a lot to get through so let's go!
1. Early in practice during the team's walkthrough session, the defense "shifted" out of its initial alignment a bit early and QB Case Keenum caught it and changed to a better play. Even though it was just a walkthrough, that type of cerebral "catch" is paramount for any player on this team, much less the QB.
2. WR Mike Thomas is well known around these parts as, you know the guy that caught that one pass against the Texans (sorry). Well, he's a Texan now and that's wonderful news in this system. I could watch him run inside routes all day long. Not so much anymore Hail Mary’s.
3. On one of the first reps in 7-on-7, TE C.J Fiedorowicz snatched a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass out of the air. Coming out of Iowa, many questioned whether Fiedorowicz was anything but a Y-TE and accomplished run blocker. But, he's shown good receiving skill in the passing game, making that catch today and a sliding catch yesterday. If he proves to be the combination run blocker/pass catcher, there's no telling how much he can factor into the offense this year and beyond.
4. That said head coach Bill O'Brien noted that the tight ends have made some plays in the passing game but need to improve their run blocking. No matter who lines up at TE, there's little question that he MUST control the edge in the run game.
5. Growing up, I was taught one way to throw a ball. A baseball, a football, whatever, there's one way to throw it, right? Uh, not so much with Fitzpatrick. Maybe that's why I'm enamored with quarterbacks that can alter their arm slots to make a throw. Fitzpatrick can drop his release at times to get the ball through a sea of defensive linemen hands. He did that today again brilliantly...only to have his RB drop the ball.
6. "Situational football" is a way of life for the Texans and today's situation was two minute, no huddle. Fitzpatrick hit DeAndre Hopkins on a deep post to get out of minus territory but then what could go wrong, did. Fitz and Alfred Blue botched a handoff. The offense missed an edge blitzer that would've had a sack. It was a fairly hectic and frustrating period. But, the offense did something similar during OTAs and mini-camps. The first time it went no huddle, up tempo, it was rough, but the very next day, it was much sharper. As such, that situation will be worked on again soon and it'll be much cleaner for the offense.
7. The intensity during no huddle was definitely at a premium, especially from a jacked up, motivated defense.
8. AJ Bouye, one of the most aggressive DBs on the roster, made a great break on a pass intended for DeVier Posey and broke it up.
9. Another CB Brandon Harris knocked down the first pass during team, although he felt he should've picked it off. Fitzpatrick was forced to move up in the pocket, impacting the timing of the play and Harris jumped in front to knock it down.
10. RB Andre Brown pounded through the middle on an inside run, a man's run if there ever was one...then he coughed up the rock. The next time I saw No. 33 was as he passed me on his "I just fumbled, I have to run" lap.
11. The immediate next play, Blue had perhaps his best run of training camp. The former LSU back showed some JUICE as he burst up the middle on his way for a long run. It was one of those "WHOA" type of runs that really caught my attention, yet again.
12. S DJ Swearinger is one of the biggest hitters on this defense but he must excel in coverage this year. He did during team today in a significant way, leaping above TE Ryan Griffin to snatch an interception. Of course, as he returned the ball up the sideline, he did taunt the receiver as he ran past him. Only Swag, errr...Swaggg (I think).
13. During team, QB Tom Savage turned to hand off to a RB but I couldn't see his number as he charged through the line. Even though I couldn't see him, I certainly heard what happened next. No. 32 wasn't one that I recognized but the name I did. Former North Shore HS product Tim Cornett lowered the BOOM on a tackler, announcing his presence with authority. Signed just yesterday (along with OL Mike Farrell), Cornett got one carry during that period and that's how it went. It must have made an impression because he got more reps in a later team period.
14. Pass rush drills are my favorite and one consistent aspect of those 1-on-1 drills is that the OL struggles blocking DE Tim Jamison. He's been a menace with power, speed and quickness.
15. Although watching JJ Watt battle Duane Brown is just pure gluttony, I've been most interested in seeing Derek Newton tangle with Jared Crick and others. Crick's power was evident on their reps on Monday but on Tuesday, Newton stonewalled Crick, playing with a good, strong base. Newton is playing in a much lower stance, bending his knees more than he did last year. The more I watch him the more evident it is that he was well less than 100% last year. He still has to learn to trust his technique but at least he can move within that technique much better than in 2013.
16. DE/NT Ricardo Mathews is one of my favorites, walked back to the locker room today swapping some Jacksonville, FL HS football stories. He showed me his Terry Parker HS "TP" tat on his calf to rep the 904 too. But, on the field, he's been a menace to block, whether it's over the nose or out at defensive end. I asked him if he had any preference and he said "whatever gets me on the field making plays". It's easy to see why this staff brought him to Houston.
17. The deck is stacked against Tulane product DE Julius Warmsley making the team but that doesn't mean he's not making an impression. Like WR Lacoltan Bester, he came to rookie mini-camp in May without a contract. Like Bester, he left with a contract. Like Bester, he's not just here; he's competing and making his presence known. Warmsley doesn't have prototype size, speed or quickness but somehow he's found a way to make an impact.
18. ILB Justin Tuggle continues to make plays at inside linebacker and he has his big fellas to thank. Early in the last team session, I saw him run completely clean, no OL in sight, to the football to make a "thud up" tackle.
19. If DE Jeoffrey Pagan can get to a point where he's consistent with his hand placement, effort and execution, he's going to be a monster to block. I'll put it this way, his ups are way up and his downs are fairly rough. I saw him get pushed off the ball by one of the undrafted free agent rookie tackles, but on the next play, he "stacked" the offensive lineman, shed him and made a tackle. That's incredibly difficult to do but it shows the physical gifts he has. He's also working on his hand technique after practice with JJ Watt, which can only work to help him in many different ways.
20. I saved this for last, well, because it happened last. But, trust me, it's one of my top three observations of the day. Listening to various people this morning on my drive over to NRG Stadium, not many positive things were said about Savage. He didn't have a good day on Monday in pads and Coach O'Brien alluded to that after practice on Tuesday.
But, during today's last team period, Savage completed three well thrown passes, including a corner route to Zach Potter on the last play of practice. He just lofted it, with touch, to the one spot where only Potter could catch it and he did. The one attribute, outside of his cannon arm, that many mentioned about Savage prior to his arrival in Houston was his toughness.
It was his mental toughness to bounce back from a rough Monday, settle in and compete on Tuesday. And, if he so happened to make a point to a bunch of critical media, yeah, that's good too.