As Texans players were "off" today, there weren't any real observations to make on the field. So, I figured why not give you a snap shot of the guys making an impact early on in camp? As such, here's your Ultimate 11 Week One Training Camp Eyecatchers (as in catching my eye regularly). If you know me well, No. 1 will surprise you, perhaps even shock you. With no further ado, let's go.
11. DE Ricardo Mathews (No. 94) was signed in the off-season to little fanfare. But, after seeing him this week, it's seemingly money well spent. He's played some over the nose, spelling Jerrell Powe, and some at the 3-4 DE position. His versatility is key but he's sudden, quick and powerful at the point of attack. He's got a stockier build but that also makes him ultra-difficult to block.
10. I've seen ILB Max Bullough (No. 53) play 20+ times if I've seen him once. At 252 pounds, I knew that he'd shine against the run in the middle. But, he's surprised me with his coverage ability; it's much better than I thought, even in man-to-man situations. I've noticed a few times when the undrafted rookie from Michigan State ran step-for-step with a RB or TE in man-to-man coverage.
9. If you're one of the lucky ones to have seen the first day of OLB Jadeveon Clowney (No. 90) in pads, you can always say "you were there". He's still not even 100% but the burst, the power, the ability to re-direct and the competitive fire are 100% evident. His overall game needs to be honed, even he'd admit that, but he can do things on a football field that mere mortals can't. Then why is he only 9th? Keeping bonus baby rookies in their place...for now.
8. ILB Justin Tuggle (No. 57) has played only a short amount of time at linebacker, be it inside or outside, but he's been a pleasant surprise with his instincts and pursuit to the football. Sure, the linebacker lineage runs in his blood (his Dad Jessie was a Pro Bowl linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons), but he's striving to make his own name here in Houston. He's doing that and then some with his start to camp.
7. I went to Texas A&M's first Pro Day, because, well, the Aggies had two of them, if you recall. But, that's neither here nor there, but on that first Pro Day, WR Travis Labhart (No. 17) performed extremely well. His 20-yard shuttle, 3-cone drill and 40-yard dash were on par with some of the best receivers in the 2014 draft class. A few of us chatted him up after the workout and jokingly said "hey, would love to see you in Houston", not thinking it would actually happen. Thankfully, it did because he's been outstanding since arriving back in May. I saw him drop one quick screen early on day one in pads. That's the only drop I've seen. He's made diving catches, catches on fourth down, catches across the middle and catches in the end zone. I don't know how the numbers will shake out for him come Cut Week/Day but he's making it difficult for this staff to let him go.
6. RB Alfred Blue (No. 44) got only 71 carries in his final year at LSU but he's probably had that many touches and then some during his first week in Houston. During mini-camps and OTAs, I wondered aloud how much courage rookie running backs have when the pads go on. Luckily, that's not even close to being an issue with Blue. He's got burst to and through holes with some juice, not to mention his contributions in the passing game as well.
5. DE Tim Jamison (No. 96) might be the most difficult guy for the OL to block consistently well on this team (minus that really good No. 99 fella). I don't know that I've seen a pass rush 1-on-1 rep in which he's been completely defeated. It's the best I've seen him look in his years in Houston.
4. When the three day rookie mini-camp in May concluded, I was hoping that WR EZ Nwachkwu (No. 17) could carry the momentum of that weekend into full team mini-camps and OTAs. He's done that and then some. He's been playing with a ton of confidence and catching everything thrown his way. He's not the most natural hands catcher, but his hands are improving. He can fly and gets open in the middle of the field more than any other WR right now.
3. DE Julius Warmsley (No. 74) is the wrong size, the wrong body type and the wrong position. But, he's done more right than many of his co-horts in camp this week. He's short for a DL and weighs well under 300 pounds, yet he finds a way to do something in camp each and every day. He'll whip an OL for a "sack" and then bat down a pass. I've mentioned before that he came to Houston back in May on a tryout during rookie mini-camp, earned a contract and has played like he has nothing to lose. Again, the numbers are stacked against him, but his effort and production in week one are more than worth mentioning.
2. WR Mike Thomas (No. 89) left Wednesday's practice after chasing Kareem Jackson down after an interception but he'll be back on the field soon. The Texans need him because he's perhaps the most natural slot receiver this team possesses. His ability to create separation in short spaces is uncanny and impressive. I'm not the only one that's noticed, either.
1. This is going to shock many, but you know what, so be it (it'll be one of the last times I'll talk about kickers, presumably). K Randy Bullock (No. 4) and Chris Boswell (No. 2) have shined kicking field goals on a daily basis. Through three days of the FG kicking competition, I can only remember two field goals missed - one by each. Both have bombed kicks from 50 yards and deeper and most of the kicks are right down the middle. I know, I know, there isn't much pressure on kickers in training camp and no live rush up to this point. Regardless, I don't often talk nice about kickers, but they deserve some kind words.