The Texans got back to the practice field for the first time since Wednesday night's preseason contest against the Carolina Panthers. Out of pads, the Texans didn't strike each other throughout, but it was still a physical practice. Here are a handful of observations.
- Receiver Wendall Williams has a different gear when he gets the ball in his hands. I wanted once in my life to either dunk and/or be fast for just one day. I struck out on both accounts, but Wendall has the speed category on lockdown. Late in practice, he caught a short route, turned a defensive back around and motored to the end zone. He would've scored but when he was touched down late in the run by linebacker Dylan Cole, the play was whistled dead.
- Fullback Jay Prosch's out and up route during one-on-ones with the linebackers and safeties may have elicited the biggest cheer of the entire day. As a former safety, I'll admit there are times you have to guess on a route and hope you're right or that your pass rush give you some help. With no pass rush, you better guess right. One of the linebackers did just that and guessed, but Prosch wheeled behind him for a wide open catch. The running backs went berserk running down to greet Prosch in the end zone after his easy touchdown. He opens holes for them, so they figured they'd celebrate with him after a touchdown catch.
- It was bat down pass-a-palooza on Friday, which is to be expected with this crew of defensive linemen and in this situation. I've asked nearly all of the offensive linemen on this team and they've told me that on one hand being in shells is great to cut down on some of the physical stuff, but it's awful for the batting down passes reason. I think I have written down five different names that knocked a pass down on Friday. Want to see an offensive lineman with smoke out of his ears? Give a defensive lineman some credit for knocking down a pass in shorts and jerseys, which I'm definitely not doing, just alerting people to the fact that it happened today.
- Rookie Bryce Jones forced a fumble in one-on-ones with the receivers which happens infrequently.
- It was good to see linebacker Benardrick McKinney back at practice, covering up running backs in the passing game like Deion Sanders. Okay, okay, so more like a 255 pound Deion Sanders. Regardless, on one play, he covered D'Onta Foreman and forced Foreman right out of his shoe. That's not hyperbole, he literally locked up Foreman on a route and when the rookie tried to get loose, he flew right out of his shoe.
- One of my observations from the preseason game the other night was Alfred Blue's more decisive running, uh, style. Not sure what really to call it, other than to say that he appears to be demonstrative about his running decisions and not as selective, in some sense. He hit the gas and had some juice in his legs/body and I saw that again today.
- The team did more situations today and Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson both drove the team down the field in late game situations for game winning field goal attempts.
- Tight end Ryan Griffin had a couple of catches in the middle of the field for key first downs on those drives. On the first drive, Griffin's catch on a throw from Tom Savage moved the Texans into field goal range before a spike stopped the clock with just two seconds left.
- Later, when Deshaun Watson led his offense down the field, he hit Griffin as well, making the correct read against the Texans defense as the clock wound down. Griffin snatched it right before it hit the turf for a key first down catch.
- Then, needing a few more yards to get into makeable field goal range, Watson threw a pass to the sideline for Chris Thompson. I was standing near the sideline as the ball came my way. I could tell that the throw was either going to be incomplete or a completion to Thompson; there was no way that a white shirt defender had any chance to pick it off. As such, the former Gator receiver ran right through the pass, toe tapped for the catch and, obviously, stopped the clock. It was excellent time/situation based execution by a pair of rookies.
- Earlier in practice, the defense came up with consecutive sacks of Watson to end one of his drives but quarterback DeAndre Hopkins followed up by leading his offensive unit down for a touchdown. He hit Wendall Williams on the aforementioned crossing route that set the offense up for a touchdown opportunity.
- Running back Akeem Hunt broke through for what looked like a touchdown but he was ruled down and two plays later Alfred Blue burst through for the six points.
- Oh, last one, Brian Cushing really loves his alma mater USC. #Fight ON!
Okay, training camp is winding down and it's hard to remember what I've written about and what I haven't, so I'll cut it there and get ready for tomorrow's practice. Saturday's workout will be the last one before a day off on Sunday. Then, the Patriots come to town for two practices next week. Can't. Wait. The World Champs on our turf...well, I mean, our new home away from home.