It may have just been a minicamp workout, but it felt like the first day of training camp. 95 degree heat can do that to you. Luckily, it wasn't, though, leaving us six long weeks or so before the 2016 season kicks off for real. But, with a trio of practices left to go before that break, there's a lot to accomplish before summer vacation, if you will. Here are my observations from the first day of a three-day mandatory team minicamp.
- The Texans claimed former Dallas Cowboys defensive back Terrance Mitchell off of waivers. I remember him from his days at Oregon, and one trait that stood out more than anything else was his ability to make plays in the secondary. He has played both cornerback and safety and that versatility is a valuable commodity at this level.
- First glance at Mitchell, he's well put together and can run. He's in great shape but he doesn't have much time to learn things and put it all together out on the field. But, as far as his athleticism, that's more than evident, for sure.
- Coach O'Brien has often said that OTA/minicamp practices are passing camps, which would seem to overshadow running backs and ball carriers. But, running back Lamar Miller has more than made his presence known throughout the spring. He has such good hands out of the backfield, but what's impressed me most is that he has such a different gear turning the corner. It's impressive, to say the least, and the ability to get that edge, that quickly, puts perimeter players on notice. He's so sudden, man, it's going to be fun to see what he does with the run game as the season progresses.
- Brian Cushing made a ton of plays in practice, intercepting one crossing route and breaking up one at or near the goal line later in the workout. He's healthy, prepared and playing as fast as we've seen him in a while. He might not be as fast as he was when he entered the league, but he's so smart and knowledgeable of route concepts, studying the eyes of the quarterback, reading blocks and making plays that he's a step faster than he appeared even last season.
- Another defender that stood out today, and he has throughout the entire offseason, was corner A.J. Bouye. He had a pick six on an offensive goal line drill but his most impressive play was a pass breakup on a deep in-cut. He stayed right in the pocket of the wide receiver and ripped it away at the last moment.
- The defense had one of its best days, creating turnovers and making key plays. Then again, it was a situation-based practice that put a ton of pressure on the offense and gave a massive edge to the defense. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel's defense capitalized throughout the practice.
- One aspect of Brock Osweiler's game that's always impressed me is his ability to drop a throw into a bucket down the field. His touch on longer throws is typically on point and he threw an absolute gem down the field early in practice. That was as good a throw as I've seen him make or any quarterback make on these practice fields in quite some time.
- Later in practice on a red zone team drill, former Arizona State Sun Devil Osweiler threw a dart to former Arizona State Sun Devil Jaelen Strong for a touchdown in the back of the end zone. Coach O'Brien noted Strong's progress year over year and how that has manifested itself into production during the spring. If Strong stays on track all the way through training camp, he's going to see significant targets in this team's passing game.
- Tom Savage dropped a dime on an intermediate out route to rookie wideout Tevin Jones that was a pure beauty. It's a throw that not many quarterbacks at even this level can make, but Savage put the exact perfect amount of touch on the throw to Jones, who toe-tapped for the completion and a first down.
- A few plays later though, cornerback Cleveland Wallace came up with a pick off of a tip drill while covering Jones across the middle. The rookie out of San Jose State has had plenty of opportunities to shine with a number of cornerbacks held out of the spring, still recovering from injuries. His confidence seemed to grow with each rep and he's made a few plays in the process of learning the professional game on the fly.
- Cornerback Robert Nelson returned to practice this week and forced a fumble on a completion down the field. He went for the strip and ripped it right out of the hands of the ball carrier, recovered by Kurtis Drummond.
- Other than the passing game, special teams work is prevalent throughout the spring. I don't normally note the special teams during practice, but Shane Lechler hit bombs on Tuesday. Both Marc Vandermeer and I noted how many rocket shots he nailed deep in today's workout. It should be expected from the future Hall of Famer, but Marc asked if Lechler's rainbows would make it into observations...and here you go Marc.
- I've seen teams throughout the league find different ways to work on tackling without pads on and this time of year is great to work on technique, footwork and fit. As a player, I hated the tackling circuit because it was exhausting, yet it was necessary. We did it wearing pads eons ago, but the Texans defense went through a tackling circuit to emphasize all the aspects of tackling, except making the tackle on another human being.
That's it for today. We'll be back for tomorrow's workout. See ya then.
Check out some of the best shots from the Texans' first day of veteran minicamp.