The last OTA session of 2016 took place on Friday morning. Considering it was about 9,000 degrees at 10 am, though, that was a fantastic thing. Nothing beats a little summer weather for rookie acclimation at the end of OTAs. The Texans have a three-day mandatory minicamp next week but it'll be much of the same out on the field - no contact, a lot of passing game work and 90 degrees.
Then, it's crickets until late July. That's going to stink but every day that passes is one closer to the start of training camp. Before it goes completely silent, here are my observations from OTA on Friday morning.
- With a number of defensive backs not able to practice, former Texas Longhorns rookie corner Duke Thomas has gotten a ton of reps throughout the three-week session. Typically, a rookie getting a ton of reps can be a bad thing, but Thomas has truly progressed well with those reps. He's confident and has covered extremely well. I wrote his name in my notebook a few times with pass breakups, plural, throughout the day. The reality is that cornerback might be the deepest position on the team, but Thomas stepped up with some good football and seemed to make an impression.
- Another cornerback that continued to shine was A.J Bouye. The offense challenged him deep at one point and he went up, high pointed the pass and nearly picked it off. If there's anyone that has consistently made plays in all of the OTA workouts that we've had the chance to see, it's Bouye.
- When the Texans signed former Chiefs lineman Jeff Allen, I was thrilled. One of the main reasons I fell in love for the former Illinois star was his nasty demeanor out on the field. Trust me, that's going to be a good thing. Just. Trust. Me.
- During the offseason prior to the conditioning and OTAs, I ran into second year wide receiver Keith Mumphery a number of different times. He was consistently in the building working on his game or working out. He went to Arizona with Brock Osweiler and the guys there. His hard work has been paying off little by little and culminated today with a strong workout. He made a number of contested catches, even though he didn't get the last one of the day. Mumph has put in the work to improve and make a contribution to this offense in 2016 and beyond.
- Last Monday, rookie Will Fuller caught a number of impactful passes during the workout but on Friday, it was rookie Braxton Miller's turn. The Texans quarterbacks sought Miller numerous times in the passing game. He caught a number of different routes, including a pair of them for touchdowns. That success seemed to increase his confidence throughout the practice. I've said it before and will say it again, he just needs time to learn this position. When he does, look out.
- Once Miller has the ball in his hands, that's when the magic happens. He's going to improve catching the football, getting open on time and finding separation, but one area where not much improvement is needed is toting the rock. That guy can make people miss in a phone booth. Wow.
- Safety Kurtis Drummond took a fumble to the house, led by a team of blockers that included linebackers coach Mike Vrabel. I will say, though, that seeing #23 running with the football down the field made me do a double take. Luckily, he was in a white jersey or I'd have thought I was seeing the ghost of Arian Foster.
- Brandon Weeden led a solid drive during one of the team drills during practice. A few of us joked "just like he did it in Indianapolis." But, he's getting more comfortable in this scheme too after spending just half the season or less with this playbook.
- Weeden's best throw of the day was an on-the-run completion to Mumphery for a first down during that drill.
- Speaking of on the run, Osweiler is much quicker and faster than any other quarterback that's played in Houston. Tall quarterbacks are typically tree sloths on the run, for the most part, but Osweiler is far from that. I will admit, though, that I hope he doesn't do a ton of scrambling this season.
- Safety Quintin Demps ended up with a pick during a team drill off a deflection from fellow safety Andre Hal. The best part was that Hal tipped the pass and without looking back just started yelling for someone to come up with the pick. Demps obliged with the turnover.
- Remember the slow motion video of Jaelen Strong making the end zone catch out in Arizona? Well, that happened again today for a touchdown, except this time it was in full motion. Strong has stood out throughout all phases of the off-season and it's exciting to think about what he can do once training camp commences in July/August.
- Sometimes we can't entirely see what's happening on the field as it takes place way down the field. But, it's not all that difficult to figure out what did happen when you see players take a lap in front of us. "Oh, well I guess the defense jumped offsides" as a white shirted player jogs his lap near us.
- Coach O'Brien confirmed reports that the Texans will have joint practices with the 49ers and the Saints prior to both of the first two preseason contests. He noted that it breaks up the monotony of a long training camp and gives them the opportunity to face different players and different schemes. These joint practices are some of the most fun to cover and it does break up the routine a bit, if not create a camaraderie amongst the players, especially on the road.
That trip to San Francisco/Santa Clara seems well off in the distance, but will be here before we know it. That's a good thing. Three minicamp practices are all that stand in the way of the team's break before training camp. We'll be there for all of them, starting on Tuesday. See ya then!
Check out some shots from the final day of Texans OTAs.