As Sunday was a day off for the squad, many players squeezed in a trip to the movies, got some rest or got much needed sleep. Or in Christian Covington's case got some Game of Thrones reading done. But, the time off was much too short as the team got back on the field on Monday in shorts and jerseys, welcoming back a couple of familiar faces on each side of the ball.
Here are a few things from today's workout.
- Everyone had been anticipating the arrival of OLB Jadeveon Clowney and by everyone, I mean nearly every TV and Hard Knocks camera followed his every move during the early part of practice. Honestly, I didn't think I'd see this day when it was announced in November that he was having microfracture surgery. But, consider the work he put in to get back to this point and the work that Geoff Kaplan and his training staff to motivate JD to keep pushing himself. It all paid off to get him back into camp at this point. But, it's going to be slow going and that's by the team's design. JD feels ready but as I've said a few times, it's a marathon, not a sprint, so he'll get the call in due time.
- He wasn't the only one to return to the practice field today. Akeem Dent worked out with the team for the first time since the win over the Jags in early January 2015. A lower leg injury kept him out of workouts until today and his return only serves to muddy up the ILB waters. In a good way, of course. So, Clowney and Dent returned on Monday; it was a good day.
- Not to be left behind, the offense saw the return of Ryan Griffin to the tight end group. He had a stellar week of practice prior to getting nicked up in Richmond, so here's hoping that he can pick right up where he left off.
- I noted in my game observations that the 49ers long run of the night was unfortunate, but correctable. One aspect that I know riled up secondary coach John Butler was that the receiver cracked on the safety and it appeared that safety Eddie Pleasant had no idea it was coming. Sure as shootin', what was the first thing I heard today when the Texans defense did their walkthrough this morning? "CRACK!" Audible and heard all the way to the sideline where we were standing. Message. Received.
- Players throughout time have made the transition from being a special team stalwart to key offensive or defensive contributor. As such, the special teams reps often get pushed off to another player. Not so for Alfred Blue. He's the first guy in line for all the special teams reps, even though if the season started tomorrow, he'd be the starting running back. As a former coach, I notice little things like that and love it.
- Standing near the end zone, watching practice with former Texas A&M and Dallas Cowboy great Dat Nguyen, quarterback Ryan Mallett dropped an absolute dime right in front of us to Damaris Johnson, with Kevin Johnson draped all over him. Dat is visiting from San Antonio where he co-hosts the afternoon show on our ESPN San Antonio affiliate with Jason Mannix. As such, this was his first look at the quarterbacks and he remarked after that throw what a gem that was. I look forward each year to get to watch practice with Dat to hear what he thinks. He was impressed with Mallett today.
- I looked down during 1-on-1s with RB and linebackers and as soon as I did, Chris Polk made a one hand catch and made it look easy. The linebacker covering him, I can't recall, I think it was Max Bullough perhaps, just stared at him as if to say "you didn't just do that, did you?"
- Rookie Kevin Johnson flashed a few good moments on Saturday night and his confidence seems to be growing by the day. He had multiple pass break ups on the day and his breaks on the ball were outstanding. He ran a few routes for the receivers and it seems he brings his juice to the ballyard every single day. He never seems to be at a loss for energy and excitement.
- Kourtnei Brown's performance on Saturday night will make him a guy to watch in camp this week. He got the coaches attention and it appeared his confidence shot through the roof.
- As I walked down to the OL/DL pass rush drills, I heard linebacker coach Mike Vrabel say "great power rep, Kourtnei." Get their attention. Make plays. Get more reps. Easy formula, right?
11. Cornerback A.J. Bouye had a pair of passbreak ups during practice and Charles James continues to impress in practice time. James had a diving pick of Tom Savage during a goal line drill to end a drive.
- However, Savage responded with a dart to Ryan Griffin for a touchdown on his very next rep. Then, later in the drill, Savage threw a gorgeous fade route to Chandler Worthy for a TD. One frozen rope. One touch pass. On consecutive reps. That's what we call progress.
- As fellow rookie Mike McFarland missed practice with an injury today, tight end Khari Lee got more reps and continues to make splash plays in the receiving game. He had two catches in Saturday night's game and he made one heck of a catch in the rain in Richmond, just prior to the skirmishes ending the joint practices. Today, he made another catch like the one in Richmond, reaching back behind him and snatching the throw for a big first down. He was running down the seam with a linebacker on his inside hip, so Savage threw essentially to his backshoulder away from the linebacker. Lee contorted his body and caught the ball just beyond the linebacker's ear 18-20 yards downfield.
- The last drill in practice was a simulation of a 3rd and 8 play from the eight yard line with eight seconds left in the first half. One play for a TD OR one play and kick the field goal. Ryan Mallett hit DeAndre Hopkins for the touchdown in the right corner of the end zone. On the next play, Brian Hoyer couldn't find anyone open so he threw it at the three Hard Knocks cameras just in front of us. I'm not saying he did it on purpose but they'll get a beautiful football in 3-D shot for Tuesday's show.
Well, that was about it. Quiet day as it was a closed practice and not one fan was in the stands. It was weird but that'll change tomorrow as the public will be racing to their seats to see all they can of No. 90 in full pads. It'll be a great sight, no question, as it will be to see No. 50 and 84 back in pads too. See ya' tomorrow, everyone!
View the best photos from the 11th practice of #TexansCamp.