Football on the field is good, really good. It beats football NOT being on the field and that was the case for the entire offseason.
I like football out on the field, even if no pads are involved and there's NO hitting to speak of at any point. There's not much to an OTA (organized training activity) workout session but there are a number of players that'll be interesting to watch, especially on the offensive side of the ball throughout this phase of the off-season. Here are my observations from today's practice.
- Although everyone and their brother wants to talk about the offense, the defense won't take a backseat to anyone, anywhere. The 'D' came out today with a ton of juice and were hyped up from the first competitive rep of the practice.
- Corner A.J. Bouye was consistently in good coverage position throughout practice. He had a pair of pass break ups in team and 7-on-7. Get used to seeing him in a different number, though (and that's a theme for today). He's now wearing No. 21 and I had to consult my roster a few times to remind myself that it was Bouye. He looked fresh and quick and made an impression.
- Speaking of jersey changes, those are going to rock my world for a bit and I'd assume you guys as well. Jeff Allen now wears No. 79 after wearing No. 71 in Kansas City. Bouye changed to No. 21 from No. 34. Safety Kurtis Drummond now sports No. 23, instead of No. 40. Then, when rookie free agent signee Duke Thomas made a play during practice, wearing No. 40, I couldn't understand why Drummond was playing cornerback. Ugh, this will take some time to adapt.
- I love technology and new football toys and the defensive backs used one that I hadn't seen often, if at all. A tackling donut. It's the perfect teaching tool and keeps players from contacting one another, yet tackling with proper form. The donut rolls downhill and a player wraps on the meaty part of the doughnut and lands on the other side. No harm, no foul and no contact, yet plenty of tackling practice.
- Watching the OTA, it hit me that there are a number of players I'm truly curious to study and watch after spending last year on IR or practice squad.
- One of those is former USF linebacker Reshard Cliett, who returned after tearing his ACL early on in his first training camp as a Texan. These are important sessions for Cliett, getting re-acclimated to playing inside linebacker in this defense. He can fly to the football and that's going to be his calling card on the field.
- Another player who made a few plays during Monday afternoon's OTA session was wide receiver Josh Lenz. He signed on to the Texans practice squad nearly midway through the 2015 season and signed a futures contract during the offseason. He finds a way to get open and can run - he timed 4.36 at his Pro Day in 2013 at Iowa State. He's intriguing to watch, but there's a true logjam at the wide receiver position, making OTA/minicamp/training camp truly competitive for Lenz and company.
- Undrafted college free agent wide receiver Wendell Williams is perhaps the fastest player wearing a Texans jersey that I've ever seen. But, I like the way that he naturally catches the ball. He's comfortable making any style of catch and has better hands than you'd expect from a guy so blazingly fast.
- When Benardrick McKinney arrived from Mississippi State, many analysts were concerned whether he was going to be a liability in pass coverage. Throughout the 2015 season, it was difficult to find a time when pass coverage was an issue as many surmised it would be. What's improved greatly is his recognition of routes and the sort, but on one play in OTA, I looked up and he was running step for step with one of the Texans receivers as if he were a defenisve back down the field.
- Keith Mumphery made a couple of nice catches near the sideline, starting off this year's OTA similar to the way he did last year. He now has to build on that throughout the rest of the off-season into training camp and beyond.
- I like seeing Lamar Miller in a Texans jersey a whole lot more than him wearing a Dolphins jersey. The possibilities with him as an offensive threat/weapon are endless and he's got some serious juice when he gets the ball in his hands.
- From the day Andre Hal was drafted, I was convinced he could play. His ball skills were outstanding coming out of Vanderbilt three years ago. It seemed that he lost some confidence at cornerback as a rookie, but when he moved to safety in 2015, he started to find himself as a player. He's got excellent range and hands and, during the workout, he made one of the best picks I've seen in quite some time as he laid out for an interception that was thrown behind him. He had four interceptions last season and he nearly doubled that number too. He had the near interception against Cincinnati after DeAndre Hopkins' touchdown catch. He had a pair of opportunities against Buffalo, one nearly a game changing pick six too. He only started 11 games too, so with another year under his belt, Hal can take a significant step forward as a ball hawking safety for this defense in 2016.
- Akeem Hunt only played in seven games in 2015, but when he did get on the field, he made things happen with his speed and explosiveness. That was on display today when he caught a route in the flat and sped up the sidelines. Defenders with angles have a difficult time trying to catch him, much less those guys already a step behind.
- Last and certainly not least, it was the first day for Brock Osweiler to step under center for the Texans offense (well, that anyone in the city has had a chance to see). As I mentioned in my OTA primer last week, I wasn't really concerned with completions or stats, but mainly how the operation looked with him at the helm. During his press conference after practice, he noted how much goes into one seemingly simple play call in this offense. That's naturally going to take some time but that's one cool customer in the pocket. During a team drill with the pocket soon to engulf him, Osweiler essentially flicked with a quick flip of the wrist to Jaelen Strong for a completion. I'm not even sure how he got the ball off and he completed it for a first down catch.
That's it for this week. We'll be back out to see OTA #4 next week after Memorial Day. Have a great week and three day weekend. See ya' next Tuesday.
See photos from Monday's Texans OTA workout.