As the Texans hit the midpoint of their three-day minicamp, it was more of what we've seen through the off-season: a great number of footballs in the air. With a new quarterback and varied personnel at the receiver and tight end positions, that's far from a bad thing. Here are a few observations to hold you over until tomorrow.
- Speed and quickness change everything. The off-season emphasis on offensive speed and explosiveness is evident to those of us that have watched this Texans offense over the years. I've covered the Texans since 2007 and, even at this point, this unit can play faster and react quicker than any unit that I can remember. It's not perfect and won't be, but the change is evident and will become even more so once the pads go on during training camp.
- During an early "move the chain" period of team drills, Brock Osweiler spread the ball around to nearly all of his personnel. He hit Braxton Miller, then he found Jaelen Strong. Then, Osweiler literally flicked one out to Strong for a first down. I remarked to Marc Vandermeer that I'm wasn't totally sure how he even got that ball out of his hand. He, then, threw to tight end Stephen Anderson for a key first down to keep the drive alive. It was efficient and effective down the field.
- Notice a name I didn't mention? Well, after a pair of penalties (yes, there are refs at practice frequently), the Texans moved backwards a bit. No one panicked because once the Texans are on the other side of the 50 it's DeAndre Hopkins time. Right on cue, Osweiler finished the drill by launching one into the end zone. Hop went up and snagged the ball right off the top of the defensive back's helmet for a touchdown. The offense erupted with excitement, but we've all seen him do THAT before. But, it'll never be taken for granted; Hop is truly special and we all get to watch him do that each and every Sunday.
- In essence, once the offense got backed up a bit after the penalties, it was "when in doubt, go to Hop." Boom. TD.
- We'll take a break in the action for the team's tackling circuit. I hope that's something they do consistently throughout the year. Okay, break's over.
- Rookie wideout Will Fuller made the best catch we've seen him make in the days we've been able to observe practice. Osweiler threw one to the sideline where Fuller had the defensive back on his hip. As the ball got there, Fuller snatched it away for the first down catch. That catch...if he can make that catch repeatedly, it's going to be really tough to stop him.
- Braxton Miller continued to show his growth as a receiver. Coach O'Brien and many others have talked about how the lack of pads limits the overall scope of practice. But, it also impacts Miller too. There were numerous times when the coaches would blow the whistle to stop a play when Miller was approached by a defensive back. With pads on? Miller would've shaken a few defenders. That's one of the things I can't wait to see once training camp starts.
- Safety Antonio Allen is a guy I haven't discussed much this off-season but if he continues making plays like he did during a team passing drill, look out. He was in the middle of the field and leapt for a pass thrown seemingly well over his head. He snatched the throw out of the air for the interception and took off the other direction. Allen channeled his inner Jumpman, something that would make Drake and Future very proud.
- The safety position might have been a question heading into the off-season but after bringing Quintin Demps back, signing Antonio Allen, seeing the growth of Kurtis Drummond and drafting K.J. Dillon, the fight for the spot opposite Andre Hal is going to be one of the training camp's most fierce battles.
- Osweiler threw a gem to rookie Anderson similar to the one that he threw yesterday. Man, talk about touch, whoo, that was nice. Anderson sprinted right through the catch and the rock fell right into his hands for a first down catch.
- There's something about the end zone that Jaelen Strong must love. He had 14 catches last year and three of them went for touchdowns in 2015 (all against the Colts, mind you). Throughout most of OTA/minicamp, Strong has seemingly made more touchdown grabs than anyone. His first today was on a pseudo off-schedule throw from Osweiler. But, his best catch was the one he picked right off the helmet of a defensive back near the back corner of the end zone. Some media were shielded from the catch and started commenting how Hopkins made a great catch. It was actually Strong, shhhhh, don't tell anyone.
- The last play to end the team red zone/goal line drill was a flat route to Lamar Miller. Osweiler threw right to the pylon, seemingly out of Miller's reach. But, the Texans running back reached out and snagged it out of the air for a touchdown.
- That last catch seemed to symbolize the entire day. It was an impressive display of hands catches today and few balls hit the turf throughout various team drills.
- Outside linebacker John Simon knocked away a pass during team drills and nearly hustled to come up with the catch off the deflection. With a few linebackers missing practice throughout the offseason, Simon has taken advantage of the opportunities to get a ton of reps at a position he's still learning after four years of playing 4-3 defensive end at Ohio State.
- Fellow outside linebacker Eric Lee, a rookie from USF, knocked down a pass as well and got some kudos from the coaching staff. He's one long and tall drink of water with some athleticism and he's worth watching come training camp time.
Ice Cube once noted "today was a good day" and he couldn't have been more on point about today's Texans workout. Both sides got after it a bit and Coach O'Brien spoke after practice about how much he loved the competitive nature on both sides of the ball.
That's it for Wednesday as we get ever so close to the end of the Texans 2016 offseason.
Check out shots from the Texans' second day of veteran minicamp.