With no radio on Saturday to keep me from watching practice, I was jacked up beyond belief to see the Texans tangle with the Redskins. Little did I, or many others, realize that they would literally tangle four separate times. The practice fights heard around the globe, or so it seemed, ended the joint practice sessions between the two teams and put them on separate fields for the rest of the rainy Saturday workout. The fights may have muddied up the Saturday practice, but I still walked away with a few observations from today's slugfest, errr, practice.
I'll get to the four different skirmishes as I saw a couple of them up close and personal, but before that it was clear that these two teams had seen enough of one another. All of this had been building since early on day one.
The first drill of the day was one-on-ones with four different quarterbacks throwing on the four different ends of the field. I watched Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer throw to their receivers against the Washington defensive backs.
- WR EZ Nwachukwu had, more than likely, the best period of his three days up in Richmond. The first rep I saw of his, he shook a Redskin DB and headed to the back pylon in the end zone. Mallett dropped a gem at the back corner of the scoring area, right in front of me and Nwchukwu held on to the wet pigskin. I was feet away from him when it happened and he was stoked that he made the catch.
- The Redskins DBs were extremely physical during that drill and won a number of different reps against the Texans WRs. They didn't stop all of the Texans' receivers, though. One receiver that has flown under the radar and continues to have solid workouts is Keshawn Martin. He made a Redskins DB miss badly on him in the back of end zone on a TD catch in one-on-ones. He also had a couple of catches in team drills later in the workout.
- The one receiver that has been like Circle K, always open 24/7, is Nate Washington. The former Steeler/Titan has fit right in with this Houston squad and is definitely a security blanket for the quarterbacks. He let one slip through his hands on 1-on-1s but he must have made six or seven catches during drills the rest of the day, all at different spots/levels on the field.
- Once the joint team drills started, the powderkeg was ready to blow. I was down near field two where the Texans offense faced the Redskins defense. Af first, it seemed innocuous and wet but nothing seemed to be afoot. Then, rookie tight end Khari Lee made an outstanding catch. He was crossing the deep intermediate area of the field and the ball was thrown behind him. Now, at this point the rain was falling heavily and plenty of receivers had balls go through their hands. Even RB Alfred Blue had fumbled on the first play of team drills. Anyhow, after the catch, the Texans' offensive guys started cheering for Lee and congratulating him on the catch. At that point, Ben Jones and Redskins DT Chris Baker got into each other's face and the first "discussion" of the day started.
- Watching that unfold, it didn't seem like anything sinister, but not ten seconds later, I looked over to field one and there were Texans defenders running to a mosh pit in the middle of field one. Many of you have seen the ESPN video of Vince Wilfork destroying a Redskins OL and pushing him right back into the Redskins RB. What some couldn't see was a Redskins offensive player pushing LB Max Bullough right in the back. Bullough didn't take kindly to the shove and turned around to tell that player just that. Many of the Texans were running off the field when the Redskins player then threw hands at Bullough and it was on. Wilfork and J.J. Watt turned right back around and jumped into the fray. They weren't alone. It was a mob scene. Wilfork, though, didn't take kindly at all to the Redskins antics. More on him in a bit.
- Once both fields got calm again, the two teams went back to work. The Texans run game picked up some nice gains with Chris Polk and Kenny Hilliard registering a couple of solid runs. On Hilliard's last run, he barreled over a Redskins defender. Now, every run that I saw from Hilliard v. the Redskins this week finished nearly the exact same way - the former LSU product sending a message to any Redskin defender that dare tackle him. Well, the Redskins two defensive backs in the vicinity didn't take kindly to that action and threw Hilliard to the turf. That incensed Texans OT Aaron Adams who then sprinted down the field and hammered the defensive back which set off the third fight of the day.
- Four or five Redskins had Jaelen Strong in a head lock, while a few of the Texans OL ran down the field and dropped the People's Elbow on a Redskins defender.
- Just prior to that fight in front of us, on field one, Texans DB Kevin Johnson tackled a Redskins ball carrier down low and that angered the Redskins WR. So, yep, you guessed it, the Texans D and Redskins O went at it again, only to be distracted by the fight on field two that we had going on in front of us.
- Honestly, I've seen training camp fights for years but nothing ever like this. However, as Coach O'Brien noted after practice, it's training camp football, things happen. And, it did. This, though, had been brewing as I mentioned due in large part to the animosity between the Texans DB/WR and Redskins WR/DB. The first day set the tone and neither team was ready to step down in any way, shape or form.
The Texans wrapped up their time in Richmond with a Saturday practice versus Washington.
- One thing I heard a Redskins player say later was that the Texans were attacking the run drill a little too aggressively. Not sure there is such a thing - it's football, by gosh. But, when Bullough got slugged in the head, the second year inside linebacker didn't let that slide. I hadn't really seen the interior guys get into it much over the three days but they certainly did on Saturday.
- After the skirmishes ended, O'Brien and Redskins' head coach Jay Gruden sent each team to time out. Or, better put, the Texans came over to field two, while the Redskins continued their workout in front of their fans on field one. The one thing that I'll remember more than anything was how charged up Vince Wilfork was once the Texans all walked over to field two. I couldn't hear or decipher exactly what he said, but there was one voice speaking over the din of the moment and it was Wilfork. The man has been through battles upon battles against all kinds of teams but today, it was different. The Texans seem to rally around what he was saying; heck, I would have if I weren't old, slow and retired from football.
- Another guy who was as animated as I've ever seen him following the four fights was Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Typically, he's completely calm, under control and never frazzled in the slightest. I don't know if I've seen him yell much at a practice. When the Texans resumed workouts, Coach Crennel was the loudest person on the field. I loved it. It's out of character for him, but it truly seemed to fit the moment, if you will.
- CB Charles James continues to make plays in practice, although he had some shaky moments earlier in the week v. the Redskins. He had a few great breaks on the ball and blanketed a deep route running receiver later in the practice v. his own squad. As the ball was thrown his way, it slipped right through his mitts. Immediately, a couple of Texans DBs reminded James that the drop was costly. The Charleston Southern alum just flashed that million dollar smile, knowing that he would soon have to contribute to the Defensive Back Bad Hands fund.
- RB Chris Polk returned to practice today and had a couple of solid runs down on the goal line for a touchdown. O'Brien noted after the workout that he saw Polk as a three down running back, so there's confidence in what the former Philadelphia Eagle can do.
- I mentioned tight end Khari Lee earlier in observations and he caught the ball extremely well on Saturday in the rain. The catch he made v. the Redskins defense was the best since he's been in Houston. He was crossing the formation as the ball was thrown behind him, away from the defenders. He reached back and snatched it behind him for a huge gain. He also had a touchdown catch later in practice. TE Coach John Perry has challenged Lee to make progress and today was a good day in that regard.
- S Corey Moore had a number of quality plays throughout Saturday's workout. He had a big time PBU during 1-on-1s with the Redskins on one rep then he completely locked down a TE on his route on another rep. He had a PBU during team drills against the Texans offense and is consistently around the football. From the day he arrived at rookie minicamp, Moore has made an impression.
Take a look at the best photos from the second practice against the Redskins in Richmond, VA.
Well, that wraps it up from Richmond, VA and the Washington Redskins Training Facility. The team travels on Sunday back home to Houston and has Monday off. Tuesday morning, the Texans get back on the practice field to prepare for the first preseason game of the year v. the San Francisco 49ers. Be sure to check out www.houstontexans.com for articles, photo galleries, videos and interviews from our past few days in Richmond. See ya' on Tuesday, everyone!
The Houston Texans roster in photos.