17 observations from Monday's OTAs

Hot was the theme of the day and it wasn't just for the weather (and wooooo, it was hot!) during OTAs to kick off the week. Heating up the QB with some blitz. Hot quarterbacks slinging the rock during team and 7-on-7s. Hot wasn't just the mid-90s weather on Carlos Correa day (yeah, I'm pumped...sue me). What stood out? Glad you asked, here are some quick observations from the workout.

  1. There's been such a focus placed on sub-package situations throughout the league and the Texans spent a good deal of time mixing and matching in sub-package/3rd down situations. I don't recall a base defense being on the field today as the Texans' offense worked versus nickel and dime throughout.

Take a look at photos from the Houston Texans' third week of OTAs.

  1. The no doubt, best moment during the workout was the one handed catch by Arian Foster on the far sideline. QB Ryan Mallett dropped one in the bucket as Foster was sprinting up the far sideline. It looked like the bucket was just too far upfield, but Foster reached out with a paw and snatched it out the air, DeAndre Hopkins style.
  1. On that note, I'm not sure that I would ever cover Foster with a LB in the passing game. Ever. I said it last year and I'll say it again, his receiving skills are without peer at the running back position in this league. I even showed you that last week with my piece on him; he's just a wonderful weapon to have in this league.
  1. When the Texans signed Nate Washington, I wrote a piece on him as it pertained to how his veteran savvy could be seen in his route running. I watched him closely today on a few of his routes and that man can get open in a phone booth. He has a knack of selling his routes to get open and it's fun to watch a veteran at his age still know how to find seams or win against man coverage.
  1. One of the most competitive moments of the day was during 7-on-7 session when Washington ran a corner route and Mallett made the throw. At the high point, Washington and CB Darryl Morris both leapt and fought for the ball. The youngster got the best of the veteran on that one but that was fun to watch those two fight for that pass.
  1. Overall, the offense had some rhythm and really got hot today during team and 7-on-7. During Mallett's first 7-on-7 session, I don't remember the ball hitting the ground. Even during a penalty, he decided to launch one effortlessly 65 yards down the field to Keith Mumphrey. It was clear that Mallett was feeling it once he got rolling today.
  1. But, Brian Hoyer wasn't to be outdone. He began the last 7-on-7 session with some darts. Unfortunately, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz didn't get his head around on the pass and took one right in the helmet. Other than that, he threw a couple of gems to Damaris Johnson who looked good working the middle of the field today.
  1. Travis Labhart had a strong day as well. He had a couple of uncharacteristic drops last week during workouts but he snagged everything today. I've seen (and many of you are Aggies that saw him too) him make one play after another back at A&M so don't be surprised if he finds a way to get in the WR competition during camp.

In celebration of his 27th birthday, view 27 of the best photos of Ryan Mallett as a Houston Texan. (AP Images)

  1. We've all had coaches at some point growing up that would do nothing but bark orders at us. "Do this". "Do THAT". Always telling us what to do but couldn't do half the things they ever showed us. The coaches we remember are those that wouldn't ask us to do something they couldn't. They were just as accountable as the players. We loved those coaches. Case in point, at practice today, the offense messed up a cadence and the entire offense dropped to to do ten pushups. Bill O'Brien, Pat O'Hara and George Godsey included. In fact, they were the first three to hit the ground and do push-ups and the players followed suit. Something small, but it means something to players that coaches take accountability as much as they demand it.
  1. I could go on about the quarterbacks all day long but one thing that stands out is the ability of all three signal callers to throw lasers into tight holes or on deep crossers. These three can deliver those routes with ease.
  1. The other thing is the communication level. I don't know how many times Hoyer and Mallett made a verbal command to the offense in third down situations versus potential blitz or complex rush looks. Those two, along with Tom Savage, have such a different level of command of this offense than the quarterbacks last year at this time. As such, it's allowed the offense to move at a much faster rate, regardless of everyone's experience in this scheme.
  1. As noted above, situations ruled the day. During the first team session, O'Brien reminded his offense a few times of the down and distance, keeping them aware of the chains as such to impact decision making. Situations are something we talked a bunch about last year and will continue to be a factor going forward under O'Brien.

13. Linebacker Max Bullough wasn't known for his pass coverage ability in college, but he's improved in that area a bunch since being in Houston. Today, he tracked RB Jonathan Grimes on a route down the field and knocked down a pass. If he can do that, he's going to be right in that ILB competition for certain.

14. Wide reciever EZ Nwachukwu made an outstanding catch on a corner route thrown by Mallett. EZ's been around here for a few years and consistently improves in all facets. This is his time to make some headway in this WR competition for certain with a few guys rehabbing injuries this week.

Take a look at photos from the Houston Texans' fourth day of OTAs.

  1. Cornerback Charles James continues to make strides as a cover corner in this defense. It just feels like he's got a ton of confidence, but then again, that guy wakes up and oozes confidence. But, he's consistently in good position in coverage and is going to compete, all day, every day.
  1. If there's one thing the defense doesn't like at all (speaking from experience too), pick routes or what the offense calls a rub route. On a particular play late in practice, the coaching staff and defensive players were a wee bit upset at a perceived pick route. If it had been pickup ball where no one calls fouls, it would've been called a foul, it was that obvious. I liked seeing them get so perturbed.
  1. The news of the Texans heading to Richmond, Virginia, to tangle with Washington early in training camp was announced via email early in practice. The Texans worked hard to make that a reality after losing the opportunity to practice with the Saints prior to the 3rd pre-season game. Last year's workouts in Denver were invaluable to the team for a number of different reasons and three days of swapping paint with Jay Gruden's crew, hopefully, will have the same impact.

So, there you go, another OTA in the books and another day closer to putting the pads on in training camp. That, my friends, can't get here soon enough.

The Houston Texans roster in photos.

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