Well, the final OTA session, the last of ten in total, took place on Friday and nearly completed the team's off-season work prior to training camp. All that remains is a mandatory three day mini-camp next week and then the next time this group will be together will be at training camp, with the 2015 season right around the corner at that point.
But, the squad had one final OTA to get through and coach Bill O'Brien put his squad through a workout laden with situations. So, let's rock.
I get asked a lot by people what I mean by situations. It's honestly a good question. O'Brien and the coaching staff spend a great deal of time practicing specific instances that do, or could, possibly arise during a game. Think about all the moments that happen in a game. Third downs are huge. Goal line. Late in the game or a half. Ahead in the game. Behind in the game. The staff mixes and matches throughout the practice and, of course, the kicking game gets heavily involved as well.
- And, I'll start there because I don't talk about the kicking game all that much, but in every situation that ended with a kick today, Randy Bullock and rookie Will Johnson made every single kick in both directions. That's about all I can tell you about the kicking game and the extent of my observational knowledge, but I do know that making FG/XPTs is a good thing.
- The entire practice was HIGHLY competitive, but the initial portion more so than any other period. On the very first play of "Situation Day", Ryan Mallett hit Garrett Graham on a fade route for a TD, who followed with a definitive spike too. But, coach O'Brien noted that it was a two-out-of-three competition and the defense responded. After an incompletion, ILB Brian Cushing knocked down a pass to "win" the drill. Then O'Brien motioned to the offense, the entire offense, that it was time to drop and do push ups. That unit obliged, along with all of the offensive coaches.
Take a look at photos from the Houston Texans' third week of OTAs.
- Speaking of Cushing, I can't tell you how excited I am to see what he does in 2015. He's so much more fluid and explosive in these practices than I can remember. He knocked down passes at the line of scrimmage. He broke up passes 15-20 yards down the field. A mobile, agile and hostile Cushing is needed on this defense and I feel good about what we've seen thus far.
- Another defender that's had some really good moments in OTAs, especially on the second set of goal line downs, is Darryl Morris. I've seen him all over the place, fighting for passes and breaking them up regularly. He made an extraordinary break on the goal-line throw, nearly picked it off and headed for the house. But, he knocked it down to help the defense earn a 'W' on that rep. Throughout OTAs though, "D Mo" has flashed repeatedly. I think had he not gotten injured in the Buffalo game at the end on his game-sealing pick, he would've gotten more and more playing time the rest of the 2014 season.
- Rookie Benardrick McKinney had two picks today during the workout. He caught a tipped pass off the hands of Mike Mohamed, who made a tremendous play to get his hands on the ball. Then, later in a two-minute drill, McKinney leapt in the air for the rebound…errr, I mean the pass and picked it off. He's not perfect in coverage, but for a guy that many said (including me) needed to improve that aspect of his game, it was a good sign.
- Charles James, again, had a pick in the end zone on a goal-line drill. I think I've mentioned him nearly every day, which is a good thing for the most part.
- When the team flipped it around and went the other way, starting at the 20-yard line going out, Mallett threw a dart on an out route to Nate Washington. Both Mallett and Tom Savage threw lasers a few times on out routes. Two of Savage's best throws were "on-a-line" ropes on out cuts by receivers. Similarly, when Mallett threw an out to Keith Mumphery, the young Spartan made the catch but it jolted him a bit.
- It's been more of a passing camp than anything else but RB Alfred Blue has much more juice than he had this time last season. I think he's going to surprise fans when training camp rolls around.
- Another player that has consistently made plays in OTAs is WR Damaris Johnson. Man, when that guy catches the ball in space, wow, he can go.
- This was the first time that a handful of passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage. Louis Nix had one of them, which was a great sign. I've got a good feeling that he'll have a rebound second season but we'll know a whole lot more when the pads go on.
- Mallett hit Mumphery on a seam route for a touchdown for a one-play drive during a late-game situation. Mallett also hit tight end Ryan Griffin with a laser dart for a touchdown. Griffin made a diving, sliding catch for the score and then dunked it over the goal posts. Nice ups, too.
- Brian Hoyer then led his unit from the 50-yard line for a touchdown a few series later in the day.
- Former Troy WR Chandler Worthy will definitely be a rookie to watch when training camp opens. He's not big by any stretch of the imagination, but that guy can scoot. He's gotten a ton of much-needed reps with a few wide receivers rehabbing during OTAs.
- Speaking of slot receivers, Travis Labhart made the catch of the day during the two-minute drill. He tipped the ball essentially to himself with two defenders converging on him, reached up and brought it down and then sprinted for 50 to 60 yards. Again, it was the former Aggie receiver finding a way to make a play during practice.
- Johnathan Joseph had two pass breakups in the second half of practice. I know many of you expect the veterans to make all the plays, but they also don't get as many reps (or need as many reps) as the young guys.
- As a side note, I cannot wait to see this defense completely and totally unleashed during the season. Whooo!
- I mentioned Mike Mohamed earlier as he tipped a pass on the goal line that Benardrick McKinney intercepted, but he deserves even more mention. Teams win championships with players like Mohamed. I've seen that guy do just about everything that a linebacker is asked to do and then some. Throw in his work on special teams and it's going to be extremely difficult to get him off the field. I love THAT guy - the one that doesn't get much acclaim, can do just about anything he's asked, doesn't say much at all and just does his job (and does it well). That's Mohamed.
The team gets back on the field on Tuesday for the first day of a three-day mandatory mini-camp, then again, no one on this roster missed a day of VOLUNTARY OTAs. Three days, then a five-week break until players report for training camp and that can't get here soon enough. See you next week.
The Houston Texans roster in photos.