There comes a point right smack dab in the middle of training camp every season when everyone out on the field has the groundhog day feeling of "here we go again." Today's workout had that feel, nearly halfway through this OTA/minicamp phase of the offseason. As a result, seemingly, it was not the most crisp workout for either side, the offense, in particular.
Here are my observations from Wednesday's practice.
- Safety Kurtis Drummond continues to make plays during all facets of practice. It's clear the difference in the veterans and the rookies because the vets can adapt quickly to motion and shifts and Drummond is clearly on top of those situations. He made an excellent play down on the goal line early in practice when he flipped his hips and turned back in front of an in breaking route for a pass breakup.
- The first play of that goal line drill was a laser from Tom Savage to DeAndre Hopkins for an easy touchdown. The offensive unit didn't build on that success throughout the rest of the drill, though, as the defense remained standing for push ups at the end of it...if you catch my drift.
- After practice, Savage noted that the one thing he's realized more than anything else facing this defense is that he must get rid of the ball quicker. When he made quick, decisive decisions, he typically had success. There were times, though, when it was evident that he knew he had to get rid of the ball quicker. All the quarterbacks, for the most part, struggled with that on Wednesday.
- This defense is a master of disguise and hardly ever plays the defense it'll play when the ball is snapped. That's going to be valuable work for these three quarterbacks throughout the rest of this phase of the offseason and into training camp.
- Savage can deliver some seeds, that's for sure. He fired a deep in route to DeAndre Hopkins early in team drills. Hop broke open to the middle of the field and Savage stepped into one with some sauce on it.
- The best play I think I saw Savage make was during team drills. He saw the front and the coverage and changed the play at the line of scrimmage. He moved back into gun, directed his running back to the proper side and barked out the signals, identifying the soon-to-be blitzer. Knowing the coverage, he then held the safety with his eyes and threw a laser to Hopkins on the far sideline. To my point, he didn't hesitate at all at the line of scrimmage - he saw the defense, checked into the play, knew the coverage, disguised his intentions and then threw a seed. THAT'S what he's capable of doing; he just now has to get more comfortable doing that play in and play out.
- A rookie that caught my attention today is a guy that I expected to make a run at making the 53-man roster in September - undrafted linebacker Dylan Cole. That young man can fly. Down on the goal line, quarterback Deshaun Watson scrambled to his left as Cole was playing in the middle. As Watson took off for the goal line pylon, Cole flew after him. He tagged Watson just before going out of bounds, nearly 30 yards away from where Cole started the play. He can really run, but he must continue to progress and not plateau, heading into the five weeks away from the team after minicamp is over.
- Good to see rookie running back D'Onta Foreman at practice getting reps this week. This is certainly not the arena to judge a running back on anything at all, given the nature of the workout - i.e. no pads, no contact. There's still learning to be had, though. Late in practice, Foreman took a handful on an outside zone path. It's the type of run that isn't really meant to bounce, but Foreman saw some room to the outside and took off. Before he could even really turn the corner, defensive edge support arrived and ran him out of bounds. He's going to learn that in this league bouncing runs to the outside doesn't happen often. Lamar Miller has the juice to do it, but Foreman is going to have to bang that run in the future.
- Another rookie defender to watch in the future that seemed to pop today was former East Carolina outside linebacker Dayon Pratt. He can run and has some burst off the ball. We'll see at the Greenbrier whether, and how, he can free himself to get to the quarterback but he's gangly and seemingly tough to block because of his burst and length.
- Later in practice, rookie linebacker Zach Cunningham was in man coverage on running back/offensive weapon Tyler Ervin. Cunningham was inside with the corner man-to-man on the tight end to his outside. The tight end ran up and across the field, generating a natural pick on Cunningham as Ervin shot to the flat. Cunningham, though, evaded the route and then sprinted right to the spot where Ervin was going, not where he was, and blanketed the 2nd year pass catcher. No one has stayed with Ervin in the two OTA practices that we've seen but the rookie from Vanderbilt did it perfectly on the goal line.
- Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson didn't have a tremendous day throwing the ball, but down on the goal line, on the final drill of the day, he did his best work. In fact, he was decisive and made quick reads, getting rid of the ball on time and on point. He made a few interior throws, one to Braxton Miller for a completion down at the one yard line, that were as good as any made by a quarterback throughout the entire drill.
- One of Watson's throws was to rookie receiver Justin Hardee for a completion on a rollout. Did it look a little like the one to Hunter Renfrow for the national championship against Alabama? Kinda.
- I wrote in my notes that those three or four throws he made down on the goal line were the best tosses he'd had all day long.
- Cornerback Denzel Rice had a pick off of a deflection on a pass down on the goal line. It was one of those where the ball got batted straight up in the air and I could see three defenders closing in on the loose ball. It was like a fly ball in the Bermuda Triangle in baseball, I just hoped that someone would catch it and that no one would run into the other. Rice held on as safety Lonnie Ballentine collided with the Texans cornerback. Luckily, both guys were fine but unlike baseball, there's no way to call the other guy off the ball.
- Quarterback Brandon Weeden had maybe the best non-goal line throw of the day to Ryan Griffin. Standing behind the play in the end zone, I could see that Zach Cunningham was going to be manned up on Griffin, so I locked in on that matchup once the ball was snapped. Griffin showed the veteran moxie as he ran down the seam, leaning into Cunningham and then BOOM broke out to the outside. When he cut off his inside foot and took it to the outside, Weeden threw right on time for the easy completion. Let me be clear, that is NOT an easy route at all to cover, rookie or no, but Griffin knows how to get open against anyone down the field.
- Let me reiterate, Tyler Ervin is going to do some great things for this football team on both offense and special teams. He has a different gear when he gets the ball in his hands.
- With Ervin, Akeem Hunt, Will Fuller, Wendall Williams, Braxton Miller, this team finally has some dudes with some juice that can truly scare teams with their speed. It's just a matter of executing and getting open. Once they have the ball, the speed/explosiveness will take care of the rest.
- Defensive lineman Joel Heath had a batted pass for a pass breakup. I wanted to make sure I mentioned the defensive linemen because they were there, they are there every day, but they don't really get a chance to much of anything and it's just not fair. So, here's a little credit thrown to Heath and the crew up front.
We'll be back out next week for the final week of OTAs and then all of minicamp the following week. See ya then.
The Houston Texans roster in photos.