18 observations from Tuesday's veteran minicamp

The first of the team's three day mandatory minicamp took place a few hours earlier than originally scheduled. Bill trying to avoid Bill, obviously. Either way, here are a few observations from the team's practice session.

  1. It was good to see both Cecil Shorts and Jaelen Strong back practicing this week. The difference two additional healthy receivers make to the mix is substantial. Shorts had probably his best day and made some outstanding catches.
  1. Overall, it was one of the "chattiest" practices I've ever heard in nine seasons of covering the Texans. The spirit of the practice was highly competitive and it showed throughout the workout. Guys on the sideline were "all in" every team drill. Veterans encouraging rookies, chiding the opposite side of the ball. It added some good pop to every drill.
  1. Rookie ILB Benardrick McKinney got a bunch of reps as the coaching staff looked at some younger guys moving around in different combinations with others, especially on defense.
  1. The one linebacker that continues to make plays, no matter the combination out on the field, is Mike Mohamed. He had a couple of pass breakups, including one in which he laid out on a ball thrown to Jay Prosch and knocked it down.

Take a look at photos from the Houston Texans' first day of veteran minicamp.

  1. The vim and vigor of practice was set with a ton of competitive, 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 situations. One that got awfully competitive was a 7-on-7 drill inside the ten yard line. Both Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett performed well in that drill. Mallett was six for six, I believe, but Hoyer made some great back of the end zone throws. Of course, a few receivers made some toe tap catches too. Keshawn Martin and Shorts both had Santonio Holmes Super Bowl XLIII moments at the back of the end zone.
  1. The first pass play was broken up by...Mohamed.
  1. I like watching players do intelligent things and one of the smartest in the passing game is actually a running back - Arian Foster. When the field is condensed, there's not a ton of space but Arian has a way of finding the hole to sit and settle. He did that to make a catch with about four guys surrounding him.
  1. In all, that goal line passing drill was perhaps the best I've seen Mallett throw the ball. He made six consecutive rock solid decisions and then followed those up with darts to open receivers.
  1. One linebacker that I haven't mentioned a ton but is instrumental to both defense and special teams is Jeff Tarpinian. He had a PBU early during that goal line passing drill.
  1. One thing that was quite noticeable in practice, that coach O'Brien addressed after practice, was the mixing and matching of personnel in a ton of different situations. The staff wanted to look at different combinations on both sides of the ball. I mentioned McKinney earlier, but Louis Nix was thrown in with the first unit at times as well, amongst others.
  1. If there's an area or position that's been under the microscope more than any other, it's the tight ends. One guy that can help change that is former Iowa product C.J. Fiedorowicz. He did have one foible, but he made a ton of catches throughout the rest of practice. He won't catch 100 passes but he can be a valued member in the intermediate passing game, not to mention he can be a beast after the catch out in space. I'd love to see him take steps in being the run blocker/pass threat the Texans drafted in the third round last year.

The Houston Texans roster in photos.

  1. Deepi Sidhu asked me during practice who was the fastest of all the receivers. I thought about it and then it hit me "Oh, Chandler Worthy, that guy can scoot." Later in the workout, he caught a ball in the flat, then went mach five up the sideline. Deepi saw my point at that moment. The undrafted rookie from Troy has gotten plenty of reps with some other receivers out of OTAs, but he's definitely taken advantage of his time on the field.
  1. During team session, Jonathan Grimes made a tremendous one hand grab. It was one of a number of great catches throughout the day. The QBs threw it well but Grimes, Foster and the pass catchers did a solid job making some highlight reel catches.
  1. Lonnie Ballentine needs work on his man cover skills but there's something to really like about him at safety. He's big for a guy at that position but he can move fairly well. He had a pass break-up on the first play of a goal line passing drill. At least once each OTA and minicamp session, he's done something impressive.
  1. Darryl Morris...just keep an eye on this guy. I'm telling you.
  1. A guy that not many people know, but is an interesting candidate at the receiver position, is Jace Davis. He was on the team's practice squad last season. Today, he got my attention a couple of times with his route running in particular to get open. In fact, I have written in my notes "Jace Davis, GREAT route on Charles James." So, there you go.
  1. Speaking of James, he continues to be a pest in coverage...my daily James update, because I feel like I've mentioned him throughout the entire OTA/minicamp sessions.
  1. We've all talked about what great arms Mallett and Tom Savage possess, but Hoyer can launch deep as well. He javelined one about 50 or 55 yards to fellow Spartan Keith Mumphery for the longest gain of the day. That ball was launched!

And on that note, I'll leave you high and dry, hopefully. Well, for now, anyway. Stay safe and we'll be back tomorrow, no matter what.

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

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