All that stands between the Texans and the Greenbrier is a pair of minicamp practices, six weeks of silence and a plane trip to West Virginia. As such, the last week of said offseason kicked off Tuesday with the first of the team's three scheduled mandatory minicamp practices.
Here are my observations from a spirited and competitive workout.
- Each year it happens about this time when the competition ratchets up a notch or three. One aspect of this workout that was evident was the competitive nature of the practice. We know how competitive this group of coaches and players is and that really showed itself today as the groups went at one another.
- With officials on hand, it should've been a sign that business was about to pick up and it did. During various situations in practice, the defensive backs and receivers were, uh, shall we say vocal about what was a catch, pass interference, a first down or even a touchdown.
- A great example of that was when tight end Stephen Anderson caught a short pass during a red zone drill and was awfully close to a touchdown when he was "tackled" by one of the Texans defenders. The official on hand signaled touchdown which the offense celebrated and left the defense seething and grumbling while walking off the field.
- One of the funniest moments in practice happened a little later during a similar drill. Deshaun Watson was under center and eyed DeAndre Hopkins on the far sideline. Watson fired one for Hopkins but a few feet away stood safety Corey Moore who got a tremendous break on the ball. Moore should've had the pick but he didn't reel it in. As such, the ball then worked its way to Hopkins and he couldn't reel it in. The defense, Moore in particular, was disappointed, mad really that he didn't make the pick. Hopkins was mad at himself because he didn't catch it and did ten pushups right in the back of the end zone. Each side thought it blew an opportunity for a touchdown catch/interception, depending on which side you were on.
- The quarterbacks continue to make significant strides in practice. I have the word "comp" written a whole lot more than "INC" in my notes from practice. The ball didn't hit the ground much at all during the session. What I like more than anything is the ball placement. The quarterbacks are putting the ball in positions where their guys can make the catches or no one makes it. The few times that the quarterbacks haven't been as accurate, the receivers have made adjustments to make catches.
- One guy that the offense has a tough time beating, though, is Johnathan Joseph. Each quarterback tried him deep a couple of times down the near sideline and Joseph won every challenge. Nearly every day, I watch J-Jo closely during individual drills and he's just so smooth, while staying exact with every movement. He's linear in everything he does - he doesn't round his cuts as some of the young guys still do.
- The only guy I saw get the best of J-Jo was Stephen Anderson who caught a deep dig route against the outstanding Texans cornerback. I say "caught" but it was more like the ball was impaled against Anderson's body as he moved into the middle of the field for the catch. Tom Savage delivered an absolute fastball right on the numbers, right out of Anderson's break for an impressive throw and catch during 7-on-7.
- Savage threw well nearly all day long. A little later, he hit rookie tight end Evan Baylis in a zone during 7-on-7. Baylis ran to an open spot, surrounded by three defenders, and Savage dropped one right on him for the first down.
- Savage seems to be going through his progressions faster than earlier in the offeseason. A great example of this was during the team's red zone drill. As he pushed from center, he didn't see anything, initially. He went from one side to the next and then back inside. He even pumped to the outside to what would've been receiver number two or three. That lured the safety or linebacker out of the middle which opened a throwing lane to Jaelen Strong. Savage then reset his feet and arm slot and delivered a strike to the open receiver for a first down. Well, it was a first down by minicamp standards.
- Savage tried to go deep to Braxton Miller but wily veteran Kareem Jackson was step for step with the former Buckeye great. Some might say that Jackson had some jersey in his hands, but this former defensive back saw nothing at all. It was an impressive pass breakup. I got your back, K Jack.
- DeAndre Hopkins also hit Anderson on a similar inside breaking route covered by one of the Texans inside linebackers. That throw, wow...that was another fastball from the former professional baseball player. Yet, Anderson caught it as if he was catching a throw from the Jugs machine.
- A couple of plays earlier, Weeden was a little off as he attempted to hit newly acquired receiver Dres Anderson on an inside route. Weeden threw Anderson back to the outside, but Anderson's momentum took him to the inside. Anderson dove back to his left and snatched the rock out of the air for another first down catch.
- It's impressive to watch Shane Lechler still hit perfect spiral bombs during practice. Majestic with major hangtime, too. Cory Carter, the team's second punter, impressed as well with some similar rocket shots. That's about all I can tell you about punting. They both hit it well.
- Deshaun Watson continues to show how comfortable he is in all facets of the offense. He didn't miss often throughout the day, even when he couldn't handle a snap. During a team drill, he mishandled a snap from center but without missing a beat, he snatched the ball back up and in one motion delivered a strike to rookie receiver Justin Hardee for a first down on the outside. I've seen quarterbacks work that drill at various times, but that was ridiculously impressive to see it during live action.
- Watson's velocity is more than adequate too. As I mentioned last week, the noise about his lack of RPMs after the Combine was so stupid. I will admit watching him since he's been here, though, that his arm strength is even more impressive than I anticipated. He made a throw to Jaelen Strong during 7-on-7 that had some serious juice on it.
- I'm intrigued to see more of newly acquired linebacker Sio Moore. He nearly had an interception, one of the few true interception opportunities the defense had during the day, but couldn't hang on. That said, I want to see him in full pads and how he can impact this defense going forward.
- On one of Watson's throws during team, he was forced to scramble to the outside before throwing one away. The guy that helped force that errant throw was former Missouri interior defender Ricky Hatley. The big fella was moving with a capital M. I thought that Hatley was a little bit overshadowed at Missouri and can't wait to see him put the pads on and prove that he can make an impact at this level in training camp.
- That really goes for all of the big rookies on either side of the ball. It's a gigantic tease to see them on the field in t-shirts and shorts but unable to really do anything.
- Wendell Williams has become Marc Vandermeer's guy and after this offseason, it's not hard to understand why. He had a couple of "wow" plays during the day for different reasons. He caught a shallow crossing route from Watson and had nothing but green grass in front of him. He ran away from EVERYONE once he got the ball in his hands. Later in practice, he caught a fade route for a touchdown on the far sideline from Brandon Weeden. Williams had to go up and snatch that one away from the defensive back, and did, for the touchdown. He looks night and day different from his rookie campaign. He must replicate that success in training camp to be an impact player on this offense going forward.
Well, that's all for now. I'll have much more for you tomorrow as we'll get to see the second day of minicamp. See ya then, everyone.
Check out some of the best shots from the first day of veteran minicamp.