The Texans got in one final day of workouts before a welcomed day off on Monday. As Shakeel Rashad told me, though, it's not really a day off as much as it is a day of recovery. Very well said, my man. Either way, here are my observations from the day's workout.
- Linebacker Brian Cushing had the hit of camp when he delivered a loud, substantial blow to one of the Texans running backs on an inside run. Cushing came downhill and delivered a shot that reverberated off the mountains.
- Whitney Mercilus certainly does not have the hair that Benardrick McKinney has, then again, who does? Either way, Whit would've posted a big number of sacks on the day had he been allowed to hit and sack the quarterback. He's such an accomplished rusher and he's tough to block from either side of the formation. Regardless, I wrote in my notes "sack/rush 59, would've been a sack".
- By the way, I completely laughed out loud when Mercilus called McKinney "a minion" because of his hair. So funny. If you haven't seen the interview B Mac did with our own Deepi Sidhu, it's a riot. You can see it below.
- The offense strung together one of its best drives during the latter stages of practice. I have in my notes 18 plays, but I think I missed a few along the way. D'Onta Foreman capped it off with a short touchdown run after Tom Savage led the team all the way down the field. The offense did get an interference call on fourth down, and it was a legit PI that kept the long drive alive.
- A handful of veterans got the day off and Coach O'Brien talked about that philosophy yesterday with the assembled media. It's allowed the young players and backups plenty of opportunities to show what they can do with a significant number of more reps.
- Legendary former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer took in practice today. Just as Dana Holgorsen told us earlier in the week, the Greenbrier is actually closer to being in Hokie Country than it is West Virginia Mountaineer country. So, it made sense that the legendary Hokie coach and player made the drive over to see practice on Sunday.
- Beamer was able to do so on a magnificent day, the best day since we've been in West Virginia. When Shane Lechler punted and boomed the ball in the air, it would sail high majestically above the mountains. I mean, wow; that's one of my favorite parts of practice when he starts nailing punts into the stratosphere with those mountains in the background. Just beautiful.
- One of my favorite battles throughout camp thus far is cornerback Kevin Johnson against wide receiver Will Fuller V. Those two go at one another, especially during one-on-ones. What I love about it is that there's no jawing, no histrionics, just guys battling for the football on an every down basis.
- One thing stands out more than anything in this camp and I think it's because it's so peaceful down by the field. I stood down by the field for a team drill early in practice, which I'm accustomed to doing so throughout the season during games on the sideline. I have headphones on during games the entire time so I can never hear anything. Without headphones today, though, I could hear the advanced level of communication that the coaches, players and staff utilize throughout the practice. Players talking to coaches about what they saw was certainly interesting, but the communication during the play on both sides of the ball is fascinating. We do see/hear some of that in NFL Mic'd up or Sound FX, but it's ultra-interesting to see the amount of communication that happens as quickly and vociferously as it does on an every down basis.
- One guy always stands out when he starts talking/communicating, though: safety Corey Moore. Not always what he says but how it sounds. At safety, he's in charge of communicating with linebackers and cornerbacks and vice versa. But, every time he makes a call or he sees something, his excited voice goes up a few octaves and gets everyone's attention.
- He also has no desire to make any friends on the offensive side of the ball as he delivered the wood a few times, especially once on Sunday that elicited some ooohs and ahhs from his defensive mates.
- Both groups worked a bunch of situations throughout practice as they have at this point in practice for years. Coach O'Brien mentioned how valuable it is for the team to use those different, unique situations to practice things now that might show up even just once in a game. As such, they'll be ready to react in those situations when it does happen due to the experience they gather now in training camp.
- It's truly an honor to watch receiver DeAndre Hopkins do his work. At least once per practice, he'll make a catch that forces me to slug Marc Vandermeer and ask "did you see that?!?". He had one of those today on a throw that took him well out of bounds, but Hop reached up and snagged one that seemingly was being thrown away. He nearly got his feet down for the miraculous catch. The defense signaled no catch immediately but the more impartnt fact is that it was a near miracle that it was caught in the first place.
- I don't recall whether the quarterbacks threw one interception in all group or team drills. I don't have interception written in my notes once. There was, at least, one drop of a close interception that I remember, but I don't recall one interception by the trio of quarterbacks on Sunday.
- That said, the defensive backs got after it 1-on-1s, my friend. They seemed to take it personal if a receiver beat them on a route, any route. I only watched the receivers and the defensive backs during that period, mostly because they were right in front of me (Offensive line and defensive line worked on the far field, while tight ends and backs competed against the linebackers on the other half of the field). I wrote down "PBU" nearly a half dozen times in my book during that 1-on-1 period.
- Man, I'm so glad I don't have to cover or try to tackle multi-dimensional threat Tyler Ervin. He and Akeem Hunt are such a handful for linebackers to cover out of the backfield or corral in the run game. They certainly are not built like Lamar Miller or D'Onta Foreman, but, man, do they have some juice. I wrote that note down a few times for each of them the past few days.
- I had at least two different people ask me today whether outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett was one of the stars of camp. The questions came from two different people at two different times of practice, so I thought it was an intriguing inquiry. Keep in mind, Scarlett is now two plus years removed from an injury he suffered in college and it shows in his fluidity and movement on the field...plus, he's willing to announce his presence with authority, physically. He's certainly done that a few times in the past three days.
- The days are really starting to run together so I can't remember whether some things happened today, yesterday or back at OTA/minicamps in June. That's what happens at this point in training camp and when you get old (like yours truly).
- I mentioned the offense had an extensively long drive late in practice, but had one that went about 16 or 17 plays earlier as well. Both drives resulted in touchdowns, which is welcome news, no question, for that unit.
Alright, that'll hopefully keep the juices flowing for the next few days, until the team gets back on the field on Tuesday.
Tomorrow, what am I going to do without any football? Go fly fishing as one of my former Brown teammates did a few days ago (and as an aside, it's a lock that Shane Lechler will go fly fishing tomorrow, right?)? Run with the bears on one of the hiking trails (no joke)? Get lost in the Lost World Caverns? Tour the "Coolest Small town in the USA - Lewisburg, West Virginia? There's plenty to do, but as Shakeel said earlier, it's a day of recovery...and radio.
Catch Marc and I live on Texans Training Camp Live from 8-10 am CST on Sportsradio 610 tomorrow. So, it's not really an off day, just no practice. I'll have more on Tuesday from the Greenbrier, yet again, everyone. Take care.
Check out some of the best shots from the first week of training camp at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.