We've reached that stage of this training camp where this is the last Saturday that we'll spend in West Virginia. At this time next week, we'll be a few hours away from kickoff of the first preseason game of the year at NRG Stadium. This Saturday (today), though, the Texans put the pads on and went to work. Here are my observations from the day's proceedings.
- This defense just knows how and when to crank it up and play. It can flip the switch and then it's bad news for everyone involved. This was one of those days.
- From stretching through the final field goal attempts of the practice, the defense never shut up. Those guys talked all day long. The feistiness started in foursquare and never stopped. They whooped and hollered every single second of the day. The word is swagger but I hate that word so I don't want to use it. It's true, though, those defenders walk on the field knowing how good they are and it showed today.
- Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney were in the backfield a lot, creating mayhem as you'd expect this duo to do on a regular basis.
- Clowney rushed on one occasion and was in the backfield so fast that he actually shut the play down because the quarterback was so shocked how quickly it happened.
- I asked rookie tackle Julien Davenport today if he had a "Welcome to the NFL" moment and he said "oh yeah...when Clowney bull rushed me and I wasn't quite expecting it."
- Mercilus continues to reach into his advanced bag of pass rush moves and get to the quarterback. I feel like he doesn't something different each day to get beyond a blocker and tag off on the quarterback.
- J.J. Watt, who threw back some Crunch Berries after practice (I'm so jealous - it's one of my all-time favorite cereals), also had a sack by disallowing a throw as he rushed. He threw his arms up after he rushed as if he didn't mean to disrupt the throw, but you could tell that J.J. wasn't about to not get in on the party. Keep in mind, he saw his brother post two sacks against the Giants on Friday night, on top of what was happening on Saturday, so J.J. certainly wanted in on the action.
Okay, while we're here…
Frosted Flakes with marshmallows
Crunch Berries - can't just be all berries, though - that's no fun.
Frosted Rice Krispies
Don't @ me.
- Tight end Stephen Anderson was one of the few pass catchers to have a relatively decent day. He finds ways to get open against either man or zone coverage. Then, it's a near lock that if the ball is close, he's going to gobble it up.
- Speaking of pass catchers, DeAndre Hopkins got a much needed day off and it got me thinking about a group that's been under construction throughout training camp. Jaelen Strong and Wendall Williams were the only two receivers in today's practice that practiced in all of OTA/minicamp in the offseason and training camp. Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, DeAndrew White and Deante Gray missed time in training camp. Justin Hardee, Riley McCarron, Chris Thompson missed portions of OTA/minicamp. Dres Anderson was a late addition in OTA/minicamp. Devin Street, DeAndrew White, Marcus Leak and Bruce Ellington were added while here at the Greenbrier for training camp (not to mention White was injured as well in training camp).
- Now, we all know Fuller will be out for an extended period of time, but the hope is that Miller and White can get back in shorter time. Plus, Hop will be back on Monday. All in all, it's been a serious challenge for Bill O'Brien, receivers coach John Perry and these three quarterbacks.
- Receiver Bruce Ellington was one of my favorite offensive weapon sort of players coming out in the draft in 2014. He was added to the roster on Friday and was thrown right into the mix on Saturday. Injuries have been his kryptonite but when he was healthy in college at South Carolina, he was electric. In fact, the day that Jadeveon Clowney announced his presence to the world with the Hit Heard 'Round the Nation, Ellington won the game with a touchdown catch with ten seconds left in the game. Shortly after that game winning catch, he joined the Gamecock basketball team and averaged ten points, three rebounds, three assists and a steal in 23 games the rest of the season. He's thought by some in Columbia to be one of the best overall athletes to compete for South Carolina. Now, if he can just stay healthy.
- Safety Marcus Gilchrist has slowly worked himself back into practices, participating in most drills. I actually noticed him while he won a few reps during the blitz pickup drill, as he rushed against the running backs. I don't ultimately know how much or when he'll be able to play but he can be a positive addition to this secondary.
- Rookie linebacker Zach Cunningham led the team in tackles last Wednesday night and it seems as if that game cracked the code on his confidence, a bit. I started seeing him get more and more comfortable with the defensive scheme last week and he's carried that forward into the game and practices the past few days. I'm not sure that a running back had one win against him in pass rush one-on-ones.
- During team drills, Akeem Hunt got the offense in the end zone on an inside run cutback. He knifed through the defense untouched and burst into the end zone for six points. He then punctuated the touchdown with a to-be expected touchdown dance. It was just after that, really, when the defense turned up the volume on the offense. On the play prior, Hunt put the offense in scoring range after making a catch out of the backfield and sprinting down inside the 15 yard line.
- I spoke of the receivers earlier and how it's been a tough go for them due to the injuries and such. That's done nothing but open up opportunity and Devin Street seems to be getting more comfortable. As a result, more targets have gone his way and he caught a number of passes today from all three quarterbacks.
- Running back D'Onta Foreman had the best run of the day, breaking through the first level and flying past the second level. At the end of the run, he had a little mush face for one of the defensive backs. It would've been a full-on stiff arm but the whistle blew once the rookie got out into the open.
- I wrote down a number of times in my book "would've taken a big hit" a few different times on Saturday. The defense, for as good as it was, had even more plays that would've turned up the volume with big hits. Thankfully, though, defensive backs peeled off and spared their offensive brethren.
- Coach O'Brien acknowledged after practice that it wasn't one of the offense's best days. The offense has been much improved, but it was one of those days where the defense was in a groove and the offense couldn't find the plate much at all (as they say in baseball).
- Later, though, the offense strung together the best drive of the day as Deshaun Watson took the offense 18 plus plays for a touchdown. It was really the only time that the defense went silent on the field or sideline all day long. One of the key plays on that drive was a Watson to Stephen Anderson completion for a first down. Another was a Wendall Williams catch and run (really fast running, really) to get the ball inside the red zone.
- Outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett had a sack on the last drive and a near interception as well in an early team drill.
- Cornerback Treston Decoud was back at practice the past few days and he finished with a pass breakup on a third down throw to end one team drill.
That's about it, everyone. I'll have more on Monday after the team's day off on Sunday. See ya' then.
Check out some of the best shots from Day 13 of training camp practice at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.