It's another Hard Knocks Tuesday, but more importantly Tuesday was essentially the middle of training camp. It's ALL downhill from here, right? Well, not really, there's a lot of work still on the docket with two weeks and change remaining.
Here are some observations from Tuesday's full pads practice.
- Coach O'Brien started the day with a "going out" drill. The ball was placed inside the offense's five-yard line as it was forced to maneuver. Hoyer, taking first team reps today, hit Cecil Shorts for a short gain and following a five yard run from Alfred Blue, Hoyer hit his fullback Jay Prosch for a first down. The offense looked efficient against a strong rush from the front seven on D.
- When Ryan Mallett took over on offense, he hit Damaris Johnson in stride. That was where the good start ended as following a false start, Coach O'Brien colorfully told his 2nd team offense to "take a lap."
- Tom Savage made a couple of accurate throws leading to a 1st down but it appeared that the slow start frustrated Coach O'Brien and the staff. That would change throughout the rest of the day as the team picked up the intensity and execution.
- During individual drills, rookie defensive tackle Christian Covington consistently flashed with effort and intensity. There's rarely a time when he isn't going all out at every time.
- During 1-on-1s, safety Eddie Pleasant was all over Garrett Graham, doing a great job of limiting him in the open field. Graham did bounce back with a catch on a well-executed pivot route.
- One guy who consistently covers the tight ends better than anyone else is former Georgia safety Corey Moore. He locked up Graham on one rep and ended up with a pass break up against the guy that rarely has been covered in training camp.
- Later in the 1-on-1 drills, Ryan Griffin, who was healthy after missing about a week of practice, ran a pristine route for a big gain. I was also really impressed with rookie Khari Lee who, again, made a few nice catches; he's been improving a little bit each day.
- With each and every opportunity in training camp, C.J. Fiedorowicz is flashing in the passing game. He made a great grab on a back shoulder fade down the perimeter and has gotten open consistently.
- Chris Polk impressed with a catch against Benardrick McKinney that went for a TD. Polk, though, didn't get everyone. A moment later Polk had a pass broken up by Bullough way downfield.
- During pass rush 1-on-1s, ILB Benardrick McKinney blew through like a house of fire on one of his interior rushes to get easily to the quarterback dummy. No, the QB isn't a dummy, the dummy that was in place of the QB. RB Jonathan Grimes had perhaps one of the best reps of the day as he did a GREAT job on Cushing.
- Jadeveon Clowney finally got to put pads on for the first time since November 2014. He didn't do any team or group stuff, but he got the chance to lock horns with TE C.J. Fiedorowicz in 1-on-1 run blocking drills. He held up against the Texans best blocking tight end. The power. The leverage. The knee bend. All there. He got two reps against C.J. and that was all, but it's just wetting the appetite for later in training camp. Tantalizing to say the least.
- During 7-on-7 drills, Graham looked really strong with some nice catches all over the field from Brian Hoyer. He broke multiple tackles and came down with some 50/50 balls. He continued his assault on the intermediate areas of the defense.
- In the same drill rookie Charles James flashed his athleticism at one point, picking off Hoyer on a day where Hoyer was outstanding.
- Speaking of Hoyer, he was brilliant throughout the day, especially with tight throws down the sideline. At one point, he had a perfect throw to Keshawn Martin on a comeback as well as another beauty to Nate Washington on a fade route.
- During lineman drills the rookies struggled a bit. Carlos Thompson and Tony Washington struggled against some of the older guys. On the other hand, a crop of veterans including Brandon Deaderick and Vince Wilfork did a great job getting off of blocks.
Take a look at photos from Astros shortstop Carlos Correa's visit to #TexansCamp.
- Hoyer started slow during team session, after being picked off by Kareem Jackson, who had a strong day. However, Hoyer quickly found his groove making multiple strong throws.
- When the second team offense came out, Ryan Mallett completed passes all over the field, including touchdowns to Damaris Johnson and Chris Polk.
- During team drills from the one yard line, Hoyer made a nice throw to Graham on a corner fade for a TD.
- In what was by far the most memorable moment of the day, Coach O'Brien noticed that J.J. Watt was not on the defensive side of the ball. Immediately, he yelled "I want Watt in the game". I thought perhaps OB meant Watt on offense, but he meant he wanted him back on defense. So, 99 ran over to the other side and must have taken his head coach's orders as a challenge. As the ball was snapped, Watt knifed into the backfield, hammered Alfred Blue, caused a fumble and forced the defense and the crowd to erupt in joy. I've said it before and I'll say it again, he's one of the few athletes I know that can make a play on command.
- One guy that has really improved his play throughout training camp is Justin Tuggle. On the next play after Watt's stick on the goal line, Tuggle stoned RB Kenny Hilliard at the goal line to keep him out of the end zone. To Hilliard's credit, he powered the next one over the goal line for an offensive TD.
- The defense managed to make some great stops against the first team offense, mostly thanks the presence of some guy named Watt. The goal line drill was made for the defense, in some sense to pin their ears back and get after it. The D did that and then some. That said, the offense had a couple of moments inside the ten as well.
- At one point, during a team drill inside the ten yard line, Hoyer scrambled for a touchdown, much to the chagrin of the defense that wondered whether that touchdown should actually count against it. There's still some debate going on whether it should or not. I'm a former defensive back, it shouldn't count.
- One other key play for the offense, on a 3rd and 1 drill later in the practice, Chris Polk ran over a defensive back, believe it was Charles James, for a first down. The former Washington Husky product has made significant strides toward potentially get more and more reps at RB in Arian Foster's stead.
That'll do it.
I've got to profusely thank Julian Rowe-Cohen for being my eyes during practice and helping so much put these observations together. Tomorrow is another step closer to Saturday night and the Denver Broncos. Can't wait!
See ya' manana, boys and girls.
Take a look at the best photos from the 12th practice of #TexansCamp.