Another day is in the books from the Bon Secours (the r is silent, just so you know) Training Facility here in Richmond, VA. As a native of Richmond, TX, I've typed TX every single time, but then have to remind myself that I'm back here in Virginia for the weekend. A slight drizzle highlighted the day, but it could've been worse...like Thursday night when a gullywasher hit us on the way home from dinner.
- A number of Texans sat out practice as they rehabbed injuries or got the day off. As such, a number of threes and twos moved up the ladder a rung to the twos or the ones. It disrupted the rhythm of things throughout the day as Jonathan Grimes mentioned after practice. As always there were some good moments, but the Redskins returned the end of practice favor to the Texans, seemingly winning the last couple of drills.
- One of the great aspects of a shared practice is the fact that players get the opportunity to reunite with former college teammates, coaches and/or acquaintances. As practice was just about to start, nearly everyone was out on the two practice fields, but the last Redskin out of the locker room jogged out of the facility. It was Akeem Davis, a former Memphis Tiger. As he ran past, he made a beeline for Lonnie Ballentine, his former secondary mate with Memphis. The two exchanged a quick bro hug before Davis continued on to the practice field. That was one of the cool moments of the day to me for some reason.
- It was Ryan Mallett's day with the ones and there were definite start and stop moments with that first crew. One of Mallett's first throws during team was a laser across the middle to DeAndre Hopkins but he couldn't make the catch. It was a ball Hop catches nine and half times out of ten. Washington's defensive backs may have gotten a hand in on the ball but it's still a catch he should, and typically does, make. Mallett did hook up with Cecil Shorts III again, but missed the mark to Nate Washington a couple of times during the day. Washington did make a catch during the ones' Move the Chains team drill, one of the only catches during that period. As I said, it was an up and down day.
- The story for the Texans today was Brian Hoyer leading the second offense during the day. Since minicamp and OTAs when one of the two quarterbacks took snaps with the second group, it was a struggle at times. But, today, Hoyer lifted the two unit throughout the day. During the team's first team period versus Washington's nickel scheme, he threw a dart to Keith Mumphery for a first down. He then lofted one to Jonathan Grimes for another long gain.
- Later during an 11-on-11 Move the Chains drill, Hoyer threw a bomb down the field and couldn't have thrown it any better. I mean he dropped a dime right into the hands of EZ Nwachukwu. Unfortunately, EZ couldn't squeeze it and make the catch. But, the positive was the deep ball accuracy of Hoyer. That ball was just brilliantly thrown down the field. Other than the goal line fade, Hoyer threw to DeAndre Hopkins on Thursday here in Richmond, that deep ball was perhaps the best throw I've seen him make. Trust me, that ball should've been caught.
- During the team's goal line session, the first offense struggled a bit and Hoyer needed to get the twos in the end zone to get some momentum to end practice. On the team's second play from inside the ten, Hoyer stood in the pocket and found Jaelen Strong in the end zone. He lasered one to Strong, hitting him between the one and the one for a much needed end to the goal line drill.
- While Mallett and Hoyer faced the Redskins' nickel unit, the Texans nickel unit took on the Redskins offense. I didn't get to see too many reps as they were all the way down the field but I saw a couple of excellent throws by RGIII, combined with a scramble out of bounds. A Colt McCoy throw later in the drill led to perhaps the hardest hit of the day. McCoy couldn't find a downfield receiver, so he checked it down to his closest receiver. POW...Texans OLB Jason Ankrah delivered a massive hit on the receiver right as he caught the ball.
- I've said this before, I can't stand how often players I love in college end up on opposing teams. I mentioned Jamison Crowder yesterday but another guy that I didn't get to see yesterday that I was a huge fan of in college was former Florida runner Matt Jones. He's an absolute load and he ran the ball hard all day long. In fact, he introduced himself to Texans corner Kevin Johnson and by introduced, I mean, he ran KJ flat over right in front of the Redskins' vets. They went nuts and got all in KJ's face about it, in a sportsman's way of course.
- After radio, the first part of practice that I was able to truly watch was pass rush 1-on-1s. I eschewed watching 7-on-7 so I could focus on the Texans' pass rushers against Trent Williams and company. Jared Crick continued his strong week of work. He had a really quality day rushing on Thursday but was even better on Friday against the Redskins OL. His hand usage, placement and quickness are all improved and it's really paid off in much more effective and efficient pass rush.
- But, the real winners to me during that drill though were two rookies - Christian Covington and Dan Pettinato. Covington, the former Rice University product, is going to be a steal in the sixth round, mark my words. On the first rep that I saw when I walked up, he completely ran flat right over a Washington OL to get to the QB. Over the next four or five reps, Covington won each and every rep and was, without question, the winner of the drill. He won with a variety of different techniques but when he started the drill by running over a Washington OL, it gave him some serious confidence.
- Pettinato had a couple of reps where he just blew past the Redskins' offensive line. His quickness won out and that's his game. He's not the biggest player but he's relentless and never stops hunting the quarterback. His quickness though starred in that pass rush drill and he truly flashed.
- Chris Neild returned to face his former Washington teammates and flashed a couple of good moments. He's so difficult to move off the ball and he had a pass rush rep or two in which his power won out substantially. His game isn't about rushing the quarterback but it was good to see him dominate that drill a couple of times.
- I snuck a look into the 7-on-7 a couple of times as I was watching the pass rush drill. The one rep that stood out more than any other, Brian Cushing had a pass break up as he settled into coverage on Redskins slot reciever Andre Roberts. Again, another great sign that Cushing is back to his play making self.
- The other rep wasn't as good as Redskins WR Ryan Grant blew past a Texans' DB for a deep gain down the field.
- Watching Hoyer versus the Redskins nickel unit, he hit Jaelen Strong on the slant, completed one to Damaris Johnson who made a brilliant catch and then lasered one to Jace Davis. Three straight quality throws back-to-back-to-back.
- Greg Mancz, a rookie interior lineman from Toledo, isn't a guy I've talked much about, but I was thrilled he was available following the draft. GM and executive VP Rick Smith told Marc Vandermeer and I today that they thought long and hard about drafting Mancz in the seventh round, but went with LSU RB Kenny Hilliard instead. When the draft ended, they made the call to Mancz and he accepted. I've seen a few good things from him, but the best one was today when he picked up an inside linebacker cross blitz and planted a Redskins linebacker right into the turf.
- Safety Stevie Brown had a pass break up during the team's nickel period on a throw from former Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins.
- Another great hit, overshadowed only by Ankrah's hit noted earlier, was by safety Corey Moore. On a sideline route down the field, as the receiver was getting his hands on the ball, Moore planted the receiver out of bounds and knocked the ball loose for the break up.
- Eddie P! The former Duck safety had a strong day and picked off RGIII as Pleasant undercut an underneath route by a Redskin H-Back. I don't think he's a starter on this defense, but he does the little things that get the coaching staff's attention and adds value to both the defense and special teams.
- Benardrick McKinney continues to make progress playing his game on the inside. He made a couple of tackles during the Redskins Move the Chains 11-on-11 team drill. On one rep, the one in which Jones ran over Johnson on the Redskins sideline, McKinney decided to go underneath the block but the refs threw a flag on the Redskins' OL for holding McKinney on the play.
- I haven't seen Tom Savage much this week, but he had one of the most memorable reps of the day. He didn't catch a shotgun snap clean but he was finally able to get it under control. He spun his head around after finally latching on to the rock and then found Jace Davis on the slant route underneath. He fired to Davis, hitting him in stride after it appeared that the play was a disaster sure to occur.
- During the final team drill of the day, the Texans pass rush, led by Covington, had Colt McCoy running for his life as he attempted to just throw the ball away and get away from the blue shirted Texans.
- RGIII threw a gorgeous fade route to Pierre Garcon for a touchdown on the Redskins' goal line offensive reps. But, had it been a game situation, he wouldn't have even got rid of the ball. I focused that rep on JJ Watt who was matched up with former Iowa Hawkeye rookie guard Brandon Scherff. Watt beat Scherff on that rep so badly, that the rookie didn't even get out of his stance before Watt shot past him. 99 was so brutally quick off the ball and didn't give the rookie a chance. Watt then ran past RGIII as the former Heisman Trophy winner launched his beautiful pass for the TD.
- Watt hasn't gotten a ton of reps during individual and with good reason. But, when he's been on the field getting reps, he's done what he always does. Then, after practice and another 30 minute workout or so, he spent 15 to 20 minutes signing autographs for Redskins' fans. Yes, for Redskins' VIP fans, no less. It's unreal to watch.
One more day left out here and I'll be back with more observations tomorrow, so come right back here on Saturday for my observations of the final day of our visit in Richmond.
The Texans worked vs. Washington on Thursday in Richmond, Virginia.