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24 observations from #TexansCamp: Day 16


I'm conflicted at the moment because these will be the last observations that I'll write from Almost Heaven, aka West Virginia. It's surreal in a sense and I want to savor the moment that much more, but I have to get to it because the Patriots were back for day two and you want to know what happened. Okay, okay, here are my observations on the day.

  1. Of course, Mother Nature saved the most beautiful day for last. 78 degrees. Sunny. Gorgeous day for the thousands of fans on hand. I felt like there were more Texans fans on hand for the proceedings, which was seconded by Drew Dougherty. But, it was still dominated by the Patriots fans that came from nearby New England states, and beyond, to see their Pats at practice.
  1. The best play of the day had to be, without question, receiver Jaelen Strong's touchdown catch in the back corner of the end zone. Tom Savage lofted a beautiful deep ball to the back corner as Strong had a step on Pro Bowl cornerback Malcolm Butler. Strong leapt high in the air to snatch the throw for the touchdown. The Patriots defense was fairly stingy, as was the Texans, but Savage was able to find Strong for the big play on the two minute drive situation.
  1. It hurts me to say it, but the best non-quarterback on the field the past two days was seemingly Patriots receiver Chris Hogan. I remember Hogan from the Dolphins' Hard Knocks season and he was known as 7/11 because he was always open. Well, he got open short, intermediate and deep and he caught everything thrown his way the past two days. He was the most dangerous player on the Patriots offense for the Texans secondary this week.
  1. The Texans were short a number of bodies on Wednesday, especially at receiver and the defensive line. It's not that unusual for any team in the league at this point in camp, though, so it's far from time to panic.
  1. I watched the Patriots defensive linemen against the Texans offensive linemen in one-on-one pass rush drills today as it was the 1-on-1 group right in front of me.
  1. The Patriots selected Derek Rivers from Youngstown State in the third round and he's going to be a solid player for them in due time. He was able to win a couple of times against the Texans tackles but the Texans tackles were solid overall against the Patriots edge guys.
  1. Center Nick Martin has been as strong as ever this camp in pass protection in one-on-one drills. He slowed Patriots defensive tackle Vincent Valentine a couple of times yesterday and again today.
  1. Patriots defensive end Kony Ealy tried to whip Kendall Lamm with an inside move from the right side (Lamm at left tackle), but Lamm slid right with it and kept Ealy in front of him the entire way.
  1. Guard Xavier Su'a-Filo and Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown have gone at each other in these reps. It's been back and forth each rep, each day. Brown won a rep early with a little slap rip move, but Su'a-Filo bounced back and won the next rep with Brown.
  1. Oh man, did Whitney Mercilus teach a young Patriots offensive tackle a lesson. Whitney just whipped a rookie off the edge and it earned some hoots and hollers from his teammates at the time.
  1. Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Ricky Hatley won a couple of reps in pass rush 1-on-1s and has steadily improved in that particular arena since being a member of this team.
  1. Linebacker Brian Cushing was back on Wednesday and he lit up former Brown University star and Patriots fullback James Develin on an isolation play on the Patriots first play from scrimmage in team. Gave me a chill to see 56 run through a fellow Brown U. alum.
  1. A couple of plays later, Tom Brady put one right on the money to Julian Edelman for about a 20 yard gain. I happened to have eyes on Edelman the whole time and it looked like he was blanketed with two defenders on him. Then, all of a sudden, he planted and cut to the sideline. And, as expected, the ball was already in the air. As soon as Edelman got his head around, the ball was there. He ran right through the catch and out of bounds without being touched.
  1. I felt like the Texans were able to open holes for Lamar Miller and the running backs on Wednesday (and Tuesday as well). I was up in the end zone and could see holes develop and on one run, there was a massive one that the interior opened and Miller cut back into it for a significant run.
  1. Linebacker Zach Cunningham met Tom Brady, on the field that is, for the first time and actually nearly picked him off midway through practice. Brady zeroed in on a crossing route and never saw Cunningham in the middle of the field. Zach, unfortunately, couldn't hang on to the interception. So, later in practice, Brady decided to teach the youngster a lesson and it's one only Brady could teach. Chris Hogan was running a route deep downfield and Cunningham was right in his hip pocket. There was no room to fit a ball into that tight a space, yet Brady fit a ball right into that tight space. Hogan never broke stride, making the catch, and Cunningham looked around like how did that happen. There are maybe three other quarterbacks on this planet that would've completed that throw - Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and maybe Philip Rivers. That's it. Luckily, the Texans only play Brady this year.
  1. Safety Marcus Gilchrist has gotten more and more time on the practice field as he continues his climb back from the injury he suffered in 2016. He made a couple of excellent plays in coverage, including a pass breakup when covering Pro Bowl star tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk ran a sail route into the sideline and Gilchrist was in his hip pocket, knocking the ball away at the last moment. Not knowing exactly when, or even if, he'd be ready, it's been a pleasant surprise to see Gilchrist on the field the past week or so.
  1. I mentioned Jaelen Strong earlier and he had an excellent catch on a fade route in the end zone from Deshaun Watson during red zone 7-on-7.
  1. I'm not sure how many catches Stephen Anderson finished with on Wednesday but it felt like he caught one every time he was on the field.
  1. Fellow tight end Ryan Griffin made a tremendous catch down the seam for a touchdown from Deshaun Watson. Safety Duron Harmon was right in Griffin's hip pocket but Deshaun Watson threw the pass right over the top of Harmon's head where Griffin snatched it out of the air for a touchdown.
  1. Griffin also had a juggling catch earlier in practice. Tom Savage threw a dart and the Patriots defender got his hands on it, knocking it up in the air. Griffin hauled it in, bobbled it, hauled it back in, bobbled it again and finally snatched it for the first down catch.
  1. More often than not on Wednesday, Tom Savage was decisive and quick with his decision making and throwing lasers to his teammates. The only trouble he really got in during the day was forcing a few over the middle to Griffin a couple of times. He didn't throw any interceptions. In fact, I don't remember any quarterback on either side throwing an interception at all.
  1. One masterful thing that Brady does is how he'll quick snap a defense, if it's not ready. He did it on Tuesday and again on Wednesday against the Texans first unit. The defense was sort of milling around, waiting for the call and to get lined up. Without hesitation, Brady had the ball snapped quickly and threw to running back Rex Burkhead for a seven yard gain. It's the little things that Brady has mastered that help turn the tide of a drive or game.
  1. Running back Tyler Ervin had a solid day, catching a touchdown on a scramble throw from Deshaun Watson. The craziest play of the day also involved Ervin. He beat the linebacker in coverage, caught the ball and turned up the field. As he did, Rowe didn't even go to tackle him; he went right for the pigskin and literally stole it right away from Ervin. All in all, though, Ervin had a strong couple of days.
  1. The second Texans defensive unit kept Jimmy Garoppolo and his offensive mates out of the end zone on the last two minute situation of the day. Safety Kurtis Drummond nearly came up with a pick on a throw to Danny Amendola across the middle, while cornerback Denzel Rice broke up a deep pass intended for receiver Austin Carr, with help from Corey Moore.

Well, that'll do it from West Virginia. It's been a blast, even if it's been ultra-tough being away from home for nearly a month. Thankfully, it's time to come home and get ready for Saturday night and the maiden voyage at NRG Stadium in the 2017 season. The Patriots are coming...again...this time to our real home and we can't wait. See ya then, everyone.

Check out the best shots from Day 14 of training camp practice at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.

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