Fun is rarely ever a word that's used to describe a training camp practice, especially by players, but Friday's workout was unquestionably fun, for those watching, anyway. There was some serious aggression being released on the field, which made it such a fun day. Here are my observations for day number nine (!!).
- First off, let me apologize for not having observations done yesterday. I drove to North Carolina to pick up my son and didn't get back until dark thirty. Luckily, Thursday was a shorts/T-shirts type of day, while Friday was the day you didn't want to miss, that's for sure.
- Energy. Juice. Whatever you want to call it, this squad brought it in spades today. The competition was at such a high level in every single drill that the Texans did. Special Teams. Blitz pickup. 7-on-7. 1-on-1s. Team. Situations. Every single competitive aspect had an edge to it and I love that.
- Running back Akeem Hunt can get lost in the behemoths on a football field, but that's one tough dude. He was right in the middle of most of the action throughout the day, it seemed. In pass protection, he spun one of the safeties right around on a blitz pickup. Then, when Hunt was requested again, he held his own again.
- Later in team drills, Hunt broke loose with the rock down the sideline and picked up a substantial gain. Then, things sort of went loopy and the defense started screaming and yelling for some reason. It was on the other side of the field so I couldn't see what happened but Hunt took the next play off. I asked him what happened and he said "I got a little too hyped." That's the type of day it was. He's so much tougher than anyone ever expected when the Texans nabbed him off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad in 2015.
- As practice began, DeAndre Hopkins led off the first team drill of the day with an end zone Hopkins special, snatching the rock off the head of a defensive back for a touchdown on a brilliant throw from Tom Savage.
- Running back Alfred Blue then followed up, down on the goal line, with a run for a touchdown. Two consecutive plays. Two touchdowns. The defense had a little huddle up session a few minutes later. Not surprisingly, a can of defensive you-know-what was opened shortly thereafter.
- At this point last year, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz was coming off of a 17 catch season and was thought by many to be one of the last options in the passing game. 365 days later, he's come so far as an option in the passing game. The loss of Will Fuller V is going to impact this offense, but Fiedorowicz has established himself as a weapon in this passing game that it will help mitigate the second year receiver's loss a bit. Fiedorowicz's ability to get open has improved greatly and that was evident on Friday.
- Eddie Pleasant has seemingly won nearly every single rep during blitz pickup. I've been watching for days and I haven't seen him lose much at all.
- I haven't written much about fullback Jay Prosch but he was excellent in blitz pickup throughout the drill.
- When that blitz pickup drill was over, the defense was forced to do push ups, but, again, the defense rebounded well the rest of the day.
- I said a few days ago, and for a number of days in a row, that the quarterbacks hadn't thrown any interceptions, but Friday, that changed. Robert Nelson made a pick down the field off of Tom Savage and Corey Moore ended practice with a pick of Deshaun Watson.
- On Nelson's pick, Whitney Mercilus was held and still helped forced a bad throw. Ted Johnson and I spent the day talking about practice and we saw the same thing as it happened. Whitney is so much more advanced in his pass rush game the past four years. On one rep, Teddy even compared Mercilus' pass rush manuever to one of Ted's former teammates - Mike Vrabel. Heard of him?
- I wrote in my notebook at least three different times - 59 wins again.
- As the competition heated up and the energy of practice went up an octave or three, quarterback Deshaun Watson led a pair of scoring drives.
- The first one had a brilliant four play sequence that showed a little bit of everything from the rookie quarterback. He hit four different receivers on four consecutive plays to get the ball in the end zone and the offense celebrated its success after tight end Rashaun Allen bullied his way into the end zone for the touchdown. Let's just say the defense didn't take too kindly to the, uh, celebration.
- DeAndrew White can climb the ladder and has flashed some strong hands in the, what, four days that he's been in camp? Later in practice, he went high to snatch a Watson throw across the middle that seemed destined to sail out of the back of the end zone.
- Crew Chief Clete Blakeman was on hand for the second straight day with three members of his crew to get some pre-preseason work done. Those officials got a little bit of help from the offensive coaching staff on one play that didn't exactly sit well with a revved up defensive unit.
- The competitive level of all of the individuals down on the field is off the charts. It's clear that everyone wants the Texans to do well, the team, but, for example, it's clear that offensive coaches want to completely dominate the defensive coaches and vice versa. Just watching from afar, it's clear that there's a lot of pride, if nothing else, at stake with every single rep and that'll make this 2017 team that much better.
- Later in practice, Watson led a second touchdown scoring drive when he hit fellow rookie receiver Riley McCarron on a short throw and run for a touchdown. McCarron shook off an arm tackle attempt and sprinted for the touchdown.
- After the score, Watson leapt in the arms of his offensive line as if the offense had just scored the go-ahead touchdown against the Colts in week 17.
- So, when Moore intercepted Watson on the final throw of the day, the defense was more than a bit effusive in its celebration as Moore slid down, as if at the end of a game.
- Prior to that last set of team drives in the red zone, Savage finished one red zone drive with a touchdown throw to Jaelen Strong.
- On the following set of plays, Bryce Jones and Denzel Rice had back-to-back pass breakups. DeAndrew White nearly had a one handed gem down the far sideline but Rice knocked away the Deshaun Watson throw at the last second.
- DeAndre Hopkins lasered one to Dare Ogunbowale across the middle for a touchdown on the following set of downs.
Tomorrow will be the last day of pads before a day off on Sunday. When the Texans take the practice field after the day off, they'll be just over 48 hours away from kicking off against the Panthers in Charlotte on Wednesday night. It's almost here, but there's more work to be done tomorrow. We'll see you then, everyone.
Check out the best shots from Day 9 of training camp at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.