There aren't many days throughout a Houston Texans football season where anyone can watch practice without being drenched in sweat at the end of it.
Today, luckily, was one of those days. The Texans moved practice inside to save the players and staff from the heat, at least for a day. Let's get some observations from the day, starting with Dance Party USA.
- Sometimes stretching is all I get to see early in practice and I can tell what kind of day it's going to be based on one man - Akeem Hunt. A couple of days ago, someone hijacked the playlist and pressed "1980s hair metal". Hunt? Nothing. No excitement. Nada. Today? The playlist included some DJ Khaled and Jay Z and he went into full on dance party mode. In fact, he wasn't the only one.
- Texans Senior Director of Digital Media Eric SanInocencio texted me during stretching…"that's Observation of the Day". Initially, I wasn't exactly sure what he meant, then I looked up when "I Got the Keys" came on and Hunt wasn't the only one. Jadeveon Clowney was bopping up and down and mouthing the words. Charles James lip synced and danced as well. Akeem? Yeah, he broke out the repertoire of moves for certain.
- I talked to Hunt after practice and he actually said there's a possibility that he could go old school at some point…"and break out the Cabbage Patch". Who you calling Old School, Akeem? That was OUR dance back in the day. Okay, that was like 30 years ago, so maybe he's got a point. Fun stuff, for sure.
- A handful of veterans got the day off today and it's something I love for a couple of reasons. It gives the vets some rest in anticipation of a 16-plus game season. But, it gives the staff the opportunity to see how younger, less experienced players handle moving up a rung on the depth chart for the day. Can these youngsters fit with the big boys? Well, as a coach, you'll never know until they get the shot.
- One of those guys that is taking advantage of every opportunity to make plays at the linebacker position is Max Bullough. He had another solid day today. He broke up a pass in the back of the end zone during 7-on-7 red zone. But, his ability to read blocks, see run plays develop and fit himself in a position to make a play was really good today. He's made significant improvement year over year and his comfort level is evident at inside linebacker.
- I get asked often about the tight end position and one guy that we all have pigeon-holed into a "blocking tight end" spot is third year guy C.J. Fiedorowicz. But, watching him in 1-on-1s the past few days against safeties and linebackers, he's come a long way as a pass catcher. On Tuesday, I heard tight end coach John Perry give C.J. kudos for getting open after a "great route". Today, it was much of the same. I saw him catch five or six balls, at a minimum, and I didn't get a chance to watch all of his reps. He got open against safeties and linebackers, alike. If he's able to do that consistently, it can open up so much more in the passing game.
- He caught one pass going across the formation with a fairly impactful head of steam. I can't remember who the defensive back was, but Fiedorowicz had radar look on the defensive back after he caught the rock. The poor defensive back got out of the way, throwing a shoulder into C.J. so he didn't get run over. I don't blame him.
- We've talked about Braxton Miller for months (and for me, even before he ended up in Houston) and his evolution and growth as a full-time receiver. The good thing, though, about Miller is that he does things naturally that are difficult to truly teach. Case in point, he ran an out route during wide receiver/defensive back 1-on-1s and was headed full speed toward the sideline. The throw was a rocket heading out of bounds. Miller reached out, snagged the pellet and in fell swoop, got one foot down and dragged his back foot to get them both in for the catch. He made it look easy, but trust me, it wasn't.
- On the first play of a team session early in practice, quarterback Brock Osweiler found Will Fuller in all kinds of traffic. With four or five defenders surrounding him, Fuller snatched the rock amongst the chaos.
- Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins made the catch of the day, in typical Hop fashion. Cornerback Kevin Johnson was locked hip to hip and for most corners that's a loss...unfortunately, for Kevin, that was the case. Osweiler launched one deep and let "Hop go get it." He did, with a sublime catch. Again. He's special, that's clear.
- Later in the drill, running back Jonathan Grimes stepped up and picked up a blitz perfectly to allow quarterback Tom Savage to hit Keith Mumphery for a first down.
- Wide receiver Quenton Bundrage isn't a name many people and most watching practice have wondered "who is No. 14?" But, he's flashed throughout the first few practices of the year. He caught a long bomb from quarterback Brandon Weeden for a touchdown during a passing drill. He ran past everyone, made the deep catch and wasn't caught from behind.
- It was fitting today talking to Executive Vice President and GM Rick Smith about this receiving corps this morning (which we do every day at 8:45 am in SportsRadio 610). I asked him specifically about the growth of rookie Will Fuller and he pointed out that the one area that's impressed him about Will was his route running. That's something I noted in observations a few days ago, but watching him in 1-on-1s, he's getting separation with his route running and not just his blazing speed.
- During wide receiver/defensive back 1-on-1s, cornerback Charles James had another strong day, knocking away another pair of passes. But, I erred, folks, sorry, I didn't not pay any attention to the socks. Just flat out missed them. My bad. I owe you one.
- The offensive line's pass protection today seemed much improved as there were a handful of times when each of the three quarterbacks were able to pitch a tent in the pocket.
- One guy that still causes issues for any offensive line is Jadeveon Clowney. There was a run away from him early in team practice and I'm telling you, I don't think I've ever seen him run that fast in my life. He tracked down the running back in about five steps. The front side of the defense set the edge and forced the running back to bounce and Clowney was coming. In a live game, that would've been a TFL for five or six yards lost.
- The more all of us watch tight end Stephen Anderson, the more impressive he is catching the football. Osweiler was forced out of the pocket during a team drill but saw Anderson starting to break free going the other way. So, Osweiler threw back to his left but Anderson was heading at a faster rate than Brock anticipated. No worries, though, because Anderson reached back and snatched the ball behind him for a first down catch. He was running dead ahead, stopped on a dime, reached back and snatched a line drive from Osweiler.
- One of the best competitive moments in 1-on-1s was wide receiver Jaelen Strong vs. cornerback Terrance Mitchell. The two came down with a deep ball together, 45 yards down the field. Strong eventually came down with it for a big touchdown catch.
- Guard Karim Barton opened a huge hole for Alfred Blue today on a run. I just happened to see him pop and pull around and put his helmet on a linebacker.
- Glad to see my guy inside linebacker Shakeel Rashad (if you don't know, I coached his brother a long time ago in Jacksonville, Florida) make a couple of nice plays vs. the run today. He stuffed a hole on an inside run, then tracked down one of the running backs on an outside run on the next play.
- I like seeing Nick Martin and Jeff Allen working the double team together. I don't who the defensive lineman was, but those two nearly knocked him on his wallet.
- Osweiler's throw to Braxton Miller during team drills might have been one of his best throws in four days. He threw a dart as Miller found an open seam in the defense.
- Later in red zone 7-on-7, Osweiler made a connection to Jaelen Strong working his back out to the sideline in the end zone.
- The very next play, Tom Savage threw a dart to Wendall Williams for a touchdown as the speedy rookie blazed down the field and snatched a high pass from Savage for the score.
- My last observation was another touchdown catch for Jaelen Strong. The second year receiver ran to the right flat, turned around, caught the ball on the run and sprinted into the far right corner of the end zone. Seems as though I've seen that play before...somewhere...man, I don't know, maybe it was just a roll of the dice.
Great day, we'll be back it tomorrow, in the heat with more observations for you. See ya then.
Check out the best action shots from Wednesday's #TexansCamp practice.