The Texans took the field a little earlier than scheduled to avoid Mother Nature's scheduled rainy wrath, yet the rain still sprayed us throughout the workout. My notes look like a four-year spilled water colors all over the pages after the rain during Saturday morning's workout at the Greenbrier, so bear with me as I try to decipher my writings to give you my observations from day four of the team's training camp.
- What is becoming one of my favorite battles on a daily basis to watch is center Nick Martin against defensive tackle D.J. Reader. Those two get after one another and it only serves to make each one better. On one play, Reader wins the rep, then the next one, Martin takes victory. Either way, I love to see the competition from those two who can be significant players for this organization for a while.
- It's a blast getting to talk with offensive tackle Kendall Lamm. He joined us for radio after the practice for a bit and we always look forward to an interview with the third year pro. He continues to make progress in all facets of his game and he did a solid job in pass protection against the edge rushers during team and pass rush 1-on-1 drills.
- Man, Tyler Ervin is slippery and can get lost in a phone booth. If you're a linebacker trying to cover him, the only chance you have is to try to grab on and tackle him. It's not just in 1-on-1s either; he's getting free in 7-on-7 and team drills when the passing lanes are a bit more congested. I saw him a few times freeze a defender in space on a route to get open.
- Linebacker Benardrick McKinney isn't a guy I'd like to face when trying to protect the quarterback. Some of the running backs found that out today during linebacker-running back blitz pickup pass protection drills. Let's just say that "B Mac" introduced himself to some of the guys, knocking one of the running backs on his wallet on one rep.
- One of the best hits in camp, perhaps the best hit in camp, came courtesy of defensive lineman Brandon Dunn and outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett. On a run play to the right, I saw Scarlett come free and then I heard the crack. I thought originally Scarlett made the hit, but the defense celebrated with Dunn first, so I'll give both of them equal credit.
- On the first play of a team session, Tom Savage showed his understanding of this offense, in conjunction to what he saw on defense. He walked up to the line and saw the defense, studied it, shifted some guys around and then delivered a strike on the sideline to DeAndre Hopkins for a five to seven yard gain.
- Later in practice, Savage threw a dart to Hopkins when he was matched up one on one against a defensive back. I didn't see who it was but on the throw, the corner tried to pick the ball off and missed it by a hair. Hopkins caught it, spun and sprinted unabated to the end zone for the touchdown.
- D'Onta Foreman will run hard, if nothing else. After watching him on the goal line on Friday and in some scrimmaging/team drills today, that dude has not spent one ounce of time dancing or trying to juke anyone. He's making defenders pay a toll for trying to tackle him.
- The offense got some situational work in today, some no huddle, and again did some "move the chain" type team work.
- With the offense's first shot at no huddle, they took it to the house with that Savage to Hopkins touchdown, noted above. Savage hit three different receivers on that short drive, including a completion to Braxton Miller where Braxton just ripped the ball away from a defensive back for a first down completion.
- Deshaun Watson showed what he could do a few plays later as he converted a key third down to earn more reps in his series. On that third down, he got some pressure and moved out of the pocket. Knowing it was third down, he didn't scramble all the way downfield, but just out of the pocket. As such, he found Tyler Ervin just as a defender was closing in on him and completed the pass to move the chain, as Marc Vandermeer often says.
- The next play, Watson scrambled all the way out and by scrambled, I mean took off like a shot up the field. He ran the ball plenty at Clemson on designed runs and it was evident that he could scoot. That's not going to happen much, if at all, here in Houston but that doesn't mean he's lost a step. When he ran today, wow, he was picking 'em up and layin' 'em down, that's for sure.
- A few plays later, defensive tackle Eli Ankou bull rushed up the middle and kept DeAndre Hopkins from making any kind of throw. Ankou is one big, powerful dude.
- During 7-on-7, Stephen Anderson was old reliable. Now, he's not old, but he is reliable as all get out. He's perhaps one of the toughest guys to cover on this team in the intermediate areas of the field. Savage hit him twice in a row as Anderson found open spots in the defense, small though they may have been.
- Treston Decoud came up with a pass breakup during 7-on-7 and appears to be getting more comfortable day after day.
- Speaking of the aforementioned Lamm, he had a couple of "wins" in his reps as he battles to win the right tackle job. He's constantly working on his technique, before and after plays, and it pays off on a daily basis.
- Over the three years that Christian Covington has been in Houston, he's really learned how to use his hands when he rushes the passer. I've seen defensive line coach Anthony Weaver work hands with his defensive linemen incessantly and Covington won a couple of reps today, knowing how to use those hands to get free or force a hold.
- Jadeveon Clowney is a powerful dude and when he bull rushes tackles, it's amazing to see 300 lb. men just get knocked back like a Weeble Wobble. If you don't know what a Weeble Wobble is, well, that's your fault. Okay, that was harsh, sorry.
- Oh, Whitney Mercilus can bull rush too. That's the thing I've learned watching these three guys - Mercilus, Clowney and J.J. Watt. All of them can win in different ways that if, as an offensive lineman, you guess what they're going to do and they sense it, they'll just run you flat over. Whitney isn't nearly as big as the other two, but when he catches an offensive lineman anticipating an upfield or inside move and standing up a bit, he can bull, when necessary, with a positive result.
- Watching Watt work his hands and technique is one of my favorite things to do on a daily basis. Whether in the run game or rushing the passer, his hand placement seems to always be on point and that gets him free and clear more often than not.
- Defensive lineman Carlos Watkins has won his share of pass rush reps during the past couple of days but Xavier Su'a-Filo had perhaps his best rep of training camp facing the rookie from Clemson in pass rush 1-on-1s.
- I remember seeing rookie tackle Julien Davenport at the Senior Bowl in pass rush 1-on-1s and I wondered whether he could hold up against NFL rushers. He certainly has a long way to go, but I've seen him keep a number of different pass rushers at bay this training camp and he seems stronger than I first imagined. He's made progress every single day and will continue to get better rapidly.
- One player that got some "attaboys" today was defensive lineman Ricky Hatley. That's one strong dude. Today, he nearly ran right over an interior lineman during a run block drill.
- During 7-on-7, cornerback Denzel Rice kept his streak alive of forced fumbles as he, and the rain, combined to knock the ball out of a ball carrier's hands late in the drill.
The rest of my notes are a mish mosh of rain soaked ink and bad handwriting, so I'll cut it there. Thanks so much for reading, everyone. I'll have much more for you tomorrow as the Texans have their last practice before a mandatory off day on Monday.
See ya then, everyone.
Check out some of the best shots from Day 4 of training camp practice at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.