Back to the grind, BABY!
Tuesday morning was the first practice here back in Houston since the team got back from Richmond, VA. There were no fights, perhaps unfortunately, perhaps fortunately, to add to the Hard Knocks repository but the team got in a solid day's work under the glare of the 95 degree sun. Let's get some observations from the day's work.
- Ryan Mallett spent the day with the first unit, which follows the alternating schedule the Texans coaching staff has followed from the first day of the spring. He made a few scintillating throws during practice. His best one was a launch deep downfield to Nate Washington that the former Titan/Steeler held on to for one of the best plays of the day.
- There are times when Mallett, with his powerful arm, makes it look easy. That was true when he hit Cecil Shorts III on a slant route. Mallett split the one and the eight for an easy pitch and catch.
- I didn't get to see much of the initial parts of practice, but I did see some a bunch of 1-on-1 reps down in the end zone. One of those reps, I saw a pass break up by Charles James, one of the many he's had in this training camp. He was draped on Alan Bonner in man coverage in the end zone. There was no place to throw the ball and James knocked it away at the last second.
- One of the best breaks on the ball today was cornerback Darryl Morris on a slant route completion to EZ Nwachukwu. Brian Hoyer hit Nwachukwu on time, but Morris exploded into the fray and almost broke up the pass. I just have a feeling that Morris is going to find a way to make plays in this defense this season. I don't know when. I don't know how. It's going to happen.
- Another player in the secondary that has been fantastic is safety Eddie Pleasant. He had another strong day in coverage, forcing a pass breakup early in one-on-ones and then another one in team drills. "Eddie P" was a forgotten man by some heading into training camp, but he's more than made his name known this summer.
- I watched a few reps of linebackers versus running backs in one-on-one pass protection. As I looked down to the other end of the field, Justin Tuggle beat a running back and I heard linebacker coach Mike Vrabel praise Tuggle for his rep.
- The tight ends and outside linebackers tangled again. As I walked up C.J. Fiedorowicz faced one of the young outside linebackers. After beating the outside backer off the ball, he then whipped the linebacker off the ball. Tight ends coach John Perry then remarked "kick his butt both ways."
- One of the best reps all day was when Whitney Mercilus and Fiedorowicz locked horns in run blocking. When it was done, both coaches Doug Colman and Perry said "GREAT battle," and it was.
- My man Julian Rowe-Cohen was my eyes and ears down watching the tight ends and linebackers until I could get there. Since I know the personalities a bit, it was interesting to see/hear Julian's thoughts on the "aggressive counseling" happening down on that side of the field. There are certain players that receive more counseling than others but it goes with the territory to be honest.
- John Simon is such a technician with his hands and it's interesting to watch him work those hands defending the run on the edge.
11, During the tight ends/linebacker one-on-ones, I saw Chris Polk running away from one of the inside linebackers on a one-on-one pass drill. I heard some ooooohhhs and ahhhhhhs from the crowd after that one.
- Speaking of Polk, no one had a better day than the former Philadelphia Eagle. He missed a few days of training camp but got some reps on Saturday up in Richmond, VA. Today, he was back in Houston getting a fair share of reps with Arian Foster temporarily on the shelf. He ripped off a long run down the far sideline on a run during a true scrimmage period. He caught the ball well out of the backfield, got open in one-on-one situation and left a strong impression on most that watched Tuesday's workout.
- I saw most of the pass rush drills from our Texans Radio perch. Jeoffrey Pagan didn't have a great start to the drill. He jumped offsides to start the drill then Brandon Brooks took him on and stoned him on his pass rush. But, Pagan was back in practice today after being out and that was a major positive.
- Jared Crick's pass rush improvement has been obvious. I'm not sure that there have been many guys in this camp that have slowed him consistently.
- A player not many have written about, but many have noted in practice is DE/DT Brandon Deaderick. On his first pass rush rep, he completely lit up the offensive lineman he was facing (I couldn't see who the culprit was at the time). He's been ultra-difficult to effectively block in training camp, whether it's been against the pass or the run.
- They call him Brick, but most know him as James Ferentz, the team's backup center. He's nicknamed Brick because he's as hard to move as a Brick. He did a solid job on Louis Nix, slowing Nix after Nix first threw hands on him. It looked like Nix had Ferentz beat right off the snap, but Ferentz recovered and cut off Nix's path to the quarterback.
- Jason Ankrah faced Derek Newton on Ankrah's first pass rush rep and eventually got loose to the quarterback. On the next rep, Ankrah faced Matt Feiler and the second year player from Bloomsburg smoothly and effectively slowed Ankrah and stonewalled him on the spot. Feiler is a definite guy to watch on Saturday night at tackle versus the 49ers.
- A rookie to watch this Saturday night is former Toledo center Greg Mancz. I haven't seen many OL - Washington or Houston - block Christian Covington effectively. On one of Mancz's reps, he slid laterally to keep Covington from getting upfield. I've seen a rep here and a rep there of Mancz in various situations and I think he really could be a guy to watch in the future.
- We talked to long time linebacker Danny Clark who used to wear number 55 for the Texans and he remarked on how long and rangy Benardrick McKinney is. The rookie from Mississippi State won some pass rush drills in one on one against the running backs.
- One player that's had an outstanding training camp is Garrett Graham. He made the catch of the day going up over a pair of defenders to reach up and make the grab. It's one of many receptions Graham has accumulated in this camp.
Take a look at the best fan photos from the eighth practice of #TexansCamp.
- Kenny Hilliard has been awfully difficult to tackle and flourished down on the goal line.
- Chandler Worthy got the first reps at punt returner, but he also had at least three impressive catch and runs during team/7-on-7 sessions.
- First round rookie Kevin Johnson had a strong day in coverage. He had at least three or four reps in which he negated a catch in one-on-ones. I talked to him after practice and I sensed that he's getting more and more comfortable by the day. Later in the day, as he ran with the team's first dime personnel group, he knocked down a pass with the back of his helmet. Yes, you read that right.
- During situations, the refs on the field threw consecutive flags on the defensive backs for holding and pass interference, respectively. That didn't sit well with the team's attorneys, err, the team's secondary and secondary coaches. There wasn't a ref that didn't have a DB in his ear for the remainder of the drill.
- J.J. Watt didn't get a ton of reps today but during a late game situation, he reached up and swatted a pass down from Ryan Mallett. That was just one of four wins during that drill for the defense against the offense.
- Brian Hoyer threw perhaps his best pass of the day to Damaris Johnson on a deep ball in that same late game situation drill. Hoyer lofted it to the front pylon of the end zone where only Johnson was going to catch it. He did and the offense celebrated the execution and key touchdown.
Alright, another day in the books. A huge thanks to my eyes on Tuesday - Mr. Julian Rowe-Cohen - you'll definitely see more of that young man in the future. Tomorrow will be more of the same. We'll see you then!
Take a look at the best photos from the eighth practice of #TexansCamp.