TGIF typically applies for most of us 9-to-5ers but for the Texans, it was just another work day after an off day. Well, an off day for the players, but the coaching staff and GM Rick Smith were hard at work late into the evening, signing two players on Thursday.
Today's observations started even before the first horn to start practice, so let's get out TGIF Training camp observations on the road. 26 of them to be exact, celebrating the one Harris on the roster - No. 26 Brandon Harris.
- Walking over to the stadium, there's no telling what sort of nugget I'll find. This morning I was heading over the bridge when CB Elbert Mack stopped and bent over. I wasn't totally sure if
something had happened or what, so I looked at him to make sure he was okay. I happened to see a handful of bubble gum in his hand as he stuffed them into his sock.
Now, I've been around the game a long time and players have routinely "hidden" objects somewhere on their person, but gum in the sock was a new one for me. Of course, I then thought "does he chew that while he's playing?". I'm going to ask him the next time I see him...and yes, these are things I think about.
- The two new players added to the roster were former Arkansas All-American punt returner Joe Adams and former Arizona State OT Brice Schwab. The latter was drafted by Carolina in 2012 after a
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stellar career as a Razorback but didn't make the roster. He came in for a workout on Thursday and showed well, so the Texans signed him.
Schwab was undrafted coming out of Arizona State following the 2012 season but he spent 2013 with Tampa Bay and New England. The roster churn continues at all times in the NFL and there's no telling when an opportunity turns into something bigger.
- As it pertains to Adams on the field, he is well schooled catching punts. I was standing next to Deepi Sidhu (@deepslant) watching Adams catch punts and I told her that his form was perfect, his technique was "teaching tape" worthy. Now he just has to do something with it when he does catch it.
- Schwab's size strikes you right away. The rust was evident during drills but what he did today was much better than anything he did yesterday, if you catch my drift.
- As Marc Vandermeer and I were doing our Texans Radio thing this morning, the QB, RB and WR were in the end zone near us running goal line routes. Each of the three quarterbacks was responsible for an eligible receiver. Someone's wires got crossed on one rep as one QB (not sure the exact guilty
party but it was...wait, I should stay quiet) threw to the same receiver as the other QB. The ball nearly hit Bill O'Brien in the head. I don't think he saw it, so I hope I didn't out anyone. Maybe I should just move on...QUICKLY.
- Great to see RB Jonathan Grimes back on the field after passing his conditioning/physical tests. Coach Bill O'Brien noted after practice that Grimes is a 3-down running back, which inherently increases his value immensely.
- A guy that is just steady is second year WR Alec Lemon. He made a catch going across the middle in 7-on-7 and it hit me that he does that often and without fanfare.
- Earlier in the week, I saw DE Jeoffrey Pagan seemingly struggle a bit getting away from a zone blocking OL. But today he handled that much better, defeating the zoning OL and turning him upfield back into the RB.
- Perhaps no player was discussed more during the four weeks between OTAs/mini camp and training camp than OLB Brooks Reed. Should he remain inside, go back outside? I think I answered that question, oh, about a 1,000 times and with good reason. Since training camp started, he's been playing exclusively on the outside and has flourished. He sets the edge so well against the run and has seemingly been more disruptive rushing the passer. This has been a great start to camp for Reed.
- Watching Quentin Groves in pass rush drills, it's evident that he's still got some juice in the tank. How much could ultimately determine whether he makes the roster or not.
- The OLB finally visited 1-on-1 pass rush-land, which meant Jadeveon Clowney v. Duane Brown. They only got one rep against one another but it was three seconds of pure joy in my day. I heard the collision from 60 yards away and even though Clowney wouldn't have gotten a sack, he did make it tough work on Brown. Later in the drill, Clowney faced OT Matt Feiler and Clowney sped past the young rookie from Bloomsburg. I do have to remind myself that Clowney is a rookie as well.
- One final note on Clowney...he's going to face smart tackles at this level, no question, but the first
time that he throws his inside move on a tackle, it's going to result in a sack, a holding penalty or a pressure. While I was on the air, my man Drew Dougherty (@DoughertyDrew on Twitter) saw Clowney throw a spin move on a run drill and tackling the RB for a TFL. There's been plenty of "did you see that?" during No. 90's reps.
- Xavier Su'a Filo, as I mentioned earlier this week, loves contact but in pass protection, when he gets tall, doesn't drop his hips and anchor, he'll struggle. Later in practice, I saw him "sit down" a bit better and, as a result, he slowed down the pass rush of Jared Crick.
- In a combination/stunt pass protection drill, rarely does a DL come completely clean to the quarterback, but hard working rookie Julius Warmsley did just that on his one rep during the drill.
- It dawned on me today that as hot and humid as each workout has been, there's not been one skirmish. I've never been a huge fan of fights in practice. Seriously, if you have a point to prove, just go win the next play by kicking that guy's tail. So, I'm okay with no fights, honestly.
- Oh and the refs were here today. Cool? Alright, moving on.
- During the team red zone drill, Kendrick Lewis started with excellent man-to-man coverage on DeVier Posey. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had a tiny window and nearly fit it into that space, but Lewis was in the perfect spot to force the incompletion.
- A few plays later, though, Fitzpatrick drilled a TD throw through about ten sets of hands to DeAndre Hopkins. I could swear that Fitz gave six shooters after the throw, but I think that was me just projecting what I would've done. That throw was rifled into an even smaller window than the one that Lewis gave him on the earlier throw.
- On the other end during the team's 7-on-7 goal line work, Fitzpatrick missed a wide open Garrett Graham at the goal line. Considering that I could really only see Graham in my window, I don't know what else was available to Fitz. But, I saw 88 open right in the middle of the field and that's all that counts, no? I kid, I kid.
- I have written in my notes "Warmsley wins again" but nothing else to go on. That happens, sometimes, I'm sorry. My old football injuries kick in at weird times.
- On the last team period of the day, DJ Swearinger batted down Fitzpatrick's first pass as he blitzed the team's QB. Then, the defensive backs locked down the secondary for a coverage sack on the next play. Coaches John Butler and Anthony Midget have busted tail working with that group and it's showing.
- QB Case Keenum hit Camp Star WR EZ Nwachukwu on a three-step slant - his best throw of the day.
- C Chris Myers was asked who he thought has played well during camp and he said without
hesitation "James Ferentz". The former Iowa OL certainly doesn't look the part, a lot like Warmsley, but he's well schooled and wins more, much more, than he loses. He won't knock anyone on his backside but his pass pro technique and production have been good and he's making an impression on the players and the coaching staff.
- OLB Jason Ankrah has been asked to do a lot during camp that he's never done before. But, he set the edge against the run for four years at Nebraska. That experience was evident when he did that exceptionally well on a zone run his way during an 11-on-11 team drill He destroyed the tight end and shut down a perimeter running lane for RB Andre Brown.
- The last offense/defense drill of the day was live goal line and it was competitive to say the least. Defenders were flying, literally, over the top of the pile to make a play, but the offense shut down the drill and celebrated last as Fitzpatrick dropped a dime for a TD on the last play of the drill.
- One of my long time friends and former manager for our Brown University team way back when brought her soon-to-be kindergarten daughter to practice today for the first time. As I started this article, she sent me the following text. "She got autographs from Keenum, Duane Brown, Posey and Fitzpatrick. Those guys stayed until the bitter end and signed everything in sight". Pure class, thanks guys.