Nothing better on a Saturday morning than football with your morning paper. Okay, so it's not really "the paper" anymore and it's not quite real football, just practice, but we're inching ever so closely. Next weekend, the 2014 Houston Texans crank it up against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale. That deserves a Ric Flair "WOOOOOOO!"
But we still have a week's worth of work to get in before we get there and two and a half hours of hot and humid joy on the practice field today. Except it wasn't really hot, now was it?
Regardless, with no radio today, I locked in and had my best day yet...30 observations. That's a record, ya know? And no, I didn't cheat by breaking them up either. C'mon, y'all know me better than that, right?
- Players not practicing, coaches and staff were all wearing "Texans for DQ" T-shirts to honor David Quessenberry, who's been battling Lymphoma since June. For more information on how to get a t-shirt to support David, go to www.shop.houstontexans.com to get yours.
The Texans hit the field Saturday for practice.
- Situations were again the theme of the day. You name the late game situation, the Texans worked on it today throughout practice. They started the day down by two 23-21 with 20 seconds on the clock and no time outs. Since it was just the walkthrough portion of practice, they ran a play, ran the FG team out as the clock wound down and knocked it through. Well, Randy Bullock would have if they used a ball.
- Got a chance to finally watch some halfline run game work and again, OLB Jadeveon Clowney's ability to hold the edge, stack and shed to get in on the ball carrier was in the spotlight.
- OLB Whitney Mercilus seems to have improved using his hands under the guidance of LB coach Mike Vrabel. Now he needs to be a bit more violent at the point of attack. Do that and his production, impact and role on this defense will expand.
- ILB Max Bullough sat back and waited for an inside run to attack him as opposed to the other way around. Later though, in the same drill, I saw him attack a zone run much more than the inside run right at him.
- DE Jeoffrey Pagan had some trouble against wide zone plays on occasion earlier in camp, but today in the halfline drill, he definitely didn't get caught in the wash. As the zone blocking linemen were taking him to the right, he ripped back the other way and ran right into the RB.
- During the team's first 11-on-11 team period, Clowney knifed into the backfield and landed a glancing blow on RB Jonathan Grimes. Again, if that had been in a game and he hit the RB square, it would've won the highlight shows on Sunday night. From an observation standpoint, Clowney is making it very, VERY difficult on all of us to not talk about him, even though I know "rookies have their place".
- Oh, and on scout team, he blocked a punt. I've never seen that happen. I couldn't tell whether the coaching staff was happy or not, maybe it was in shock just like I was.
- First play of 7-on-7 "going in", S DJ Swearinger jumped a short route PERFECTLY and picked off
See pictures of fans that came to support the Texans on Saturday.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, taking it to the house with swaggg. And, if you're wondering, yes, he did high step right in front of the fans, but you probably already figured that out.
- The next play, Fitzpatrick threw a laser on the same route for a first down.
- WR EZ Nwachuwku can blaze but where he's really improved is his route running. During 7-on-7 against zone coverage, he found the soft spot at around 13-15 yards, curled up and caught a first down pass from Case Keenum. Later against man coverage, EZ was running a dig route against CB Andre Hal who was draped on him, but Keenum zipped one where only EZ could catch it and he did.
- Speaking of Keenum, he probably had his best day, making a number of strong throws to different spots on the field.
- When Bill O'Brien got the job here, I thought a key in this offense would be Ke. I mean, Keshawn Martin. The slot receiver is such an important component in this offense and Martin seemed like the right fit. Today, I thought he looked most comfortable running interior routes, catching the ball cleanly and picking up yards after the catch.
- The refs at practice are a necessary evil, yet more important than at first glance. The side judge
near me threw a flag on CB Brandon Harris for holding on a quick out route by recently acquired WR Joe Adams. The DBs, as expected, went into European soccer player mode, griping and complaining after seeing the laundry. When O'Brien walked over, he ended the conversation with a definitive statement that it was holding. Well, in a way only O'Brien can do it, of course.
- During the up-tempo period, RB Alfred Blue made a strong cut on an inside power run that resulted in a big gain. I was right in the line of vision to see the hole and Blue cut powerfully into that void.
- Late in the up-tempo period, CB Hal knocked away a deep pass intended for WR Alec Lemon. Keenum launched it deep and Hal recovered at the last second to keep Lemon from secruing the catch.
- As I've noted this week, G Xavier Su'a Filo has bad intentions in mind if you're in his sights. During another team period, ILB Jeff Tarpinian was that recipient on an inside run play.
- As the offense moved the ball down inside the five, ILB Mike Mohamed made a huge hit to stop RB Blue from getting into the end zone. Mohamed isn't flashy and doesn't do a ton of "look at me" stuff on the field, but he was truly pumped after his stop. He knows the roster churn ups-and-downs more than most, so any play he can make to get the coach's attention is a great one.
- The first of many DeAndre Hopkins' big plays of the day happened on the next play. Isolated on Harris, Hopkins ripped away a tremendous back shoulder throw from Fitzpatrick for a TD. The first offense was pumped after that drive; the players walked by us with pep in their step after that drive and Hop's catch.
- Before I go any further, this was Hop's day, pure and simple. That backshoulder catch was impressive but he made two, maybe three deep catches as well, victimizing Harris each time. There's no telling what he can do this year but if this was an example of it, look out. Fantasy owners, take note and...you're welcome.
- During the team period, it seemed the offense's multiple personnel groupings and alignments had the defense scrambling a bit. But the communication was still strong, even though it appeared sort of Fire Drill-ish.
- Later in that period, Keenum got a bad snap, caught the ball on one hop and all in one motion fired a dart to RB Dennis Johnson for a short gain. The fact that Keenum produced plus yardage on a play that was destined for a double digit yard loss was a much needed feather in his cap.
- Keenum then hit WR Travis Labhart for a TD on the bootleg as the former Aggie was WIDE open. Adams maintained his block at the goalline for Labhart to score untouched.
- Speaking of Adams, he hasn't been here but for two days so WR coach Stan Hixon is staying close to him to help him with the play call and route he needs to run. It's like a X's and O's coaching version of Cliff's Notes.
- I haven't spoken much on DE Keith Browner but he batted down a pass in the red zone.
- The OL and DL have worked on stunt pick-up pass protection since pads went on. T Derek Newton looked fluid and athletic, sliding laterally to pick up the stunt. On one rep, he slid outside masterfully to slow down DE J.J. Watt on an LB/E stunt.
- C Chris Myers and G Ben Jones worked extremely well during a pair of reps, transitioning guys and maintaining leverage in the pocket. Even Su'a-Filo showed some lateral agility picking up an inside pressure player. He just needs to lock out and get extended once he makes contact.
- I noted earlier the type of practice that Hopkins had, so just know that I wrote down "Hop...full-on stud - deep ball from Fitz". So, there's that.
- Myers and Fitzpatrick botched a snap on the goalline that didn't sit well with the head coach. If there's one thing that's most evident to EVERYONE watching practice, it's that you won't make a mistake without being accountable.
- I mentioned Nwachukwu earlier and he showed up again during one of the many situations at the end of practice. The situation: 23-21, :25 seconds left and no time outs. EZ caught a tunnel screen and housed it. Drill over. Well, coaches never expect THAT to happen, so they just put the ball at the first down marker and started over again. EZ was flying up the field. He split a seam and...woosh. I used to be that fast. Wait, no, it was that I WANTED to be that fast, yeah, that's it.