Man, what a refreshing day. 80 degrees. A different colored jersey on the other side. Competitive practice reps. All the Texans could ask for in their one day of practice against the San Francisco 49ers they got. I spent most of my day watching the offense, so I've got more observations on that unit than the defense, so if you want your Benardrick McKinney insight, this isn't the day for you. Regardless, here's what I saw on Friday.
- The very first competitive rep of the day was during one-one-ones and Brock Osweiler threw in the general vicinity of DeAndre Hopkins. The former Clemson star snatched in right out of the air. I was standing near some 49ers staffers right about that time and they got some wide eyes when that happened. Not sure they've seen anyone up close that could do that.
- Overall, it was a solid day for Osweiler. It wasn't perfect as there were a couple of assignment busts that would've gotten him drilled. But, all in all, I thought Osweiler threw it well.
- I'm not going to put anyone in the Hall of Fame after a training camp practice, but get ready, folks. Wide receiver Will Fuller is making serious progress in all facets of this offense. I don't know how many different types of balls he caught during the day, but trust me when I say that the 49ers had issues with him in all areas on the field.
- He ran deep on a route near the end of the workout and completely blazed past the cornerback and the safety who was late getting over. Osweiler launched one down the field about as far as he could throw it. Fuller made the catch and sprinted into the end zone. After the play, former Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea walked past me and had a look in his eyes like "dadgum, what was THAT?"
- What I loved most about it? Fuller just turned around and walked back as if he had caught a hitch route for four or five yards. He did that during practice as well. But, he has such a level head about him.
- You can tell he's learned a little from DeAndre Hopkins too. On a deep ball down the field, Fuller got flagged for a little offensive pass interference with the minor push off. That's a Hopkins move that he gets away with most times but that was about the only negative on the day for Fuller.
- During one-on-ones, Osweiler threw a gem down the field to receiver Jaelen Strong who laid out for the grab. Great throw, perhaps an even better catch.
- This was an excellent crew to face in practice because the San Francisco defensive backs were incredibly physical. Cornerback Jimmie Ward tried to take Hop's lid off on every single play. But, all in all, that's a really big and physical unit and that doesn't even include starting safety Eric Reid who didn't practice. (By the way, safety Jaquiski Tartt is a freak of nature).
- On the first rep of one-on-ones, receiver Braxton Miller got jammed up pretty good by safety (of 'Kick Six' fame) Chris Davis. But, on the next two reps, Miller completely lost Davis for relatively easy completions. Miller and Fuller got a ton of time today with Hopkins as Cecil Shorts was unable to practice.
- Throughout the rest of the day, Miller was open and active. He's going to do something on Sunday night, mark my words, that gets everyone buzzing. Playing a hunch, but I think it'll happen. Not putting he or Will Fuller in the Hall of Fame just yet as I mentioned, but there's a reason why Texans fans should be stoked to see what these two do on game days.
- I've mentioned Josh Lenz's name a few times during my training camp observations, but if there was a steady standout and winner amongst the twos/threes, it was Lenz. I have his name written down at least six times and a couple more for his work as a gunner on special teams. He was open all day long. He caught it when it was thrown to him. It sounds simple, but that's the game, really. He's got a tough climb to make this roster, but his special teams work can help him along the way too. He was outstanding as a gunner against the 49ers special teams punt return unit.
- Rookie running back Tyler Ervin wasn't covered much in the passing game today, especially in one-on-ones. He wasn't as comfortable running the rock inside and missed a few cuts that he'll see and get to in due time. But, in the passing game in one-on-ones, he was stellar.
- Ervin did get rocked though by former Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges on a swing route in the flat. Hodges was sprinting full speed and probably did both of them a favor when he just ran right through him. Had Hodges tried to stop, it wouldn't have been good. But, that hit got the San Francisco sideline jacked up, not surprisingly.
- Running back Lamar Miller ran the rock well against a stout and nasty front. There were a few times that he might have missed a cut or couldn't get to the front side, but his cutback skills and vision were on point for sure. There were a couple of moments of dancing, but when he found a seam, the 49ers were grasping for air.
- Fullback Jay Prosch hammered a 49er linebacker with what was probably the biggest collision of the day. He opened a hole for Alfred Blue that gave Blue space to pick up five or six yards.
- Running back Akeem Hunt had one of the better runs in the earlier part of practice. He stretched the defense, worked back inside a block on the edge and then darted back to the outside. Cut and sprint, that dude can do that.
- Down in the red zone during team, the set of three plays was as good as any the Texans ran. On first down, Brock Osweiler found his third option Braxton Miller for a five yard gain. Then, Miller darted through the middle of the line for a nine or ten yard run. Then, on the third play, Osweiler found Hopkins in the back of the end zone. Hop snatched it off the top of a 49ers helmet for a touchdown. I wrote down in my book - that's how it's done 17 (and 13), 26 & 10. Good formula.
- Just prior to that run by Miller, I heard a guy next to me say "IT'S RUN". He had 49ers gear on but this was a huge dude. As he turned to see the play, I realized it was Hall of Famer Charles Haley. Wondering whether he would engage me in a discussion, I turned to him and asked him how he knew that. He looked at me and I wasn't sure what he was going to do. But, he pointed at the tackle and said "I always knew by looking at the tackle." He proceeded to talk with me for the next ten minutes, asking what I did, talking about the Cowboys and the impact of Moose Johnston and of course, wanting to know who No. 17 was. I've heard from multiple people that he was one of the smartest football players ever and talking ball with him essentially showed just that. I spent the day talking to a Hall of Famer; that was fun.
- The offensive line gave the quarterbacks, for the most part, time to throw. On one rep, quarterback Brandon Weeden stood like a statue for four or five seconds with no one around him.
- Seeing a different colored jersey took some getting used to, especially for the offensive line. That unit was physical as could be but needed to sustain blocks a little longer to spring huge runs. But, that's typical at this point in training camp because it doesn't get the opportunity to do that much in a controlled practice setting.
- In pass rush one-on-ones, tackle Kendall Lamm did a solid job. He faced mega-athlete Aaron Lynch on his first rep and it looked at first like Lynch was going to run around him. But, Lamm kick-stepped right into Lynch's path and rode him past the dummy quarterback. Yes, it's a dummy, I'm not speaking about an actual man at quarterback.
- His counterpart Chris Clark had perhaps one of the best reps in the entire pass rush period when he completely stonewalled Ahmad Brooks, one of the biggest and most athletic outside rushers in the NFL.
- Center Tony Bergstrom faced defensive end/defensive tackle Quinton Dial and did an excellent job stunting big Dial's rush. Bergstom isn't the biggest dude in the world but he anchored well and held his own against the 318 pound Dial.
- Lamm and guard Jeff Allen worked together on twist pickup during the pass rush period. They passed off the twist to one another and handled it perfectly.
- Wide receiver Tevin Jones made the catch of the day laying out for a pass from Brandon Weeden. It was truly a great throw and an even better catch by Jones.
- There are times when I watch guard Karim Barton and really think he can be something. He got some kudos during pass protection handling a twist well.
- When the team worked down on the goalline, Brock Osweiler found tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz for a touchdown as the former Hawkeye pass catcher worked himself into an open void. He's come a long way and all of the quarterbacks are looking for him in the passing game, more so than either of the previous two years.
- One thing I noticed with all the running backs that I have written in my notes - got to go! When they see the hole, they have to juice it through that thing and get to the second level. Immediately.
- When I did look over to the defensive field, I saw Kareem Jackson with a pick six and an outstanding (one of many on the day) pass break ups for Kevin Johnson.
- During team, the 49ers sent an all out blitz at Osweiler who delivered a perfectly thrown pass to DeAndre Hopkins up the far sideline. The offensive line and backs picked up the blitz well and gave Osweiler time to deliver. He put it in Hop's area code and No. 10 came down with it again.
- Hop had the quote of the day when asked about the chippiness that did NOT result in fisticuffs like last year in Richmond. "This is football. This isn't ballerina." That needs to be put on a T-shirt. 49ers cornerback Jimmie Ward and Hopkins had some VERY physical action during the day. But, both kept their cool throughout the day, though.
- Quarterback Tom Savage threw his best pass of the day to wide receiver Jaelen Strong on the 49ers sideline. The former Sun Devil came down with the one armed catch which got major props from the 49ers defense.
- My last note of the day was the throw Brandon Weeden made to Wendall Williams down the far sideline. Weeden threw it about as far as he could during a two minute situation. Williams, not unexpectedly, beat the defensive back in front of him and made the catch. Williams struggled at times throughout the day so it was necessary to get his confidence back and he did with that catch to end that drill.
- Late in practice, Lamar Miller had what I thought was his best run of the day. Decisive and powerful, led by his vision, Miller found an inside seam quickly and zoomed up to the second level in a hurry.
- During special teams work, Charles James got a ton of praise for his work as one of the gunners down the field. Wide receiver Josh Lenz also received kudos for his work during the same punt coverage drill.
- When things got a little heated in that drill, James, ever the peacemaker, reminded everyone to "keep it civilized, keep it civilized." His words actually worked. I think.
Check out some of the best shots from Friday's joint practice with the 49ers in San Francisco.
It was nearly a three-hour workout, but there was plenty of good for this team that happened on Friday at the 49ers facility. I'll have plenty of observations after the game on Sunday, so be on the lookout for those then. See ya and have a great weekend.