The City of Houston proclaimed August 14, 2014 as DQ Strong Day, in honor of Texans offensive lineman David Quessenberry. As such, there's no better way to start today's observations than by mentioning the second year offensive lineman from San Jose State.
Before I get to my 36 observations (a new league record...Robert Wuhl, Bull Durham), a quick story on DQ. Shortly after he was drafted by the Texans in 2013, I interviewed his former coach Mike MacIntyre. Coach Mac's dad was my first coaching mentor, so I respect Coach Mac's opinion immensely.
I asked him what he thought about David, given the fact that he coached him for three years. He said that David Quessenberry was the best leader he'd been around, period, end of story. It wasn't that he was a terrific player and had all these football accolades, which he was and did, it was his ability to be the leader of men that stood out more than anything. It didn't take long for the Houston Texans players/staff/coaches to realize the same exact thing in David. Even though he's not here every day physically, this team has kept him omnipresent in all it does.
With that as today's backdrop, I'll start with the last observation of the day first. On practice field one after the workout with the Falcons, many of the OL on both teams circled around a Houston city councilman for a quick presentation, declaring today as "DQ Strong Day" in the city of Houston.
Texans offensive linemen wore their blue "Texans for DQ" shirts, while the Atlanta linemen joined in with gray "Atlanta for DQ" shirts. One thing struck me about it all...offensive linemen live a life of anonymity for the most part. They don't score touchdowns. They're often the least seen and least understood group on the field.
They don't seek the limelight. They don't like attention. But, there's a brotherhood among the "big fellas" and to see that front and center as they celebrated one of their own was, for lack of a better word, cool. As I walked back to the locker room,
I was next to Atlanta OT Sam Baker and told him how cool it was for Atlanta to show DQ that respect by sporting the t-shirts. He was as gracious as he could be and then said "yeah, I picked up two of these shirts so I've always got one handy." Tip o' the ball cap, Sam.
My daily Roddy/Julio Reality Show quickie...for the two star wide receivers, it was Floppy Hat day, aka a "veterans recuperation" day. Surprisingly, neither one worked out on Thursday. Wednesday, it was making an entrance. Thursday, it was a fashion statement. Now, "ball out" like those guys do, catching 80 passes a year and they can wear a speedo to work for all that matters.
I just find these two so interesting because they just do their thing and I'd love to live a day in their, uh, world. If they break out the floppy hats on the sideline in the second half on Saturday night, it'll make my night. A speedo is just too much to ask.
The two teams were in "uppers", shoulder pads with shorts; however, the intensity was still at a premium throughout the day.
During 9-on-7, the Falcons offensive line did a much better job than yesterday, overall.
Texans NT Jerrell Powe, on the first play, got doubled by the center and a guard, but he dropped to a knee, stayed strong and eventually split the double team. It was textbook technique to start a physical drill.
One of the better collisions of the day occurred when Texans LB Mike Mohamed and Falcons FB Patrick DiMarco crashed into each other on an isolation run. Big pop. It wasn't the best one of the day, though; I'll get to that one in a bit.
JJ Watt ran clean in the Falcons backfield on a run away from him. Ho hum, standard living for double nines.
Former Falcon/current Texan Akeem Dent is quick to fill gaps in 9-on-7, saw that again today as on Wednesday.
Rookie DE Jeoffrey Pagan whipped the tackle easily at the point of attack on one play, in particular. It appears he's getting his sea legs, if you will.
DE Julius Warmsley, although he's been tremendous throughout camp, struggled today in 9-on-7 but I still expect him to make a play on Saturday as he has throughout training camp.
I didn't get to see many of the WR/DB 1-on-1s but one that I did see Kareem Jackson had a pick on a goal line route, one of many plays the fifth year defensive back made throughout the day.
Along those lines, Jackson was the star of the day with multiple breakups and interceptions throughout practice. Of course, the Falcons' two star wide outs didn't work out but it was still Jackson's best day of training camp, that I can recall.
The only other Texans defensive back I saw was Marcus Williams who knocked away another pass on the last play of the drill.
During 7-on-7, the Texans forced at least three throwaways by Falcons QB Matt Ryan and company. After a rough night in Glendale, it was a good sign to see the Texans DBs compete like they did the past two days.
One of those guys that had a tough night vs. the Cardinals was Brandon Harris, but he made an excellent play in coverage to keep Falcons WR Freddie Martino from hanging on to a throw from TJ
Texans players, fans and staff members are all behind David Quessenberry and his battle to beat Lymphoma. Check out a photo gallery of Texans family wearing their TEXANS FOR DQ shirts on #DQStrong Day.
I mentioned Roddy and Julio earlier but an important cog in the Falcons offense is WR Harry Douglas. I talked to an Atlanta media member and told him that Douglas' route running and overall improvement at his craft is quite evident. He gave rookie Andre Hal a veteran route running lesson, turning Hal around a bit, getting open on an out route in 7-on-7.
THE collision of the day took place during team session and ILB Jeff Tarpinian was on the receiving end of it. RB/FB Josh Vaughan introduced himself to Tarpinian as the Texan blitzed the QB. Vaughan dropped the hammer on Tarp. Hard. What a big hit! I stood near Vaughan as the Falcons RB went through individual drills...let me just say that I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of one of his hits, quite frankly.
I noted yesterday that deeper seam routes had been a bit of trouble for the Texans. However, during a team session, Williams tracked Falcon WR Tramaine Thompson on a similar route today forcing an overthrow.
All of you know how much I love the game behind the game, the X's and O's side of it. Well, I was in heaven during practice, standing near the end zone, while the Falcons starting offense (minus 84 and 11) lined up against the Texans starting defense. As I was only fifteen yards away, I could see, and most importantly, hear the goings on.
Clearly. As Ryan brought the Falcons up to the line, he saw the Texans in a certain coverage. He then walked up to the line of scrimmage and yelled a one word command to the offense. The receivers adjusted slightly and the running back slid to the other side. On the snap, Falcons WR Gerald Boldewijn ran a quick out and Ryan hit him perfectly for a touchdown, even though Kareem Jackson was draped on him.
The Falcons also got a WR free from the clutches of Hal on a "rub" route, although the Texans defensive line argued that a couple of guys would've had a sack on the play.
One guy doesn't make the total difference but the insertion of Xavier Su'a-Filo at right guard has seemingly solidified the O-Line. The pass protection was excellent today, unfortunately the Falcons secondary blanketed the Texans receivers, forcing a couple of throwaways by Fitzpatrick during up-tempo/two minute drill.
When the Falcons first offense got the ball in the two minute drill, the Texans defensive front four swallowed up Ryan, preventing a throw and then Kareem Jackson picked off Ryan to end the Falcons drive.
As the Texans second offense made its way to the field, I saw one of the Hard Knocks' guys talking on his headset, frustrated at the music that the Texans played over the loud speakers. I chuckled a bit.
During the first drive for the second unit, I noticed Falcons DB Javier Arenas getting off the ground and looking for his helmet. Then, I saw Texans RB Alfred Blue on a knee talking to him. I gathered that Blue drilled Arenas as he blitzed the edge, which is a great sign. Both Jonathan Grimes and Blue have done a solid job in pass protection and recent pickup Ronnie Brown is adept at it too.
Derek Newton spent much of the day at left tackle with Duane Brown getting the day off from practice.
After a long completion from Fitzpatrick to DeAndre Hopkins to get in field goal range, rookie kicker Chris Boswell knocked home the "game winner" to end that part of the drill.
Once the Falcons' second unit got on the field, the Texans defense picked up a sack and Hal broke up a pass to set up third down.
That said, Falcons QB TJ Yates looked composed and comfortable during his reps and appears to be clearly entrenched in the second spot behind Ryan.
When QB Case Keenum got back out on the field for the ":30 seconds remaining end of game" drill, he was equal parts good and bad. Although I will admit, bad is somewhat relative.
a. On first down, he threw short, which was seemingly not the right throw with no time outs and a long way to go.
b. Then he found WR Keshawn Martin for a first down on a great throw.
c. Then he took a couple of seconds too long to snap the ball on the spike play. Now, this one I'm not completely upset about because had Case rushed it, a motion penalty would've ended the "game". So, I'll trade a couple of seconds there, I suppose, instead of a ten second run-off.
d. On the last play, he threw a TD pass to end the "game" (couldn't see the WR from the other end of the field).
As it pertains to the two minute drill though, I truly enjoyed watching Ryan run that for Atlanta. It's evident how long he's been doing it and it ran smoothly with little effort. He methodically, yet quickly, led the Falcons down the field on his drive.
With WR Mike Thomas sitting out of practice, rookie WR Travis Labhart got a ton of reps and made the most of them. He made a one handed snatch during the "backed up" team drill. He caught an over the shoulder deep ball from Keenum for a long gain. He was often open on inside routes and made a handful of catches in 7-on-7 and team periods. Good day for the Aggie.
Another rookie was good today too, QB Tom Savage. He seemed much more at ease, more comfortable in the pocket and with the overall management of the offense. One thing I've noticed before but even more so today, he is probably the best touch thrower of the three Texans quarterbacks. He's done this a handful of times during camp but today, he dropped a rainbow over the outstretched hands of a Falcons LB to Anthony McClung for a TD.
Then, he found Blue down the sideline as he lofted one to a spot only Blue could catch it. Savage can drive the ball too, we all know that, and he showed that part of his game on a TD throw to Anthony Denham.
The red zone 7-on-7 passing drill gave us our first skirmish of the two day practice sessions as Desmond Trufant, Josh Wilson and DeAndre Hopkins got into a fracas after Trufant knocked away a fade route from Hopkins.
When the two landed, words were exchanged before Wilson ran into the fray as the "fight's hype man", which exacerbated the situation. The three were quickly separated and calm was restored in a hurry. That said, don't think I won't be watching 10 and 21 go at it on Saturday for a quarter or more.
Ask anyone who the Atlanta Falcons LBs are and the only name people may recognize is injured Sean Weatherspoon. The two starters that aren't injured Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu are much better than anyone knows. I'll keep my eye on that duo from afar but I love the way those two run to the ball and the transition that Bartu's made to play in space is impressive.
Overall, I thought it was a better day for Texans OLB Whitney Mercilus rushing the quarterback and I hope the confidence level is high on Saturday night in front of the home fans.
Maybe my favorite moment of the day was when Rick Ross' song B.M.F blared from the speakers. The Falcons starting secondary, led by safety William Moore, did one heck of a karaoke version, complete with the dance moves to go with it. I got the impression that the Falcons liked the music at practice a wee bit more than the Hard Knocks' guys did.