Lucky number 13. We'll flip that triskaidekaphobia on its head with today's workout and a practice performance that bordered on football redemption. Let's get to my Harris Hits: Training Camp observations Day 13.
Normally, I try not to get wrapped up in narratives, but what happens this time of year early in Training Camp (and prior to Preseason), good or bad, is the player's/coach's/team's story or narrative that develops - no matter what happens the next three or four weeks. Then, making matters worse, everyone jumps on and won't let go of that narrative because they can't, honestly. Not everyone sees every single play of a practice. Not everyone can see every throw, every catch, every interception or the opposite - a missed throw, drop or pick. The perfect example occurred as I was driving home today, I was listening to my guys Landry Locker and John Lopez from SportsRadio 610 and I'll be extremely clear about this, they didn't do anything wrong. They weren't able to see today's practice because they had their show to do, but it helps illustrate my point for MANY others. As I was listening, they brought up rookie quarterback Davis Mills and in Landry's tease for the following segment, he brought up the struggles that Mills had on the fourth day of Camp, two Saturdays ago. There's no denying that it was not a great day for Mills. Since then, though, Mills has taken significant strides, making quicker decisions, being more accurate with the ball and, in some cases, throwing a handful of laser shots for completions. Furthermore, today's workout was his best practice to date, but there were no fans and fewer media members to proclaim that for the world to see. Having said that, I can just hear the Narrative Riders (that's what I'll call them for now) who will defend that narrative to the death. "But, John, he was facing the threes." Nope, definitely not. "Well, he was throwing to Brandin Cooks." Not a ton of the time, if at all. "Well, he...uh, he, well, that Saturday, he wasn't very good and that's my truth." Okay, pal, live your truth, but your truth is, quite frankly, wack. I'm telling you I've heard/read that incomplete truth a lot over the past week and, when I do, I'm completely done with that conversation or article or radio fodder because in this league, things change minute to minute, especially for a rookie. A particular player having a great camp through the first couple of days might be on the roster bubble after the following week. The opposite can also be true, ESPECIALLY for rookies. For the past couple of days, Mills has taken visible strides but today was a dadgum leap forward.
Even before the last drill of the day, Mills threw some absolutely gorgeous passes in team and group settings. However, the last drill of practice was a two-minute situation. 1:30 on the clock, gotta score a touchdown and only one time out. Mills went on the field with many offensive players who have started in this league against a defense that featured many players who have also started before in this league. On first down, Mills hard-counted defensive lineman Whitney Mercilus offside for a free five yards. Then, he threw a dart to fellow rookie tight end Brevin Jordan who was "tackled" in bounds. Mills hurried his team to the line, got the snap off, couldn't find an open receiver and tossed it away harmlessly to stop the clock. Smart. On the next down, Mills threw a strike to receiver Alex Erickson at the first down marker. The rookie got plenty of help from his running back Scottie Phillips who saw a blitz and cleared the way for Mills to make the throw from a clean pocket.
Following the first down, instead of clocking it, Mills took a shot deep but overthrew his receiver - no harm, took a shot, stopped the clock. Then, he threw a dart to receiver Chris Conley for a completion and another first down, out of bounds too. On the next play, Mills then had to scramble and pick up what he could on a run, spiking the ball on the next snap to stop the clock. So, with third down staring him in the face, Mills threw an absolute dime to Chris Conley for a touchdown. The throw was even more impressive because defensive back Desmond King was flying up the field with no blocker in sight, right in Mills' face. I mean, what a throw!
Coach Culley moved the ball back to the two to continue with the drill and defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III ended it with one of the best interceptions you'll ever see. He climbed up and made a one-hand snag of a ball that was destined for the bleachers. However, he skied and snagged it and two toe tapped for the pick. Mills was trying to throw the ball away, but didn't get enough on it to get out of bounds. Clearly, it was not Mills' best decision. That said, taking that drill and the whole day into account, Mills grew by leaps and bounds from that so-called fateful Saturday nearly two weeks ago.
Now, LET ME BE VERY CLEAR, I'm not naming Mills the starter or naming him an All-Pro, not in the slightest. I'm not putting him in Canton, by gosh. That said, he helped establish balance to the narrative that seemed to rain down upon him after that tough practice days ago. The quarterback that I saw today? That guy was light years beyond the player that struggled 11 days ago. There are two sides to every narrative and it's only fair to be fair, right? Good.
(As a side note, had Landry and John seen the workout, they would've been the first to give the young man his 'propers', as the old heads say).
Quarterback Jeff Driskel came out the gates on his two-minute drill situation on absolute fire. He threw four straight completions, bookended by receptions from Taywan Taylor. The last one was just a gem. Driskel launched deep as Taylor ran to the middle of the field. Taylor then laid out to make the tough catch inside the five yard line. Unfortunately for Driskel, the offense bogged down inside the low red zone and couldn't punch it in. Defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker batted a pass down and the secondary really put the clamps on the receivers in the condensed area.
The Texans added two players to the roster on Wednesday: 1) Veteran running back Darius Jackson, who spent 2021 on the Raiders practice squad. He's 6-0, 220 lb. and a bruiser who has seen the gameday roster in a few different places along the way. 2) Rookie offensive lineman Drake Jackson was also added to the roster after being claimed on waivers from the Lions. Here is my scouting report on Jackson from this past year's draft prep.
"Jackson was at the Senior Bowl but he never really got my attention as I was focused a bit more on the Humphreys and the Meinerzes of the world. Also, I saw that weight - less than 300 lb. - and I was nearly ready to shut it down. Then, I went back to watch a bit more Kentucky film and had no real intentions of diving further into Jackson. In the Gator Bowl, third play of the game, I think, Jackson gets up under the pads of the Wolfpack's head up nose and drives him ten yards down the field. I mean, okay, wow. Jackson just torqued the nose nearly right onto the ground on a split zone. As the nose tried to straighten himself up, Jackson just got further under his pads and finished the block right next to Kentucky running back A.J. Rose...11 yards downfield. Granted, Jackson got a little help from his right guard to get even more movement, but Jackson's ability to win from a leverage stand point turned that play from a nice gain to a significant first down run. I then went on to watch a couple more of his starts in 2020 as he clearly had my attention at that point. He's not going to wow anyone with insane length or athleticism, but in that phone booth at the line of scrimmage, he won't lose a leverage battle. He's got to continue to work on latching with strong hands and that could be tough as his hands are some of the smaller ones in the 2021 NFL Draft class. However, he understands leverage better than many players I've studied up and down the line of scrimmage."
There will be those that wonder what a player can do that's added so late in the process, but, honestly, there's no such thing as late when it comes to roster management. I'm not sure how much time either will see the field on Saturday against the Packers, but they'll get a shot soon enough with two more preseason games remaining after Saturday.
Alright, I'll close it there because the rest of my notes are "Mills completion" or "great throw, 10". I kid, I kid, but there were plenty of those that I didn't even mention either. Now, it's time to show it under the lights of Lambeau Field on Saturday night. See ya tomorrow, everyone!!
Check out the best photos from Day 13 of Training Camp presented by Xfinity.