Although it felt like we just returned from Green Bay, the Texans went back on the field for an afternoon workout after a day off on Sunday. Here are my Harris Hits: Training Camp Observations Day #15 (we really are 15 practices into training camp? Wow.)
Mother nature won the first drill of the day when she decided to bring the lightning that resulted in an indoor practice on Monday. A few minutes into the individual period of practice, the siren sounded, indicating a move into the indoor facility at the Houston Methodist Training Center. I've got to say, it's still weird watching practice inside as opposed to out on the grass, but not sweating for two straight hours was kind of nice. Okay, enough about me…
Once the team went inside, it was a continuation of the Training Camp work that the Texans engaged in prior to the preseason game with Green Bay. No pads, but plenty of unit and team work over the remaining portion of practice.
The play of the day from the defensive perspective came during a seven-on-seven passing period, courtesy of a guy I've nicknamed Coach Carter. No, it's not because Shyheim Carter reminds me of Samuel L. Jackson in the movie of the same name. It's because Shyheim actually was a graduate assistant coach at his former school Alabama this past spring. A few weeks after spring practice concluded, Carter was offered an opportunity to try out for the Texans and that led to him eventually signing a contract to become a member of the 90 man roster. In training camp, he's created a few standout plays, but the one that he pulled off today was his best yet. He was playing zone coverage on the far side of the field and had two routes in his vicinity. He told me later in our one-on-one interview that he tried to bait rookie Davis Mills into thinking the deeper route was open and Mills took the bait. He tried to loft the ball over Carter's head to receiver Keke Coutee, but Carter skied and snatched the interception with one hand. Oh man, what a play! That certainly got the defense hyped to say the least.
Let's talk about receiver Nico Collins. There were three team periods throughout the team's workout on Monday. In each of those three periods, Collins made a catch, each successive one better than the previous one. I mean, jaw dropping stuff that hasn't been seen here in Houston for a while. Folks, I don't think we all understand how good this young cat can be. He doesn't even realize it, honestly. But, it's practice, so I'll refrain from putting him in Canton...for now.
The one thing I do love about Collins is just how unassuming he appears. After one of his catches, head coach David Culley called him over and I don't know what Coach said to his rookie. But, Collins was just as calm and cool with that big smile as he could be as he listened to the words Coach said to him.
I texted Marc Vandermeer after practice "12 & 9. Solid future" 12 is Collins and 9 is tight end Brevin Jordan who was targeted a number of times during practice as well. Jordan's athleticism is clearly evident and when he catches a pass, it seems to raise his confidence. The more he was targeted (five times with five catches) today, the more confidence he displayed out on the practice field..
The biggest thing for those two young players is to consistently stack strong days, one after the other. I can think of numerous rookies over the past 14 training camps that I've seen that tantalized us all after a couple of days in a row. Then, an injury struck and any momentum was out the door in a flash. Staying healthy will allow those two, in particular, to continue to stack progress days on progress days and that could lead to exciting things in the future.
Defensive end Derek Rivers was able to get his hands on a pass for a pass breakup, one of just a couple on the day. I've seen him do something athletic like that throughout camp. Rivers is a guy who was kind of a mystery to most coming into this Texans camp given his unfortunate injury history, but his athleticism has certainly shone the three plus weeks.
One guy that Nico Collins and his young receiver mates can learn from on a daily basis is Brandin Cooks. The veteran could easily coast as he preps for the season and really be excused given his outstanding career. However, this man is running, nay sprinting, 30-40 yards down the field after catching a short pass during individual periods of practice. In team periods, no one runs routes with purpose and explosiveness like Cooks. There are so many times that in practices and games that quarterbacks just look him up to get them settled into the situation. This could be an observation any day of the week or any singular practice, but it's worth noting the standard that Cooks sets each day for himself and for those pass catchers.
On Texans Monday, our weekly live radio two hour fun-fest, Marc Vandermeer and I come up with the Holmes Smokehouse Player of the Game when the Texans win the previous Sunday (or Saturday, as it were in the preseason). Anyhow, Marc asked me this morning and I said I was going to shock him a bit and said that it should be linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. He was outstanding in the win over the Packers. He played with controlled ferocity and he looked like he was shot out of a cannon against the run as long as he was on the field. On Monday afternoon, though, he was back to being a menace in coverage. Tight end Antony Auclair crossed the formation and seemed to catch a pass from quarterback Davis Mills. However, as the ball arrived and Auclair was looking to put it away, Grugier-Hill punched it out, literally, for the pass breakup. Those are the types of plays that Grugier-Hill has consistently made throughout this camp.
I couldn't help but think about receiver Keke Coutee on Saturday night in Green Bay. In 2019, after a strong start to training camp, Coutee was injured during the preseason game against the Packers and it sort of derailed his 2019 season. On Saturday, though, he came up with a couple of key catches in the win. On Monday during practice, he snatched one deep down the field off the arm of Davis Mills. When he did, the safety inadvertently hit Coutee, knocking him to the turf. Luckily, he bounced right up and celebrated the catch as he should have.
Defensive back Shyheim Carter wasn't the only defensive back to snare an interception as Lonnie Johnson Jr. came down with another one as well. That's three or four picks for Johnson during training camp and he nearly came up with one against the Packers too. The progress Lonnie's made is evident and it's made the entire back end that much better in training camp.
The flukiest play of the day finished as a catch-and-run reception for receiver Chris Moore. Defensive back Tremon Smith appeared to have a bead on a pass breakup on Moore's inside route, but Smith couldn't bat the ball down. Instead, he tipped the ball in the air and Moore reacted and snatched the tipped ball, sprinting up the field with the unexpected good fortune.
The final play of the day has been a theme, seemingly, throughout camp. This one went to the offense. Quarterback Davis Mills dropped to throw in a red zone situation. He scanned the field, looking left to right, and then as if right on cue, running back Rex Burkhead darted into view. Mills zipped one to the former Plano (TX) high school star, who motored untouched into the end zone.
Alright, that'll do for today's afternoon workout. We'll be back in the morning tomorrow, everyone. See ya then!!
Check out the best photos from Day 15 of Texans Training Camp presented by Xfinity.