The Texans practiced in full pads in front of a team-record 5,182 fans on Saturday morning, the ninth day of Training Camp presented by Comcast. With the team off Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday, here's an extended recap with notes and observations from the field:
- Quarterback Matt Schaub was on fire all morning. He made it look easy with routine, perfectly-placed passes to Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, dropping balls over the receivers' shoulders and hitting them in stride time and again.
- Early in practice, seventh-round draft pick Dorin Dickerson caught a nice deep ball – a recurring theme in training camp for the rookie out of Pitt – from John David Booty down the right sideline. Cornerback Mark Parson was chasing in coverage.
- The Texans' sideline erupted when roookie cornerback Kareem Jackson (5-10, 197) laid out right tackle Eric Winston (6-7, 317) in the right flat on a screen pass. "That there was kind of tough," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said afterward. "We know he'll hit you. We saw him do it at Alabama. If you play for (defense backs coach) David (Gibbs) and you're a corner, then you're going to tackle." Jackson got burned by Johnson early in practice on a route 20 yards down field, but the first-round draft pick rebounded to break up a pass from Dan Orlovsky to Jacoby Jones toward the end of practice.
- Fullback Vonta Leach – AKA "The Hammer," "Big Bruiser," "Big Punisher" and a host of other nicknames related to being the 6-0, 263-pound hard hitter that he is – leveled cornerback Antwaun Molden on an outside stretch play to the left to clear a path for rookie running back Ben Tate. "We're trying to get the running game going," Leach said. "We're trying to be physical at the point of attack and things. Every time you look up and read something, it seems like running back is the weakest link on our offense, so we've got to come out and we've got something to prove."
- Late in practice, second-year defensive end Connor Barwin dropped into coverage and picked off Schaub on a rare mistake for the Pro Bowl quarterback. Barwin flashed his old tight end athleticism as he ran the return back 50 yards for a touchdown, capped off by a spirited dive into the end zone to get past wide receiver David Anderson.
- Safety Torri Williiams, an undrafted rookie from Purdue, intercepted Booty twice in practice. The first came on a play-action pass that sailed over tight end Derek Fine's head. The second came on a pass from the end zone that Williams jumped all over and ran back for a touchdown. Williams also broke up a pass from Orlovsky in the end zone. More on him in a "Rookie Watch" blog post coming up shortly.
- The musical chairs-like rotation of players on the interior offensive line continues. Here are but a few of the rotations used at practice on Saturday: RG Mike Brisiel, C Chris Myers, LG Wade Smith with the first team; RG Antoine Caldwell, C Brisiel, LG Kasey Studdard with the second team; RG Chris White, C Myers, LG Smith, second team; RG Caldwell, C Myers, LG Studdard, first team; RG White, C Brisiel, LG Smith, second team.
- Kickers Kris Brown and Neil Rackers alternated field goal attempts from the following distances: 32, 37, 42, 47 and 52 yards. Brown was 4-of-6, missing wide right from 42 and 52. Rackers was 6-of-6.
- With 14 practices in the books, Kubiak was asked about any differences he has noticed in the team compared to in years past. "There's two things that jump at me right now," he said. "I like the way we're running the ball on offense. I like some of the things that we're doing. The biggest thing... is to see that the defense is so much improved every day. They're making plays every day. There's no highs and lows. They're very consistent at what they're doing, and that's very pleasing."