Saturday night won't get here fast enough, in all honesty, but the Texans marched through another sultry, steamy day at the Houston Methodist Training Center on Tuesday. I almost forgot what day it was because I thought all day yesterday was Tuesday and thought when I got up this morning it was Thursday. Oh man, Training Camp does it to me too!! Anyhow, here are my Harris Hits: Training Camp Observations from Day #12.
During team drills early in the practice, rookie quarterback Davis Mills threw as nice a ball as I've seen to fellow rookie Nico Collins. The former Michigan star receiver darted across the middle and I seemed to lose Mills in the throng of players surrounding him who were rushing him. Then, I saw this beautiful spiral come flying out and looked to see who Mills spied downfield. That was Collins who made the catch, protected the ball after the hit and picked up a first down.
There was a lot of team running game situations early in today's practice which was great work for everyone on the perimeter to get involved. Typically, it's nine-on-seven inside drill and one-on-ones for receivers and defensive backs, but today it was a full team 11-on-11 run period which was fun to watch.
However, the best part of my entire day is when I can go down and watch the big fellas rep out some one-on-ones in pass protection.
The first rep of the day was for offensive tackle Charlie Heck and the OG Whitney Mercilus. I've noticed and written about Heck's progress and it was a solid measuring stick to face Whit who has seen it all. Whitney rushed the edge high and Heck was able to stay on the block which would've allowed the quarterback to step up into the pocket. Heck's progressed mightily from last year and more than just incrementally every single day in this camp.
When offensive lineman Justin Britt stays square with adequate knee bend, he's nearly impossible to move and just as impossible to move around. Defensive lineman Brandon Dunn is constantly throwing hands and working to get himself free, and on this rep, he went from left all the way to the right to find a sliver of space. Britt just stayed crouched and slid like a defender on the basketball court. Really solid rep for both veterans, honestly.
I caught up with defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson after practice, one of the many notable veterans on this squad and one of the many on the defensive line. He has such a great perspective on teaching and learning from everyone he faces or lines up next to every play. In his first rep, he caught an edge and was able to slink past the offensive lineman he faced into the backfield for a clean win.
There are days when I see that explosiveness from fellow defensive lineman Jon Greenard and think he's going to be a real problem for offenses. Man, when he hits the turbo boosters off the edge, he's an issue for those big fellas up front. His first rep against offensive lineman Rod Johnson was exactly that - a B12 shot energy boost off the edge - and when Greenard is in position, he can finish his rush to get to the quarterback well.
For defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, I just wrote down "94 is always working." Charles has just an excellent feel for rushing the passer, but he never lets the energy in his rush wane. If an offensive lineman takes one split second of a break, Omenihu is going to get himself free at some point. I'm so excited to see him put it all together in year three.
What I have written next was as fun to write as it was important to write:
I wrote: "90 is winning more and more." 90 is defensive lineman Ross Blacklock, and every day that I've spent watching these offensive line vs. defensive line battles, Blacklock is winning more of his share of reps. His burst is telling and he's rushing with a plan unlike earlier in camp. Seeing Blacklock's progress is such a great sign for this defensive line, this defense and this team.
I love seeing the offensive line show some changeup looks as well. Because I have watched them so much the past week or so, I can tell when players are trying different techniques and such to perfect those varied skills needed to win against the defensive line. The defensive line is typically the unit that we think about as having different pass rush moves and the sort, but there are certainly different techniques that the offensive line can engage in as well and I love seeing those things taught and executed.
A great example of this was a rep by offensive lineman Cole Toner. Instead of the typical give ground, standard approach to pass protection, Toner took a different tact against powerful Vincent Taylor. That approach certainly really helped Toner on that rep.
The past few days have been the first time that I've been able to lay eyes on offensive lineman Geron Christian. Now, I studied him coming out in the draft a few years ago, but I mean as a Texan. He's unfortunately been sidelined throughout the first part of camp. So, on his first rep against defensive lineman Jordan Jenkins, I was super curious to see how it would go. Well, it went so well for Christian that Jenkins asked for another rep. Christian held strong and anchored against speed-to-power on the first rep just so beautifully. Jenkins got free on the second rep, ripping inside to get clear to the quarterback. Suffice to say, it was an intriguing pair of reps for both guys, in particular Christian, who is continuing to work himself into football shape after missing eight to ten days.
Christian also had an effective rep against the whirling dervish known as Jacob Martin on the edge. The one thing about Martin is how he NEVER stops. He'll counter his counter with a counter of a counter and do it all day long. That relentlessness is so tough to harness for many offensive linemen yet I loved how Christian fought through that rep for sure.
All I know about defensive lineman Derek Rivers' rep was that there were a lot of "oooohs" and "ahhhhs" when he was done. Speed-to-power like a champ. I mean, I "oooohed" and "ahhhhed" myself. Rivers continues to string together strong reps in those periods.
It was good to see recent acquisition offensive lineman Danny Isidora finish strong on one of his reps. He was able to slide laterally with a lineman and then as he stayed square, he put a wicked punch into the defensive lineman putting him into the turf.
For a big, BIG fella, defensive lineman Auzoyah Alufohai has strung together some athletic pass rushes in this training camp. He also hasn't forgotten that he's a powerfully constructed individual who can use that strength to his advantage. His first rep was a club/swim move that was extremely quick, but on his second rep, he snatched and yanked the offensive lineman to give him an open path to the quarterback.
The best rep of the day, though, may have belonged to offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt. Talk about anchoring, my goodness. I forgot (dang it, sorry) to write down the defensive lineman he faced, but said individual attempted to bull rush "Fro" and he was having none of it. Froholdt stayed square, kept his head up, remained in an athletic position and CAUGHT the rusher perfectly. Just rocked him. Such a good rep and I can't wait to see him in action on Saturday.
Then, it was time for a red zone team drill and, let's just say that the offense looked WAY better than it did on the infamous Saturday red zone drills from ten days ago.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor got receiver Keke Coutee involved on first down to get things started. On second down, though, defensive back Eric Murray had glue-like coverage on tight end Pharaoh Brown in the end zone to force an incompletion. On third down, running back Phillip Lindsay followed his offensive line pal Tytus Howard for a run that would've resulted in a touchdown.
The "refs" put the ball at the two yard line for the next play and Taylor found a wide open Brandin Cooks for the score. There was serious relief and joy on the sideline from the offense and their coaches when Cooks waltzed into the end zone.
Then, rookie quarterback Davis Mills came onto the field for his reps in the red zone. First play - completion to Pharaoh Brown. Second play - a dart to a crossing Anthony Miller for another completion and near touchdown. Third play - a completion to running back Rex Burkhead (and a GREAT stop on the play by linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr.). Three solid reps from the rookie had to boost his confidence, no doubt.
Then, quarterback Jeff Driskel came in and immediately left the pocket once he got some pressure. On the run, Driskel threw a seed to receiver Chris Moore for a touchdown. It was perhaps the best throw Driskel's made throughout camp, an absolute dime. Unfortunately, the next throw from Driskel was tipped in the air and landed in the arms of defensive lineman Derek Rivers for an INT.
Regardless, it was another effective day for all three units at the Houston Methodist Training Center. We'll be back for more tomorrow - CAN'T WAIT!!
Check out the best photos from Day 12 of Training Camp presented by Xfinity.