It's GAME WEEK! As I've seen a few people note on the media of the socials, we made it. Well, we're not quite there yet, but on our way toward a Saturday matchup with the Green Bay Packers in the Texans' first preseason game in 716 days!! It feels like eons ago since the Texans wrapped up the preseason with the Los Angeles Rams at home on August 29th, 2019, but we're just five days from the Texans stepping on the turf at Lambeau Field for the preseason opener. Here are my Harris Hits: Training Camp Observations from Day #11.
The first play of the nine-on-seven inside period, tight end Pharaoh Brown completely obliterated a defensive end one-on-one. I just happened to have my eyes on that matchup and Brown absolutely drove said defender five yards into the defensive backfield. He went to the podium today for his first presser and noted how he's been recovering from having COVID in July, only returning to the field in the past week or so. He also said that he was still not quite 100% and is still getting his wind. If that one-on-one block is any indication of what he can do regularly once he's got his wind, whoa, look out.
Linebacker Zach Cunningham showed up a number of times throughout the day. On one early run during the nine-on-seven inside period, he shot through a gap during the inside drill to swallow up one of the Texans running backs. Although he was outstanding, it was his fellow linebacker Tae Davis who had a banger of a day. I have three separate notes of impact plays Davis made during this workout, in particular.
During that same inside drill, Davis read a hole opening perfectly and shot right through it to completely shut down one play. That would've been a minus three or minus four-yard tackle for a loss.
During a team period late in practice, Davis perfectly read a screen 100% and beat the blocker to the spot to shut that down for another tackle for a loss.
One of the best things I've seen over the past three or four practices, in my opinion, is the ascent of defensive tackle Ross Blacklock. His quickness has been on display a few times and his ability to chase from the backside of a run play is impressive. It's just caught my eye that he's been more involved in making plays than even at the start of camp.
Linebacker Tae Davis wasn't the only backer to blow up a screen/short pass. Fellow linebacker Joe Thomas seemingly came out of nowhere to close on tight end Jordan Akins to slow that play to a crawl during a team period.
I watched more of the inside period than I did one-on-ones with the receivers and defensive backs, but I saw a few reps to dole out some props. Receiver Chris Moore ran two beautiful routes to get clean for receptions. Fellow pass catcher Anthony Miller also gave the defensive backs some issues with a couple of excellent routes/catches.
Receiver Alex Erickson showed a little veteran moxie when he felt a defensive back clutching his jersey a bit much on his rep. As he got to the top of that particular route, the defensive back had some, okay, well, a lot of jersey and Erickson just swatted his hand off of him, reset his hands to get in position and made the catch. All those times Mom swatted my hands when I reached for the chocolate chip cookies, she was just giving me a lesson in getting open and it looks like Alex Erickson got the same lesson.
In those same one-on-one drills, defensive back Eric Murray had a pass breakup in man coverage, one of the many he's had in training camp. Compared to last season, he looks much more confident and he's making plays as a result.
During team drills, quarterback Davis Mills looked for fellow rookie Brevin Jordan on the sideline, but that man I mentioned earlier, Tae Davis, was in perfect position to force the incompletion. Davis was step for step in coverage and Davis had...okay, that was confusing...let's try that again. Tae Davis was step for step in coverage and Davis Mills had no real opportunity to complete that pass given the linebacker's coverage.
On the last play of that team period, defensive lineman Jon Greenard came off the edge like a shot to create a tackle for a loss.
I had a chance to talk with offensive lineman Charlie Heck and I asked him about his progress this training camp. He noted how important it was that he stayed in Houston and worked out all spring/summer long here. That progress is evident and was evident when he slowed the one guy that no one really has slowed down - defensive lineman Charles Omenihu - in one-on-ones during this training camp. Omenihu has eaten everyone for lunch, but Heck stayed on balance with some strength to hold up against Omenihu's rush.
I love when defensive linemen try to bull rush offensive lineman Tytus Howard. I haven't seen anyone move him off the spot the past eight to ten days. His power and strength are so evident in one-on-one situations and I'm so excited to see all of this work translate into his game performance in year three.
One guy that can win with a bull rush is defensive tackle Vincent Taylor. He exploded into an interior offensive lineman with a POWERFUL bull rush during one-on-ones. Wooo, buddy, that was man strength he showed on that rep.
Defensive lineman Derek Rivers has really caught my eye, especially during one-on-ones, in this training camp. On one rep, he burst off the snap and it looked like he would dart inside, but without missing a beat, threw an arm-over move that got him free to the quarterback.
If there was an award for best rusher during one-on-ones during training camp, fellow defensive lineman Jordan Jenkins would certainly be in the running for the award. He won with another clean move from the edge. Power. Speed. Technique. Jenkins has shown it all during this training camp.
During seven-on-seven, quarterback Jeff Driskel threw a strike to tight end Kahale Warring for a completion. I said to Marc that I hoped that would get Warring going on the day. Luckily, I hit that one on the head a few minutes later.
Arguably, the best throw/best play of training camp took place during the final team drill a few minutes later. Warring headed down the seam and defensive back Lonnie Johnson Jr. was attached to Warring's hip. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor had eyes for Warring even with Johnson in solid position. Taylor let it fly and Warring leapt, snatching the ball out of the air as Johnson attempted to rip it away. Warring held on and stayed on his feet, picking up significant yardage on second down.
Rookie quarterback Davis Mills made a beautiful throw a couple of plays earlier. He had receiver Jordan Veasy working 1-on-1 in single coverage. Marc Vandermeer and I were standing right in line with the throw, so we saw the ball headed our way well before Veasy made the break on his out route. Mills threw that ball to the one spot that only his guy could make that catch. Veasy slid under it for a wonderful catch. Great toss, great catch. That was fun to see Stanford throwing to Cal for a solid gain.
During that team drill, Driskel started off his series with two straight completions, including one to Warring and one to Anthony Miller that was perfectly placed between three Texans zone defenders.
Mills wasn't done with his work during that particular team drill. On one of the last plays of the day, Mills got through his progressions as quickly as I've seen him do in this training camp. His eyes started on the left side of the formation and he scanned, quickly mind you, until he got to his third or fourth read who was Brevin Jordan on the other side of the field. Mills let fly immediately for the completion to the rookie tight end.
Alright, that's going to do it for today, but we'll have more tomorrow from Day #12 of training camp. Let's GO!!
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