When the sun set on October 25th, the Texans were licking their proverbial wounds after a 44-26 blasting by the Dolphins. The defeat dropped their record to 2-5. Head coach Bill O'Brien and company had to make some changes.
Along with offensive coordinator George Godsey and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, the coaches got quieter during certain portions of practice.
"When it's 11-on-11, it's the players' practice," O'Brien explained on Monday. "The coaches, George and RAC, they're on the side and they just signal the play in and the players practice. I think we made a decision to do that, so that we could help everybody understand what we were trying to do better because let the players figure it out."
Since then, the Texans won six of eight and are on the threshold of their third playoff appearance in the last five seasons. O'Brien's switch in practice routine near the midway point has been a key.
"We're not going to be out there on the game field to figure it out for them, so let's let them figure it out on the practice field," O'Brien said. "I think the players have done a great job of that. Our leaders have done a good job of that."
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has enjoyed that different approach in practice, and thinks it's fostered better communication.
"We like that because the coaches aren't on the field playing with us," Hopkins said. "It's the team and it's the 53-man roster out there, so them giving us the chance to communicate with each other helps out on the game."
Defensive end J.J. Watt agreed, and said it's been like a mental measuring stick amongst the players.
"That's when you get a chance to see who knows what," Watt said. "If somebody doesn't know something, you get a chance to work it out with them. I think it's a great chance for us to all get together and figure things out."
Left tackle Duane Brown said the 11-on-11 change has amped up the intensity in practices, in a good way.
"It's just a game-like atmosphere when you get out there," Brown said. "You have your calls, the defensive looks, and you don't have a coach in your ear telling you what to do, telling you what to expect. You're able to communicate with each other and play a little bit faster, so I think that transfers to game day because of the game-like atmosphere we have in our practice."
The Texans practice again on Thursday and Friday at the Houston Methodist Training Center, and will host the Jaguars this Sunday at noon CT in NRG Stadium.