The Texans took the training camp show on the road, all the way to Green Bay for Monday's workout and what a day it was! It started with the Texans (and Packers, of course) on bikes and ended with one of the best catches on the day by a rookie tight end. I was writing notes furiously, so let me try to decipher my notes and pound out some Harris Hits from the great state of Wisconsin.
The Texans engaged in the Packers' training camp tradition of riding bikes over to the practice facility. Running back Lamar Miller pulled a princess wagon across the way. J.J. Watt, unfortunately, broke the bike he was on. Whitney Mercilus either gave the bike a flat tire or chose one with a flat tire. Green Bay homeboy Max Scharping got on a trike that was so small he could barely bend himself into it. But, he tried. I love that the Texans did all they could to satisfy some really great fans.
It got a little dusty in the room when I saw Brandon Dunn push a young man in a wheelchair. I mean, c'mon, man (sniff) - that was awesome. It was not surprising that Brandon would do it, but it was still really cool to see.
One of the things I was looking forward to the most was seeing how many Watt jerseys would be in the stands. There were plenty and even more 99 red Badgers jerseys from his college days. But, he wasn't alone. There was a young man in a Deshaun No. 4 jersey who caught Watson's attention out of the locker room and Deshaun rode his bike over to the field. I saw a DeAndre Hopkins No. 6 Clemson jersey too.
On the Packers side, I can't even tell you how many different former Packers were represented. I saw a Dorsey Levens No. 25 jersey. I saw a Desmond Bishop No. 55 jersey. I saw a Donald Driver No. 80, a Houston guy who is revered in these parts. I thought there would be an overabundance of No. 12 Aaron Rodgers jerseys, but the old guard was represented really well.
The teams were separated for about 30-35 minutes to start the day, but they got after it immediately upon taking the field with one another. They started with an 11-on-11 inside run drill and I'll just say this up front - the Packers couldn't run on the Texans front. At all. D.J. Reader and Angelo Blackson were stalwarts in the middle. On one inside zone run, Blackson and linebacker Benardrick McKinney stoned running back Tra Carson for no gain. That was a central theme on the day when the Packers offense wanted to run the ball.
Then, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a dart to receiver Davante Adams on a slant off of zone read action. That slowed the Texans linebackers a little bit, but it didn't completely stem the tide.
I didn't get to see as much of the Texans offense during the day as much I saw of the Texans defense. As such, it's incredibly important to get work against future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Seeing him work up close is mesmerizing and it's a near miracle that he's in his 15th year in this league. That said, the Texans secondary forced a number of incompletions and coverage throws throughout the day. More on that in a little bit.
When the Texans offense took to the field, the offensive line had some solid moments in the first few plays. Miller took a handoff on an inside run and froze a defender in the hole and then squirted forward for a nice gain. I loved seeing Lamar "rat-a-tat" his feet in the hole without losing momentum and moving forward.
A few plays later, tackle Matt Kalil stepped across the formation and tattooed the Packers defensive end to give some room for Miller. I heard that collision up in the little perch where we were situated for radio this morning.
One of the best throws from Deshaun Watson during the day was a dart he threw to tight end Jordan Akins during that 11-on-11 drill. The second-year tight end had just one step on the defender and Watson threw a dime that Akins snatched for a first down.
I couldn't see too much of the Texans OL/Packers DL in 1-on-1s, but one matchup that I was curious to see was Packers star defensive tackle Kenny Clark vs. Texans center Greg Mancz. The one rep I saw, Mancz more than held his own against Clark's power, which is saying something given that Clark might be one of the most powerful interior players in the NFL. What Mancz did was not easily done and I let out a little cheer from my perch as it happened.
Of course, there's a video making the rounds of offensive lineman Tytus Howard throwing a defender out of the club, so to speak. Uh, yeah, I told you draft night that he could do that when necessary. I only wish I had seen that happen live.
I had a ringside seat for the Texans defensive linemen vs. Packers offensive linemen in 1-on-1s. J.J. Watt's first rep was against a right tackle not named Bryan Bulaga. So, Watt decided to test him early and went straight bull rush. Watt put him on skates. Then, he ripped past that poor tackle on the next rep. Watt was dialed up all day on the practice turf of his favorite team growing up, in front of his people, so to speak. It really showed on those two plays, in particular.
One of my favorite battles was Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus and Packers left tackle extraordinaire David Bakhtiari. On the first rep, Whitney threw a combination spin/rip to get inside to the quarterback. On the second rep, Bakhtiari held firm to keep Mercilus out of the pocket. Watching those two battle was probably the most fun I had all day.
Throughout the day, I noticed that Mercilus was in the backfield a ton during team drills. There were a number of "coverage sacks" due to the pressure he and others provided throughout the day.
In 1-on-1s, rookie Charles Omenihu showed some power off the snap and a decent rip move, but it just has to happen a bit quicker. He's one strong dude, that's for sure, and I can't wait to see him go at it on Thursday night at Lambeau.
During 1-on-1s, the two teams engaged in 7-on-7 pass skelly. Deshaun Watson drove one into the chest of DeAndre Hopkins on first down and then did the same to tight end Darren Fells, who made the catch with a defender draped all over him.
Coming off the field, a few people said to me "boy, tight ends had a day, huh?" They certainly did. I saw every single one of them make catches all over the field. Akins, Fells, Jerrell Adams and Kahale Warring (more on him near the end) all made multiple catches during the day.
As we watched practice, my dad said to me "hey, who's number 11?" Watching the other end of the field, I just responded with "Stevie Mitchell. Why?" My dad goes "he's catching everything." So, I turned that direction and right on cue, quarterback AJ McCarron dropped a deep ball right into Mitchell's lap for a touchdown. Then, on the very next play, Mitchell took a quick hitch and seemed to run upfield by everyone for a huge gain. Number 11 continues to make an impression in this training camp, including on my pops.
During a team session later, Watson made a strong throw on a corner route to Will Fuller V. He threaded the needle into a small hole on the sideline for a big gain.
Later in team drills for the defense, Whitney Mercilus spun free to the quarterback and would've registered a sack but Aaron Rodgers threw a laser shot just as Mercilus ran past him upfield. Rodgers hit Darrius Shepherd for a gain up the field.
I was impressed with the Texans coverage on the Packers long, wiry receiving group during Monday's workout. The Texans were physical with those receivers and that seemed to throw off the timing a bit for Rodgers and company. I didn't sense frustration from Rodgers, but I KNOW he wasn't pleased when defensive lineman Carlos Watkins knocked the ball from his hands as Watkins breezed by on his pass rush. Watkins was rushing the quarterback, reached instinctively and knocked it out.
Rodgers then turned the tables on the first play of team on the final period of the day. He hard-counted nearly everyone offsides (his own guard, as well). So, he stole five yards and then threw a laser to receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a deep comeback route on the next play. I believe that was really the only significant gain of the day for the Packers offense, minus Rodgers last throw of the day.
He threw a wheel route to fullback Dan Vitale with Zach Cunningham in his hip pocket. Furthermore, Tashaun Gipson was playing safety and coming over to help. He didn't want to blow up Vitale as he might have in a game, so Vitale made a great catch and the fans went crazy. I asked T-Gip after practice about it and I didn't even get three words out of my mouth and he goes "C'mon, man, you know that ain't happening." Thought so but I'll give credit to Vitale who has made a GREAT impression on the Packers fans the past week and change.
Speaking of Cunningham, in that team period at the end of practice, there was one run where I saw him just stone a Packers running back in the hole for no/little gain. I mean, Zach worked through the trash and just WHAM, laid the hammer down.
A little while later, I went down to the Texans offensive side of the field and the tight ends caught everything. The day ended, though, with the best catch of the day, one snagged by rookie Kahale Warring. He was in the back corner of the end zone and went up and snagged the throw from quarterback AJ McCarron and got both feet in bounds. There were refs on site as well and the one directly in front of his catch signaled touchdown and the offense went crazy. I loved it for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was an excellent, athletic catch. Furthermore, Warring back healthy adds so much juice to the tight end room and on the field now that he's healthy.
So, one last note, a self-indulgent one, but hopefully one that will resonate. Because the Texans decided to come to Green Bay, I was able to watch practice with my mom and my dad for the first time ever. Now, that might sound weird. But, I've never been able to do that for a Texans practice or any team for that matter. Throughout my adult life, I was playing/coaching or my dad was playing/coaching until he retired. Prior to becoming a full-time Texans employee in 2015, my parents moved back to Wisconsin so they never came to a Texans practice with me. My mom has suffered for years having to listen to my dad and I talk ball ALL THE TIME and did so again on Monday, but she was a trooper. I've had so many football memories with my dad, in particular, but I thought I wouldn't get a chance to have another one. Yet, today provided one as I watched with the two people most responsible for allowing me to fall in love with this great game. So, thank you, Texans. Thank you very much.
Okay, so we're be back tomorrow with more from Ray Nitschke Field in Green Bay as the Texans aim to get a ton more work on Tuesday. See ya then, everyone!