It's always nice to see a different colored jersey on the premises of the Houston Methodist Training Center. The Falcons (2014), Saints (2016) and 49ers (2018) have all visited since Bill O'Brien arrived in Houston and this year it's another NFC team - the Detroit Lions. Here are my Harris Hits from the day spent with the Lions.
When the teams came together for the first time, it was for 1-on-1 work, especially with the pass catchers on each team. I spent most of the time watching the Texans skill guys against the Lions cover guys. The first rep I saw DeAndre Hopkins ran a pristine slant route on Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay for the clean catch. Those two went at it most of the day and it was so much fun to watch. More on Hop in a little bit.
Tight end Darren Fells made one heck of a catch matched up against a Lions safety. He had to extend fully to snatch the throw, but he hauled it in with a Lions defender essentially hanging on his back.
Fellow tight end Jerrell Adams continued his strong training camp, snagging a number of passes on a variety of routes during 1-on-1s. The only incompletion on an Adams rep was on a deep corner route that was just a hair overthrown.
Running back Damarea Crockett showed off some of his route running, gaining separation from a safety and making a catch during 1-on-1s.
I did think that the Lions defensive backs were solid in that 1-on-1 period. They were physical and aggressive through the catch point. Slay leads that group, but Rashaan Melvin has a bunch of experience against the Texans, having been with the Colts. Overall, they made an impression throughout the 1-on-1 period, in particular.
Now, that said, in the first team period of the day, Will Fuller V went big fly against that secondary. Quarterback Deshaun Watson laid one out there beautifully for Fuller V to reel it in and make the catch on the far sideline. The Texans speedy pass catcher landed out of bounds right in front of the fans and don't think they didn't understand the significance of Fuller V making that play. They started cheering loudly and then even more so when Fuller V got up and ran back to the huddle. The fans cheer for most catches and big plays, but that one in particular really got them excited.
A few plays prior to that Fuller V catch, he made another grab on an intermediate route over the middle. Watson was protected very well on that play and he had time to sit in the pocket and go through his progression. Then, he found Fuller V breaking across the middle and Watson lasered one right into his buddy's chest for a first down.
During that first session of team drills, both Watson and Joe Webb III completed every pass. Webb came in and hit a checkdown to Crockett and then dropped a beauty right in front of us on the sideline to Steven Mitchell for another first down.
When the Lions offense took over, quarterback Matt Stafford's first pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage by defensive lineman Angelo Blackson.
I'll say this about Stafford, man, can he throw it... wow! Not only does he have an incredibly strong arm, he has a quick release. That thing is coming out of his hand HOT and pretty quickly. He threw a few balls that I think his guys caught that they really had no choice because he stuck it right in their guts. He's really impressive and the one he dropped on running back Kerryon Johnson down the sideline? The Texans had a defender in a seemingly perfect spot and Stafford still completed the pass.
The Lions run game did some good things during the day as well, whether it was between the 20s or in the red zone. That has to get cleaned up tomorrow.
I watched a ton of the Texans OL/Lions DL 1-on-1 work. Seantrel Henderson seemed in a solid groove. He worked the arc well, didn't get off balance and completed an excellent rep against linebacker Devon Kennard.
Rookie guard Max Scharping took reps at both guard and tackle. On the first one at guard, he had a clean set and handled the bull rush that the Lions defensive lineman sent his way. On his second rep, he was at right tackle and it was even better than the first. He slid up the arc well, didn't get overextended, solid base and moved the Lions rusher off the spot and completely out of the way. He's getting better and better by the day.
Fellow rookie Tytus Howard had a few reps inside and then back outside at tackle too. It was clear that on his second rep, he seemed to try a different technique, but on his first rep, he took on a bull rush and stoned it right in place. When he went out to tackle, he looked comfortable working the arc outside and just has to keep his head up. But, man, that dude is so strong.
Offensive tackle Roderick Johnson keeps improving and he looks like a completely different player than he did year over year. I don't like seeing him wearing #63, but I can live with it when he's performing as he has done recently. Technique is better. His play strength is better. I look forward to watching his reps when he's on the field.
During field goal period, kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn was perfect. Now, I turned away from one kick, but I think every one that I saw he knocked home for three.
The team sessions prior to special teams were a little rough on both sides for a spell. The Texans had a false start, a trio of offsides on defense and couldn't get lined up properly on offense at one point. The Lions had a couple of defensive holdings on pass plays and a false start on the center which drew the ire of head coach Matt Patricia. Once both groups settled down, there was some effective action.
Safety Jahleel Addae made one heck of a breakup on a slant route to a running back. Stafford put one of his ball carriers out wide and then fired one in that direction off the three step quick game. Addae was in his hip pocket the whole way and broke up the pass.
Outside linebacker Davin Bellamy came up with a pass batted down during that period as well.
When the teams transitioned into red zone work, DeAndre Hopkins made the play of the day. He was on the right side and crossed the field at the back of the end zone. Deshaun Watson saw him and put one where only Hop could get it. Hop actually slid a little early and that forced him to reach back with his right hand and somehow secure the catch for the touchdown. He made it look easy, but there aren't three receivers in the league making that catch.
When the second offensive unit came on the field, running back Karan Higdon had an excellent run to start. He got to the hole, then hopped in the air a bit and when he hit the ground... ZOOM, he took off. He then shot through the secondary for what would've been a touchdown.
When the Lions offense got on the field, Stafford hit one pass to his tight end, but then on third down, Whitney Mercilus threw a SICK spin move on the Lions left tackle and he ended up in Stafford's face for the would-be sack. Later in the day, Mercilus and Watt met Stafford in the backfield for another sack.
Of course, Stafford went back to work on the next series and threw to a wide open fullback for a touchdown as well.
When the team went to situations (down one, no time outs, 55 seconds remaining, Texans 35-yard line), Watson dialed up tight end Jordan Akins for a quick completion. Then he went to Hopkins who drew a penalty and then one on the Lions covering DeAndre Carter.
I was standing right next to the Lions coaching staff for the next play. Watson threw a gorgeous corner route to Hopkins who was covered in front and in back fairly well. Hop laid out, full on dove for the rock and was able to get a hand on it but couldn't reel it in. One of the Lions coaches looked at me and was sort of incredulous. I looked back and said "he usually comes down with that." He then said, "Yeah, but that throw, how did number 4 get that ball to that spot? He was totally covered." It was interesting to hear their reactions to plays throughout the day, especially that one.
When the drive bogged down after an incompletion, Ka'imi Fairbairn came on to try one from 57 yards and he drilled it! He drove it right down the middle as he had earlier during the team's field goal period.
Stafford then had his shot and completed three passes in a row. Bradley Roby stuck to a Lions receiver like glue to force an incompletion. Then, on the next play, the Texans pass rush got in Stafford's face and he couldn't step into the throw. It sailed a bit high and safety Justin Reid came up with the pick which got the fans excited yet again.
It was an excellent day of work against the Lions and there's another one tomorrow. Can't wait! See ya then, everyone!
Check out the best shots from Day 14 and the first joint practice against the Detroit Lions in Houston.