Throughout the entire offseason, much of the discussion centered on training camp being back in Houston. Of course, the concern of the Houston heat is, was and will always be real. Head coach Bill O'Brien ensured all of us that they would acclimate in the proper way, which included some portions of practice in the Houston Methodist indoor practice facility, aka The Bubble. As the team spent Thursday outside, they went inside for the entire practice on Friday. And, they had their star receiver back, too. Here are my Harris Hits from Friday's workout.
Just prior to practice, as Marc Vandermeer and I were on air, we saw DeAndre Hopkins walking over to the indoor practice facility with his helmet in his hands. I thought I was going to come out of my shoes I was so pumped. Look, and this is me talking to me more than anyone, he's going to ramp up his practice time, his reps, etc... over the next how many ever weeks to make sure that he's ready to roll on September 9 with no hiccups. But, seeing him make his signature one-handed catches again in the end zone as he did when I walked in to watch some practice during a radio break was a great sight.
The tempo for today's practice seemed to be at a high, HIGH pitch. Coach O'Brien said after practice that he really appreciated the energy and the juice that the players brought to practice. The workout seemed to have a great flow and tempo as it did on Thursday. But, the offense in particular got plenty of work with tempo, communication and playing fast.
Right as I walked in the bubble after our show ended, I saw linebacker Dylan Cole make one heck of a pass breakup on a deep route in the end zone. I don't think he gets the credit for his ability to track running backs and tight ends all over the field in coverage. He can fly and is one of my favorites to watch.
One thing that really stands out as I watch practice is the constant advice, instruction and assistance the veteran players on this team provide to the rookies/young players. There's such a great reservoir of knowledge on this team, especially on defense, and the veterans share that readily. I can't tell you how valuable that is for those young players and it's great to see.
On that note, I wish I could watch a full practice with cornerback Johnathan Joseph and just pick his brain the whole time. I wouldn't want to stand in the way of his time with the young bucks in the secondary, but man, if I could be selfish…
I didn't mention quarterback Deshaun Watson much in my Harris Hits yesterday but talked a ton about him on radio last night. The poise he displays in just his third year in this offense is comforting. The defense has thrown a ton of different looks at him, by design, and he's a straight-up maestro at the line of scrimmage, getting everyone on the same page. As a result, the offense is running as smoothly as I can remember. He's in total control.
It's not just the cerebral aspect of his game, either. He's throwing freakin' dimes. Short and quick. Downfield launches. Intermediate lasers. One of my favorite throws on the day was an absolute laser shot on a crossing route to tight end Darren Fells. Timing was perfect. Watson let fly before Fells even got his head around. Fells didn't have to do much because as soon as he turned his head, Deshaun put the ball into a tiny spot where only Fells could get his hands on the ball.
Multiple times during the day, I wrote down "love 4's decision making." A little later in a team drill, the defense sent some serious pressure on him and linebacker Zach Cunningham got free at the last second. I'm telling you, Watson had less than two seconds to process before Zach would've "sacked" him and Watson flicked one to a receiver for a completion. When I think back to Watson in his first training camp at the Greenbrier to what I saw today, the transformation is night and day. And, he wasn't bad as a rookie, but he's just gone to a different level since even last year.
There's not a lot to take from offensive linemen/defensive linemen without pads on, but man, rookie offensive lineman Tytus Howard has some seriously heavy hands and he wants to bury EVERYONE. The offense called a run play when Howard was at tackle and he got locked on an outside linebacker and nearly drove him through the practice facility turf. I can't wait to see him in pads tomorrow.
Offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson has some of those heavy hands too. He popped a defensive lineman on a pass rush drill and nearly snapped him in half... and that was without pads. Tomorrow will be a big day for Howard, Henderson and the rest of the big fellas.
One play during a team session, defensive back Aaron Colvin made a brilliant break on a crosser, having read the route perfectly. Then, the ball hit him and then hit the ground. I don't know if he didn't see it completely, but he couldn't hang on. It was a great read and an excellent break, which was promising to see.
The very next play, quarterback A.J. McCarron dialed up a deep shot and fired one about 50-60 yards downfield. Second-year safety A.J. Moore helped squeeze the receiver (Stevie Mitchell) in coverage and went up to make a tremendous interception. The defense went NUTS after that one and for good reason. Moore has played well to start training camp, but he's got to maintain that consistency at safety as he did last year on special teams.
When fullback Cullen Gillaspia was drafted by his hometown team, the Texans became the favorite NFL squad of Texas Aggies EVERYWHERE. He was the 12th Man on a campus that holds that spot in such reverence. Why did they love him so? Well, a great example why occurred today during 7-on-7. He ran a long route down the field and Deshaun dropped a dime on him in the back of the end zone. Gilly, as he was known to all Aggies, made the catch but he couldn't stop his momentum and drilled the shed door in the back of the end zone. Now, that sort of thing puts me on the injured list until 2021. Gillaspia popped right up and ran back to the huddle for the next play. Any Aggie that read that paragraph just gave out a huge WHOOP and that's okay.
The Texans defensive line is loaded with a ton of experience and some of the best defensive players currently in the NFL. They also drafted former University of Texas defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, who showed some burst and quickness today stopping a run in the backfield. I'm so curious how he shows up in pads tomorrow against this offense. Very, VERY intriguing body build and skillset, to say the least.
I mentioned Dylan Cole earlier and he nearly knocked out a receiver on a quick inside route during a team drill. Cole read the quarterback's eyes perfectly and made his break on the ball to help force the breakup. In a game, with pads on, Cole may have delivered the hit of his life, but, luckily, he held up, as he was coached to do.
A perfect example of "interceptions aren't always on the quarterback" occurred during a team drill later in practice. Watson read blitz and threw hot into the flat. His receiver didn't read blitz and took off on the route called in the huddle. Cornerback Bradley Roby read it perfectly and snatched the rock inches off the turf for what would've been a pick-six. Bill O'Brien said afterwards that the receiver didn't read it properly and that was why the pick happened. That's what practice is for and it was corrected immediately.
Speaking of Roby, he's made some attention-getting plays in the first two days of camp and that pick-six was probably the highlight. We've all said these corners have to step up, early and often, so it's a good sign that Roby's been sharp and consistent at this point in training camp.
When Pro Bowl linebacker Benardrick McKinney first came into the league, he was known as a rock-hard hitter, a run stuffer extraordinaire. His cover skills? Needed work. But, he's put in that work over his four years in the league and it was truly evident last year how far he'd come in that regard. He showed that again today with great coverage on a tight end seam route. He was attached to the hip of Darren Fells and forced an incompletion.
Quarterback Joe Webb III dropped a deep ball dime on tight end Jerrell Adams for a touchdown during 7-on-7. Talk about a perfectly thrown ball, wow!
Well, I'll end it there because tomorrow, oh boy, tomorrow is going to be intense. The pads go on and real football begins. See ya then, everyone.
Check out the best shots from the second day of training camp in Houston. Presented by Houston Methodist.