Well, it was fun while it lasted. The low 90 degree temperatures, I mean. Mother Nature brought the humidity back, soaking the practice field with a heat/humidity that rookie Tytus Howard called "different." Yeah, there's hot, then there's Houston. But, BUT, it was the first day in pads and the intensity went up a notch for everyone, but mostly the big fellas. Here are my Harris Hits from Day 3 of camp
I spent a lot of the day watching the offensive and defensive lines as this was the first time that they really could let loose and play real football. There was no shortage of passing game going on and receivers and defensive backs getting work done, but I spent most of my time with eyes on the lines.
Throughout the offseason, offensive tackle Matt Kalil was a mystery in some sense. Not that he's mysterious. More so, we really didn't know when to expect to see him on the field. When he was a full participant on Day 1, that was a huge step, but when he put the pads on, how would he look? Listen, it wasn't perfect, but I really liked how the day went. He popped pads in the run game. Then, on his first 1-on-1 pass pro rep, he went against outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. Now, Whit got a HECK of a jump off the snap and he may have been offsides, but no refs, no flags, right? Kalil never panicked and his technique never suffered and he was able to square up and keep Whitney from the "quarterback." Good start, now onto tomorrow.
I won't forget the first time that I saw defensive lineman D.J. Reader live up close at the 2016 Senior Bowl. No player in Mobile that year stood out more, as he dominated offensive linemen one rep after the next. Flash forward four years later and he's doing that regularly in this league. The two lines worked on a half-line run drill and trying to move him was nearly impossible. Then, in team 11-on-11, the offense ran at him twice in a row and he made the stops on second and third down to force a fourth down. He walked on that field on Saturday seemingly to prove a point to the offensive line that he's The Man. Point. Made. He's so strong at the point of attack and moving him off the ball? Forget it. And, trust me, he's not quiet on the field like he was a rookie. I'll leave it at that.
I love innovation in drills and I saw the punt returners doing one that I don't remember ever seeing. Each returner held a ball waiting for a punt. As the punt descended on the returner, he threw the ball in his hands in the air. Then, he caught the punt and then found the ball he tossed in the air and caught that one. The ultimate in punt catch concentration - loved it.
One guy that flashed nearly every day at last year's training camp was defensive tackle Angelo Blackson and the start of practice in 2019 has been no different. He looks a bit slimmer, but he looks quicker as well. He was a problem for the interior offensive linemen in all of the run drills that the two lines worked throughout the day.
We all get excited about rookies and I'm certainly one of those anxiously awaiting their next move. It hit me watching all of them today - the biggest hurdle isn't "can they play" or "do they fit," it's "can you do THAT one play after the next?" Consistency. That really isn't just rookies, but the veterans that stay around the game for a while find that level of consistency early in their careers. There were times when I got really excited about a rookie's rep and then a few plays later they'd struggle. The quicker that this rookie group finds that consistent play level, one rep win after another against the best in the world, the more impact they'll make early in their careers.
Watching first round pick Tytus Howard, the above nugget really applies. He's playing both guard and tackle and has a lot on his plate. However, his talent, size and athleticism are clearly evident. So, when it ALL comes together, he's going to be a starter on this offensive line for a long time. And, he doesn't back down from anyone at any point. I love his demeanor and that's going to help him, for certain. Paying attention to the details that Coach Mike Devlin stresses are going to get him where he wants to go. It's interesting watching him and think back to my draft report/analysis - everything I mentioned in my draft write-up is all there on the field; there are no surprises and that's a good thing.
I took a mini-break from watching the big guys up front to watch some tight ends and running backs running routes on the linebackers and safeties. It's been cussed and discussed how well new safety Tashaun Gipson covers tight ends. I saw why today. For as fast as the game is, being patient while running a route or covering a pass catcher is highly important and Gipson seemed to learn throughout his career how to be patient reading the tight end's route before making an explosive break on the ball.
You know who runs excellent routes? Running back D'Onta Foreman. He spun a linebacker 360 degrees with one of his routes and then made the easy catch during those 1-on-1 drills. That was not in our draft reports three years ago - not even close.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson dropped two dimes on deep routes throughout the day, both, I believe to Will Fuller V. But, A.J. McCarron threw a few of his own. He put a deep throw on the money to tight end Jerrell Adams for a touchdown during 1-on-1s. I mean, that throw was gorgeous. There were a few more times I wrote down "nice ball, A.J!" so it felt like a strong day for McCarron again.
Oh, by the way, Will Fuller V? *eyes emoji* *fire emoji*
Defensive back Lonnie Johnson Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins battled all day. I mean, ALL day. It was exciting to see the rookie competing hard against the best in the game the way he did on Saturday.
Watson to Hopkins. Wrote that a bunch today. *heart emoji*
Safety Jahleel Addae brings a veteran presence to the secondary as well. He's stepped in for Justin Reid as the second-year star rehabs to get back on the field. Addae had a pass break up in 1-on-1s as he went step for step with the tight end that he covered all the way across the field.
I wrote down "88 great route" so credit to tight end Jordan Akins, but I can't read the rest of my handwriting to figure out what he actually did. Props, JA, I'll get you tomorrow.
As outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus walked off the field, I asked him "scale of 1-10, where was this one from a heat perspective?" He said "a good, solid 8," but Whit didn't let that bother him at all. During team 11-on-11, the offense ran one play right at him and he set the edge wonderfully, letting his inside linebackers make the tackle for no gain.
A couple of linebackers came up with the best hits of the day. Dylan Cole popped rookie running back Karan Higdon on an inside run and Xavier Woodson-Luster knifed into the backfield to strike one of the running backs (sorry, didn't write down who XW-L hit).
Yesterday, I discussed how the younger players have paid a ton of attention to the wisdom that the veterans are dispensing regularly. Today, I saw rookie defensive lineman Charles Omenihu win a 1-on-1 pass rush rep with the exact move that star defensive end J.J. Watt showed him the day before.
Okay, that'll end it for today, but there's more football tomorrow! Oh, what a great time of year. See ya then, everyone.