Training camp practice number seven for the Texans was unlike each of the previous six. The Texans' diehard fans came out as early as 11 p.m. LAST NIGHT to make sure they could get in and see this team work out on Thursday. Their presence added a different element to the workout and it was great to see them back in full force. Here are my Harris hits from Thursday's practice.
As soon as I got off the air on Texans Training Camp Live, I saw the receivers and defensive backs engaged in some 1-on-1s. Rookie receiver Floyd Allen is a name that not many know, but the Houstonian is one of the best grinder stories on this squad. He ran a stellar corner route for a deep ball touchdown from quarterback Joe Webb III.
Receiver Vyncint Smith made a number of different catches during the day including a deep one during that 1-on-1 period. Coach O'Brien has said often that players that can just be on the field every day improve and Vyncint seems to do that daily.
Later in the practice, quarterback AJ McCarron needed to make a third-down completion and held on to the rock a little longer than usual to do so. That allowed Vyncint to speed across the middle and make an outstanding sliding catch for the first down
It's amazing in some sense when you watch an NFL practice. Techniques and schemes at the highest level of football. Yet, how often do the coaches harp on PAD LEVEL? All the time. We all learned a long time ago that low man wins, right? Even at this level that's true and coaches constantly preach the fundamentals of something so incredibly basic but vital to each and every play at the line of scrimmage.
Watching any offensive line/defensive line interaction, that simple thought - PAD LEVEL - applies on every play. A great example of that happened during an 11-on-11 drill. An offensive lineman attempted to downblock on defensive lineman D.J. Reader. Now, that's a task in and of itself, but Reader's even more problematic because he's so stout and a little shorter than some defensive lineman. So, being the low man in that situation is nearly impossible and Reader showed what happens when a lineman doesn't have adequate pad level. He took the offensive lineman, from a nearly-squatted position, and long-armed him right into the turf. It's impossible to do anything like that unless you win PAD LEVEL and Reader does that constantly.
I hope he starts to get the recognition he richly deserves around the league for his outstanding play. Clemson has spit out a TON of defensive linemen over the past few years and Reader might be the most accomplished of the entire bunch.
If you're a rookie, the one thing you had better be on a regular basis (other than on time) is coachable. During team drills, running back Damarea Crockett didn't take the right path on a running play. After getting some counseling from Coach O'Brien, a few plays later he blew through the proper gap for a significant gain. Being coachable, lesson 1,243.
Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins don't share the same brain, but they certainly share the same set of eyes. Their connection is completely on point everywhere on the field. More on that in a bit.
During one of the final team drills, Watson dialed up Will Fuller V three straight times. He hit him on a short route where Fuller exploded with the rock after the catch for a big gain. Fuller couldn't hang on to a deep comeback the very next play, but on the third play of that string, Watson caught the defense in the perfect look and pitched one to Fuller who quickly took care of the rest with his run after the catch.
Watson threw a dart to tight end Jordan Akins on the next play on a scramble out of the pocket. The pass rush forced Watson to get out of the pocket, yet Watson delivered a dime for the first down.
It was about here during this drill when the defensive linemen and edge rushers turned up the heat for a number of reps. In a subsequent situational drill, J.J. Watt and Charles Omenihu, on consecutive plays, gummed up the passing game with their rushes. Then, after some struggles on offense getting clean looks for the quarterback, Watson found Hopkins for a big third-down catch to move the chain.
Then, safety A.J. Moore happened. Watson looked up Keke Coutee down the middle of the field and Moore came over from the opposite side to come up with the pick to halt that situational opportunity. Moore showed some serious range on that play and finished it with a stellar pick.
On the next series of plays, rookie Austin Exford also came up with an interception. The safeties made a couple of big plays near the end of practice.
The final drill of practice was another situational drill - down five, no time outs and 30 seconds on the clock. This is where Deshaun Watson thrives. He dropped a long dime on Keke Coutee who was able to get out of bounds. Then, Watson found a sprinting Lamar Miller heading toward the sideline. Miller was able to pick up the first down and as he was running toward the sideline in the process, he got out of bounds to ensure enough time for Watson to take a shot to the end zone. After an incompletion to Jordan Akins, Watson threw a laser to, well, who else? DeAndre Hopkins for the touchdown. That drive was as good as any the offense has produced in the prior six days. Bing! Bang! Zoom! Touchdown. Okay, so that's just the way it felt, but it was efficient, quick and lethal.
Alright, that'll do it for today. Thanks so much for making your way to the Houston Methodist Training Center for the workout. Off day tomorrow, but Saturday is just 48 hours away. See ya then, everyone!