For a while, this was the most intense, trash-talkingest and physical day of camp. I mean, I was loving seeing the intensity on both sides of the ball. Then, an injury happened that took a little bit of the starch out of the practice, unfortunately. That said, both sides of the ball got in great work and it was the best day for a rookie in training camp to date. Let's get to who that was and more about day number seven at the Houston Methodist Training Center in my Harris Hits.
I'll get the bad out of the way first, but for a practice that was as talkative and loud as I've heard this training camp, it turned quiet in a quick second when OL Scott Quessenberry got hurt. Not sure the diagnosis and not going to play doctor at all, just hope Scott's going to be okay soon.
Before that injury, the offense really found a groove, but the defense didn't back down in the slightest. On the first play of the first team session, WR Robert Woods carried the ball up the field turning the left corner and it looked like…WHAM! Out of nowhere, DB Jimmie Ward brought the absolute FUNK on a hit on the veteran receiver. It got both sides juiced up and perhaps that's what stoked the embers that much more for the next period or two, but Ward really brought the hammer on Woods, who popped right up and wanted more. Honestly, I've got to say, that was a fun moment.
On the next play, RB Dameon Pierce saw as much open space as he's seen this camp on an inside run. The interior MOVED defensive linemen off the ball and gave Pierce time and space to make hay. He got to the second level in a hurry.
Then, QB C.J. Stroud ran the bootleg to perfection, dotting Woods on the sideline for another strong gain for the offense.
DL Jerry Hughes was not feeling the offensive flow, so on the next play he absolutely caved in the backside of a run and snatched up Pierce on a run play away from him. He must not have liked me saying that he should be a pass rush specialist. Not in the slightest. That play got the defense CHARGED up a bit. The next play, though, had the offense losing its collective mind.
Stroud threw the best pass I've seen him throw, shoot, since being a Texan. The offense had the ball near the red zone or just inside of it as Stroud went back to throw. He had WR Nico Collins in his sweet spot - one-on-one time, outside the numbers, in the end zone. I can still see this throw as I write this observation. Stroud put it high, but not too high. He had velo on it, but not too much sauce. It couldn't have been put in a better spot had C.J. walked over there and placed it in Nico's hands from 30 yards away. DIME TIME. Fade route to perfection. TD.
What I loved even more was the reaction from the offense. Every blue shirt and Stroud (in red) went running to the end zone to celebrate with Collins after the catch. I wrote in my notebook
"THE OFFENSE WENT NUTS"
I think part of it was that the offense finally just let loose. However, THAT was that play. Protection was excellent. Great throw. Outstanding catch. The whole drive was solid and well executed. There's a ton more to come in that regard for the offense, but that was something exciting for the offensive unit to lose their collective minds in celebration.
The defense must not have liked that touchdown/celebration all that much because on the very next play, DL Hassan Ridgeway threw an interior lineman "out the club" and snatched up the running back for a stuff of no gain. Talk about physically impressive. I just had my eyes on the interior the whole way and saw Ridgeway doing THAT work. Holy cow.
Remember how I said there was a ton of talking? Well, QB Davis Mills scrambled to his right after finding no one open. As he ran out of bounds, I could hear a few defenders WHILE THEY CHASED DAVIS yelling some not too nice things to him. All in good fun, of course…I think. But, I was dying laughing because they're yelling AS they're running after him. That was my funny moment of the day.
DL Derek Rivers and DL Kurt Hinish blew up QB Case Keenum first play which looked like a screen at some point. Those two hammered both the receiver and anyone else in a blue jersey, which turned that play into mush on the spot.
On the next play, it was time for new DL Chase Winovich, who was back on the field for the first time as a Texan, and LB Jake Hansen shutting a screen. They both read the play perfectly, hugging up on RB Gerrid Doaks before the ball arrived.
Keenum hit WR Xavier Hutchinson out in the flat on third down, which preceded a Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal attempt that went down the middle.
Starting the next drive, RB Devin Singletary hit the gas on an inside run, slicing and dicing through the defense. It doesn't look, at first, like Singletary is running exceptionally fast, but man, he accelerates with some pop and he never loses ground with his cuts. That run was all about his quickness and burst. Then, on the next play, Singletary hit the backside hole on a play that wasn't designed to go that direction. I don't even know how he saw what was open on that play, but he ran to the proverbial daylight for a solid gain.
Stroud ran a bootleg on the next play and tried to find versatile weapon X Andrew Beck out in the flat. The Texans QB got a little pressure so he really couldn't set his feet to make the throw, but he got rid of it to Beck in the flat. LB Christian Harris broke up the pass and it didn't set well with Beck. It was probably interference and Beck had a point. But, when Beck said something to the official, asking why no flag, Harris had a few words for him too. Man, it was REALLY competitive today in practice.
DB Jimmie Ward did Harris one better with a diving pass breakup on the next play. He came over the top of TE Mason Schreck to knock away an accurate throw to the tight end. Initially, the defense started to get excited then saw Scott Quessenberry on the turf. That was tough to see for everyone.
Then, it was rookie LB Henry To'oTo'o turn for an outstanding PBU. He was in the middle of the field and spied WR Robert Woods, in the area, open for a potential reception. To'o To'o got as close as he could before laying out and knocking away the pass from Davis Mills.
A series of flags came out on the next few plays. First, DL Jonathan Greenard inadvertently knocked the ball out of QB Davis Mills' hand. Then, the offense missed a blitz for a sack and then had a procedure penalty on the next play. The defense returned the favor with a hands to the face penalty on the next play too.
QB Case Keenum walked into the huddle and calmed everything down. He hit new TE Dalton Keene for a reception out in the flat. On the second play of that drive, Keenum threw a laser shot to WR Noah Brown off play action for another reception. I knew it was good but when my pal Andre Ware started saying "NICE!! NICE!!" I knew it was better than good.
That seemed to get the QBs back on track as Stroud hit shifty and speedy Mike Boone out in the flat. Execution was brilliant on that throw from Stroud as Boone was able to catch it in stride, turn up the field and make a significant gain.
Boone was instrumental on the next completion - Stroud to WR John Metchie III - as well. He spied a blitzer on the outside and made a tremendous blitz pickup to allow Stroud to deliver the ball accurately and on time.
Twice, that I counted, QB Case Keenum, the veteran, drew the defense offsides. QB Davis Mills also got the defense to jump and on that play, he automatically threw deep, but unfortunately, rookie WR Xavier Hutchinson couldn't quite hang on. He was quite upset and he knew that was a huge play that he should/could make. He's made plenty but that would've been a great connection.
Case Keenum's OL opened a huge hole for RB Xazavian Valladay on an inside run play. That play was at the end of the period so they showed the replay on the video board a number of times from all different angles. Each time, a new facet of the run popped up. Valladay's shifty jump cut. The blocking execution. All of it, over and over. It did my heart some good.
The offense had a few rough spots in the next few reps. A flag on one play, QB throwing out-WR coming in on another. Just disjointed for a few plays. Even though there was one flag, it was a dart from Stroud to WR Nico Collins. That throw was ripped to Collins who appeared to be the hot receiver with the blitz.
Stroud then hit WR Robert Woods on a short, accurate hitch throw for a completion.
Every day and twice on Sunday, DL Jacob Martin is going to blow up a play action pass or a bootleg. Every day. He had another one in which he wouldn't allow the QB to get out of his sight to complete the pass.
QB Davis Mills beat a blitz as well, throwing a quick inside route to rookie TE Jordan Murray, one of just two healthy TEs since the beginning of practice. Timing was perfect. Throw was on the money. Excellent all around.
Then, Mills dropped a screen to RB Dare Ogunbowale for a big gain. That thing was timed so perfectly and Dare was off to the races for a big gain. The offense loved the result of that play for sure. I feel like the offense loves when it dupes the defense with a screen or misdirection play than anything else.
I have written, at least, a couple of times in my notebook "22, good vision, excellent cut". That's our dude Mike Boone in the run game for sure.
The situation time at the end of practice was a great work but neither offensive unit aced the test with points before halftime. I'll say this, the last play was a definite lesson learned for a number of players on offense.
All in all, this was probably the offense's best day in a while. Stroud was really good, minus one, maybe two throws, throughout the day. The offense wasn't a finely tuned machine just yet, but there was evidence today of it becoming more consistent in all facets. It was the best practice for a number of reasons, minus losing Scotty Q. Like I said, I hope he can return soon and he's going to be okay. Just hate seeing that happen to a guy like Q. Hate it. But, it's football; y'all know, shoot, everyone knows that these things happen. Now, it's time to bounce back tomorrow and have another solid day in all facets. See ya' then, everyone!