Lessons Learned in the Preseason | Harris' Hits

The only word that comes to mind is weird. The entire Saturday night at NRG Stadium was just so weird. A safety kicking off. A 44-year-old playing the best football of his career. Rushing for over 200 yards and losing the game. Rushing for over 200 yards, outrushing the opponent by 157 yards and losing the game. Rushing for over 200 yards, outrushing the opponent by 157 yards, blocking an extra point and a field goal and losing the game. Rushing for over 200 yards, outrushing the opponent by 157 yards, blocking an extra point and a field goal, creating four takeaways and losing the game. Then again, the Texans didn't convert a third down last weekend, lost both the yardage and the first down battle yet won on the road. So, like I said, weird. That said, let's get to my Harris Hits from the 23-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I'll start with the running game because there was some outstanding work done by the offensive front to open holes for this group of running backs. I saw so many physically dominating blocks from guys up and down the offensive line and on every group that went on the field. Early in the game, Tight End Pharaoh Brown pulled around on a run play and put All-Pro Linebacker Lavonte David on his wallet. A little later, Brown and fellow Tight End Jordan Akins drove Bucs Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul about 20 yards right over to the Texans sideline. Brown had something to say to JPP and for good reason. Physicality is far from an issue for this team on either side of the line of scrimmage.

The one thing that stood out even more was the way the interior moved Buccaneer defenders off the ball. Over the past few years, the Texans did have a modicum of success running the ball, but the interior still struggled with size, power and strength on the other side of the ball. Not tonight and not throughout the preseason for the most part. Tytus Howard, Justin Britt and Max Scharping fired off the ball and moved people which opened holes for the Texans running backs. If that trend continues, there's no telling what this run game can ultimately do in 2021.

As I looked at the box score, I noticed that all six running backs on the roster had a carry in the game and just when it seemed clear how the 53-man roster would shake out, things seemingly changed. Well, that's not entirely true, because Scottie Phillips didn't really change. He's been exceptional all the way throughout camp and he led the Texans with 73 yards rushing on just eight carries. Buddy Howell reeled off what was the longest run of the night and looked darn good in doing it. Alas, it was called back for a phantom hold by Keke Coutee, but that was the best Howell looked in this Texans Camp. David Johnson reeled off an excellent 21-yard run, looking like he did over the last three games of the 2020 season. I don't know how the Texans make cuts at this position, especially after tonight's performances.

Remember my use of the word weird? That's probably the most apropos way to describe rookie Quarterback Davis Mills' night. Two touchdowns passing. Three interceptions. He had a handful of brilliant throws, including the first touchdown to rookie Wide Receiver Nico Collins. I mean, he ripped that slant route to Collins for what should've been the second touchdown hook-up. The first should've been the dime fade route that Mills dropped on Collins earlier in the game, but the rookie receiver got a bit twisted around and couldn't make the catch. Either way, Mills' second touchdown throw, upon further review, might have been an even more impressive throw. Down by two touchdowns and facing a fourth down, Mills threw a ball slightly behind Wide Receiver Jordan Veasy. He did it, though, to throw away from the defensive back and put the ball on Veasy's back shoulder. I thought it was an excellent throw, but when I saw the touchdown throw from the end zone video angle, it was even more so than I originally thought. However, Mills made a few throws he'd like to have back, unfortunately, and that cost the Texans severely on this night.

Speaking of Veasy, no one has fought as hard to be in this position than Veasy. On the last day of Texans Camp, I had the opportunity to interview him. Before we started, I asked him about being from Cal and catching passes from a guy from Stanford. Then, he said he was from Alabama. As soon as I said "Huh? How did you get to Cal?" he launched into a story that just didn't seem real. He said he was more focused on baseball in high school but grew six inches which put him on the football field. He then graduated from Gadsden City HS and moved on to play as a true freshman at NAIA Faulkner College. He then attended Itawamba Community College in MS for a year but didn't play football. He then moved across the country to attend Golden West College in the Southern California Football Association. His performance in his one year at Golden West caught the eye of the Cal staff. He finished his Cal career in 2017 and has been on six practice squads over the past four years. After the Texans saw him at a HUB Football Camp, they signed Veasy two days into training camp. He's given every ounce he's got to make this roster. He had two special teams tackles against Green Bay. He had two catches at Dallas. He led the Texans with three receptions against Tampa Bay. He caught Mills second touchdown pass, making an outstanding adjustment to make the catch. I knew it was an uphill climb for Veasy to make the roster when he signed back in July but no one is as undeterred as Veasy.

Defensive Back Tavierre Thomas had an outstanding game, blocking a field goal and flying around all over the field, racking up four tackles. He's made a steady climb each and every day and today was the tip of the iceberg. On a quick throw to the Bucs sideline, Thomas sprinted from his inside position and drilled the receiver for a small gain. When I tell you that Thomas was flying, he was moving faster than anyone on the field.

If I had to pick a Player of the Game on the defensive line, I just couldn't do it. Vincent Taylor was an animal and was all over the place. He shared a sack with rookie Defensive Lineman Roy Lopez, who picked up a ½ of a sack or more in every preseason game. Taylor also blocked an extra point, recovered a fumble and had five tackles. DeMarcus Walker led the team with six tackles, had a sack and forced a fumble. Charles Omenihu opened the sack spree with his third sack in two games of the preseason. Jacob Martin had a sack as well. Like I said, I couldn't do it.

Defensive Back Justin Reid stepped in ably to kick for Kicker Kaimi Fairbairn who had a minor injury and was held out as a precaution. Reid said after the game that it was a dream come true and the only drawback he said was that he wasn't asked to knock home a field goal during the game.

Alright, it's late and the preseason/Training Camp portion of the season is over. September 12th will be here before we know it. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. CDT on CBS and SportsRadio 610. For tickets, click here.

See ya then, everyone!

Check out the best photos from the Texans final 2021 preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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