The Texans' second week of Phase 3 began on Monday, otherwise known as the team's fourth OTA (organized team activity). In other words, it's practice without pads. With the rain now fully gone, it was the first opportunity for the media to see the team out on the practice fields. Here are some observations from Monday's session.
- I can't tell you how often I remember thinking about how difficult 2014 must have been for former Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine. He got drafted, dream come true. Then, he got hurt and had to sit out the entire year. I knew that had to be such a rough season for him on a lot of different levels. As such, it's been great to see him out on the field and competing hard. He had a great pass breakup during 7-on-7 as he inadvertently collided with one of the team's rookie tight ends as he broke up the pass. The aggressiveness breaking on the ball was an excellent sign, but just being on the field each and every day is definite progress for Ballentine.
- Watching practice is one thing, but when CB Charles James is on the field, innocent bystanders, like us, can HEAR him more than any other during practice. It's not a bad thing, he's just extremely vocal with everything he does. I noticed, along with a few others I watched the workout with, that he was a pest. He was just always around the ball, breaking up a few passes and, generally, being a menace.
Take a look at photos from the Houston Texans' fourth day of OTAs.
- I told you last week not to read anything into the quarterback, uh, situation. Last Monday, Brian Hoyer took reps with mostly first team guys. Today? Ryan Mallett took reps with mostly first team guys. There was so much made about Hoyer being the guy after Monday then today it changed. Who told you that it would be that way all throughout OTAs and training camp? That was me...and that's the end of my "I told you sos".
- Speaking of the quarterbacks, they didn't have tremendous workouts today. There were moments throughout, but it was clear they were all frustrated. Hoyer exclaimed out loud after a rough set of plays. That said, they didn't get help from the pass catchers, hardly at all.
The receivers and tight ends dropped a ton of passes today, ones that they would normally snag with ease.
There's part of me that isn't totally surprised. The playbook grows exponentially, day by day, so these young receivers and tight ends are just hoping to get aligned properly, run the right route and generally do the right thing. They sort of take catching the football for granted. They won't going forward. Or better not.
- One thing that Bill O'Brien talked about today. One thing that Nate Washington talked with Marc Vandermeer and I about today. One thing that I noticed not even halfway through practice. This is a competitive group of Texans. It's not as if previous Texans teams weren't, quite the contrary. However, this group seems to revel in all competitive aspects of practice, no matter what. Special teams punt cover? It's a battle. 7-on-7? That's when it really gets live. When asked what type of team this is, O'Brien said it's a hard-working team, competitive team. A lot like the team's leader, to be honest.
- I was a huge Andre Hal fan coming out of Vanderbilt and will always be one. As such, it was good to see him getting reps at a few different secondary positions today. He's a smart, instinctive and tough player and I would love to see him get on the field in some capacity. He had a pick six playing safety today and just barely edged out LB coach Mike Vrabel on a sprint for the end zone. I don't know if Hal ends up staying at safety or if the staff is just trying this on for size, but it goes back to the motto of "the more you can do." Hal can do more and is showing that. Good practice day for him.
One final note on Hal's interception...when it happened, the defense erupted. I love seeing teammates get excited when a guy makes a play. When Hal picked it off, the defense was as excited as if it happened on a Thursday night vs. the Colts.
- Rookie TE Khari Lee made a fantastic diving catch during team drills which elicited 'oohs and aahs' from the players.
- I got to thinking about this as I saw Vince Wilfork and Kevin Johnson out on the field together. Johnson was 12 when Wilfork played his first game in the NFL in 2004, now they're teammates. If it were me, I'd have a hard time calling him Vince and not calling him Mr. Wilfork.
- Speaking of Wilfork, if there's a need for an emergency quarterback that can sling it, I'd pay money to see Wilfork back there. I know who it is and who it will be (I'm sworn to secrecy). Regardless, the video of him throwing the pigskin is must see. Why? I've always said you can tell which guys are naturals by the way they throw a ball. It's clear Vince has been throwing the ball for a while and it looks good. Tight spiral. Proper form. All natural.
That's all for this week, but I'll be back next week with not just one (next Monday) but a second one (next Friday).