The Grind is officially on at Texans Training Camp. Second day of pads took place at the Houston Methodist Training Center. Here are my Harris Hits: Training Camp Observations Day #7.
Receiver Anthony Miller has been a pleasant, well, I don't want to call it a surprise at all, but his performance has been even beyond what the most positive person expected. He made a one-handed catch working down on the goal line that was just nasty. If he catches the ball like that on a consistent basis, there's no telling what he can do for this team in 2021.
It's clear talking and listening to the linebacker corps that there's a ton of respect for "Kirko" - Christian Kirksey. On the first play of nine-on-seven, he showed why, stuffing an inside run, facing up the running back and making a solid form tackle.
On the next play in 9-on-7, defensive lineman Whitney Mercilus showed how to slip the edge to make a play against the run. He ripped right underneath the play-side tackle and popped through clean to make the running back cut back right into all his help.
The best run of the period was by David Johnson, who made an outstanding cut, getting north and south in a hurry and emerging untouched beyond everyone.
Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor has created loads of mayhem throughout the start of training camp. On one play later in the inside nine-on-seven drill, he burst through into the backfield and teamed up with fellow defensive lineman Jacob Martin to combine on a tackle for loss. Martin, like Mercilus earlier, slipped the in-line blocker which forced the back right back into the arms of Taylor.
I spied defensive lineman Jordan Jenkins after practice and told him he needed to let up a bit on some of the tackles and tight ends he's facing. In all seriousness, though, Jenkins has been as physical as anyone in this entire camp. A tight end won't be enough to block him one-on-one. A tackle sometimes isn't strong enough to tangle with Jenkins either. He's dishing out some lessons in this camp for sure.
During nine-on-seven, I looked down a few times during one-on-ones, here are just a few things that I saw:
Receiver Anthony Miller made another sweet catch, but this time at the sideline/pylon for a touchdown.
Defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III came up with pass breakups on his first two reps of the drill. He's been as sharp as can be in coverage during camp.
Similar to Miller's pylon out route, receiver Chris Conley ran a similar route to get separation for a touchdown catch.
Receiver Nico Collins got clean to the back of the end zone and made an outstanding catch, but defensive back Cornell Armstrong prevented him from landing in bounds for the touchdown.
On the first play in a team period, running back Phillip Lindsay started the drill well with an inside/out run that has been his wont during the first seven days of camp.
A little while later, on third down, quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw a strike to receiver Keke Coutee for a first down. Coutee ran a beautiful route to get separation and Taylor threw on time for the completion.
On the next play, the defense ate up a run, clogging up the gaps in the front, led by defensive tackle Brandon Dunn.
A couple of plays later on third down, Taylor got great protection from his offensive line and threw a laser shot to Collins for another first down.
Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill started the series of downs by knifing into the backfield after reading run and stopping the running back for a TFL.
The offense struggled a bit over the next few downs to pick up meaningful yardage before the end of the drill.
I keep writing down in my notebook - "Charlie Heck is getting better by the day." I'm not putting him in Canton or anointing him as the next coming, but he's really improved and most importantly, he's getting more and more comfortable out on the edge in the NFL. Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect, but I'm seeing things this year that Heck had all kinds of trouble with last year, but he's adequately handling in 2021.
Whenever offensive lineman Justin Britt steps up for a rep in pass rush one-on-ones, I make sure not to miss it. His rep against defensive lineman Brandon Dunn was outstanding. Dunn engaged and then tried to work Britt's edge on the left side. Britt never overextended and shuffled to keep Dunn down his middle and off the edge. It was great to see Britt handle that in the middle of the line when a rush like that gave the Texans offensive line issues in years past.
Regardless of his position, offensive lineman Tytus Howard is clearly finding his game. It feels like his pass rush rep opponents are all over the place. Some quick. Some strong. Some powerful. Some heavy. Some light. He seems to handle the bull rush as well as he does the quicker, twitchier movements from inside and outside guys. I absolutely loved his rep against defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson early in the drill. If Tytus can keep his cleats in the ground at all times, he can be a powerful bull with some sweet feet.
One guy I've been really anxious to see after missing the first few days of practice was defensive lineman DeMarcus Walker. I've followed Walker's career from afar for a while because of his high school career in a place that I coached eons ago - Jacksonville, Florida. His first rep of pass rush one-on-ones was a clinical 'arm-over' move. He was able to engage the lineman's edge and then Walker gave him the 'ol okey doke to get free to the quarterback. Keep in mind, of all of the Texans on this roster, Walker had the most sacks in 2020 with 4.5 in Denver. He has pass rush ability and now he just has to get himself back in the fold after missing the first few days of training camp.
A little while later in team drills, Walker burst through to get a sack. Those were certainly two "look at me" type plays from the former Sandalwood HS star.
In my estimation, defensive lineman Jon Greenard can be a problem for offensive linemen, but he has to be on his game at all times. When he's locked/loaded with a rush plan, he's really difficult to slow down in the rush game. I've seen some reps of both, not surprisingly, at camp and I like Greenard much better dialed in and creating chaos.
Offensive lineman Hjalte Froholdt had one of the better pass rush reps today when he completely stoned one of the interior defensive linemen. Froholdt is built like a dadgum tank and when he uses his quickness to slide and stay engaged with rushers, he can be effective.
I've said this for three years now, getting to watch offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil is an absolute joy. I've often said that pass rushing is a mix of art and science and much the same is true about pass protection. He doesn't reveal all of his tricks, so to speak, out in practice, but he has a clear understanding of how to attack these rushers. Case in point, he had two reps against Jacob Martin. He's faced Martin many times in practice and he knows how kinetic Martin will be right off the snap. Martin is always moving, so Laremy just kept giving ground so as to let Martin throw his initial move. As soon as Martin stopped to counter, that's when Laremy hit him with his initial punch. It was so much like boxing. Laremy knew that Martin would throw the first punch, so he gave ground, gave ground so when Martin threw, Laremy countered. It was a fun battle to watch for sure and I saw the two of them discussing it after they went against one another.
The final team drills were down in the red zone and on the first play, defensive lineman Derek Rivers stayed home, stayed disciplined and essentially shut down the play on the spot. Each and every day, Rivers is getting better and better and I love it for him.
The next play, though, running back Phillip Lindsay hit a quick seam in the middle for a significant gain. Just a sweet run.
On the third play, Taylor dropped a nugget in the back corner of the end zone to tight end Jordan Akins for a touchdown. You talk about NICE?? That route? That throw? Just SWEET.
Running back Mark Ingram II flashed some burst during his runs down in the red zone as well. I keep waiting for the Texans new Energizer Bunny to need more batteries, but it hasn't been needed yet. He, Lindsay and David Johnson all had at least one run of note during the entire day (Rex Burkhead was off for the day).
The final play of the day was a Charles Omenihu sack and strip fumble. Now, it's not kosher to hit the quarterback during practice, but Charles did it unintentionally. I'm still going to give him credit for the takeaway because this defense still needs all it can get.
Okay, that's going to do it for today. As I mentioned at the outset of these Hits, The Grind is on at Texans Training Camp 2021 but it won't last long and the season will be here before we know. See ya tomorrow, everyone!!
Check out the best photos from Day 7 of Training Camp presented by Xfinity.