There were no pads on today as the Texans ramp up for Saturday night's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers in the great state of Wisconsin. Four Wisconsinites will take the field for the Texans, a couple of them stepping on the Lambeau Field turf for the first time. Before Saturday, there's still Training Camp work to get done and I've got Harris Hits: Training Camp Observations as a result. Let's GO!!! HH: TCO v 14.0 in the house!
With the pads off, I spent much of my day watching the 'flyboys' on the outside do their thing for the most part. As such, most of my Hits came from the plentiful team drills and seven-on-seven throughout Thursday's workout. Trust me, I'll be focused on the big fellas on Saturday night in game one.
The one thing that's stood out to me as much as any other aspect in this Training Camp are the specialized situations I've seen all three units work on in practice. There has always been situational work, but it seems to be even more specialized than I've seen in the 14 previous iterations of Texans Training Camp. Special teams coordinator Frank Ross and assistant Sean Baker put the special teams units through a couple of unit drills emphasizing things that have come up in games that I know cost other teams badly. Thorough for sure, and y'all know that I love seeing the little things at work.
Once the team drills began, defensive back Terrance Mitchell made a couple of plays that stood out. It started with a wonderful play on a crosser. One of the most difficult things for any cover corner to do is to chase a post, crosser or deep over route in man coverage. It feels like a never-ending journey following a really fast guy that had a head start on you. So, when I saw Mitchell sprint all the way across the field and make a play, knocking away a pass, on a crossing route in man coverage, I was jacked. I know the type of big-time play that was.
A little while later in seven-on-seven, Mitchell was playing in his zone but lurking. I can't remember who was at quarterback, but whoever it was lofted one down the hash looking for receiver Alex Erickson. Seemingly out of nowhere, Mitchell sprinted in from his zone and nearly came away with the pick. It was another tremendous play to break up a completion.
Quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor, Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel all seemed fairly comfortable throwing the rock throughout the practice. So, let's go a little further into their day.
One throw early on from Mills got my attention and it just happened to be one of his shortest throws of the day. What stood out the most about said throw was how fast he scanned the field to find someone open. The defensive secondary did an excellent job locking up the zones/receivers down field, so not much was available. Mills started with his eyes on the right side of the field - nothing. He then went a little further to his left - still nothing. He then scanned to the other side and found receiver Taywan Taylor posting up, open for a short toss. The way that Mills got through his scan of the field was what caught my attention. It's something that Tyrod Taylor has a ton of experience doing and has done in camp, so it was great to see the rookie doing advanced quarterbacking type work in training camp.
When it was time for seven-on-seven, the defense put the clamps down on anything beyond 15-yards of the line of scrimmage, especially in the first five or six plays of the drill. However, just like the old saying "Words matter", well, here's a new one - "Completions matter" and I'll take them all day long.
Mills was the one who broke the seal with an absolute gem of a throw down the seam to tight end Pharaoh Brown. He couldn't rifle the throw with the linebackers sitting low and he couldn't completely lob it over them or the safeties could've eaten that up for a pick. So, he chose the exact type of throw to make and Brown went up and snatched the rock for a big completion.
Mills then completed three straight passes, but none like the first one to Brown mentioned above. Driskel also hit a couple of completions as well, but the third throw of that drill was intercepted by rookie linebacker Garret Wallow.
Wallow will certainly be one of the players I'm going to have my eyes on Saturday night. He and this rookie class have really made significant strides over the past week to ten days. Wallow consistently gets his lineman lined up properly and the secondary in the right spots too. He's spot on with his zone drops and coverage and he's got football IQ for days, especially reading run, playing angles and leverage. Mills, Nico Collins, Brevin Jordan, Wallow and Roy Lopez Jr. - it was only a group of five drafted rookies, but they've certainly made an impression and a rock solid performance on Saturday night will go a long way in cementing roles on this team for the future.
Brevin Jordan ended the day with a touchdown catch from Driskel and, yes, there was some controversy whether Jordan had pushed off to make the catch or not, but not in David Culley's eyes. The head ball coach yelled out "That's a great one to end on!", which probably didn't sit all that well with the defense but the offense was certainly happy with it.
As I scan my notes over the rest of practice, I see a lot of "comp" which stands for completions. Now, the good news for the defense in some sense was how well it challenged throws down the field. Mills looked up Jordan Veasy on the sideline as he had earlier in the week on a great throw/great diving catch. This time, the throw was in a similar spot but the defensive back dove over the top to make the pass breakup. I believe it was Tremon Smith. Now, I 100% know it was Tremon Smith who came up with a pick in team drills on an errant throw down the field. I want to say that it was one of two interceptions on the day, but Smith will take it either way.
There are a ton of players who'll be looking to make a strong first impression with great play on Saturday night and Smith is one of them. He can absolutely fly and he's someone I've studied long and hard for the past five to six years. I covered a couple of his games when he was a ball playing superstar at Central Arkansas. He was just so impressive with his length and ability to make a play on any ball in the air. He has to make sure those skills shine on Saturday night against the Packers.
Another member of the secondary that is going to get plenty of action on Saturday night to show his progress as a safety is Lonnie Johnson Jr. He's really made a few splash plays in this camp and two of his interceptions down the field come to mind. Today, though, he was in man coverage on, I believe, Brevin Jordan. The rookie tight end ran a crossing route as quarterback Tyrod Taylor attempted to scramble out of the pocket. Taylor thought he had Jordan for a split second and side-armed one to Jordan near the sideline. However, Johnson sprinted to, and through, Jordan for the pass breakup. More of that is certainly needed from the third-year defensive back.
Alright, that's going to do it for my Harris Hits today. A big THANKS for reading and I'll bang out a few dozen after the game on Saturday night. Tomorrow is a travel day so nothing from here until said preseason game against the Packers. Appreciate all the eyeballs on my Harris Hits all Training Camp long. See ya, Saturday night, everyone!!
Check out the best photos from the Texans last Training Camp practice before heading to Green Bay.