The first day of pads is just special and awesome. The trash talk in the locker room ends. The physical part of football can commence. The OL/DL feels like they've been liberated and the football shackles can come off…FINALLY. It's a good day, generally. and it was an even better day today. Here are my Harris Hits for the first day in pads on Monday.
In one-on-ones, the first route of the day was Brandin Cooks v. Steven Nelson - Oregon State Beaver v. Oregon State Beaver. Nelson did a tremendous job in press coverage on Cooks' slant route. Nelson stayed on balance against Cooks' release and then hit the WR with an off hand punch. He then accelerated through the ball being thrown. When the ball got to Cooks' hands, Nelson raked over the top to help force the incompletion. That's as good a rep as I can remember against a slant route. Nelson has stacked a few really good days together on the outside of the defense.
CB Tremon Smith did much the same on the opposite side on the following play. He matched WR Chris Conley's release and when Conley sprinted vertically, Smith hit him with the off hand jam and stayed in the hip pocket up the field. Incomplete throw away.
WR Chris Moore does nothing but get open and catch passes. I love watching him work. His first rep of one-on-ones started with a clean release. Then, he sold the out route before bursting inside for the easy catch on the slant. Precision is the key and Moore was so very precise on that route.
A few plays later, WR Davion Davis showed how to handle a DB's catch technique. Some DBs play what's called catch technique to slow down fast receivers. They actually "catch" the WR at the top of his stem and then stick in the hip pocket on the WR's route. Davis stemmed his route up the field and the DB caught him, rather physically, at the top of Davis' route. Davis was undeterred, though, as he took a perfect 90 angle across the field after the contact for the wide open reception.
One of my favorite routes/competition was WR Nico Collins against DB Fabian Moreau. On the first rep of this matchup, Collins ran a slant route but as he did Moreau matched him like a shadow. QB Davis Mills threw a dart to the exact location for Collins to make the catch. Moreau tried to come over the top with his outside hand to knock it away but Collins had him boxed out and the throw was perfect. Moreau was in perfect position for any other throw but Davis' ball placement was spot on and Collins' route was excellent too. Really good all the way around.
The next time these two went at it, Collins ran a deep out with Moreau in off coverage. When Collins made his break for the sideline, Moreau couldn't have been in a better position. He stuck to Collins' inside hip as QB Kyle Allen threw for the sideline. While in perfect position, Moreau swatted at the ball and disrupted Collins just enough to force the incompletion. Even better was the fact that the former UCLA star didn't lay a hand on Collins either on the route, just using footwork and great hips in his coverage.
Watching DB Derek Stingley cover the speed out is football awesomeness. I don't know how football coaches at all levels don't pull up the film of that coverage that he had in one-on-ones on that speed out and teach from it. Beautiful wave backpedal, acceleration out of the hip turn and wonderful draft off the receiver to dart in front to force the throwaway.
Ohhh, MAN! Desmond King II's put CLAMPS on a WR on a return route from the slot. That was pure gas. That return route (hard inside, pivot and return back out) is one of the hardest routes for any slot/nickel defensive back to cover and King's first rep in that drill forced a throw into the dirt.
WR Connor Wedington may have gotten to the Texans later than most guys on the 90-man roster during the offseason, but he's making up for that time. For the third day, he had a number of catches and I'll get to a few in team periods later but, in one-on-ones, he ran an outstanding inside route. He sold the go route hard, broke down, caught the DB over committing and turned back inside to make the catch uncontested. That was just great route running to say the least. Later in practice, he made two catches down the field as well in the team drills. He seems to be earning the QB's trust because they're throwing to him plenty in seven-on-seven and team drills.
WR Jalen Camp's catch in one-on-ones was nasty. He ran his route up the field and ran directly into DB Steven Nelson. After he collided with Nelson, Camp was off balance as he turned back for the ball. QB Mills looked like he might've been throwing the ball away, but Camp skied and reached well to the side to reel in the completion. That was the definition of "large catch radius". Tremendous snag.
Camp's next route was a gem on the deep dig as he got five yards of separation and made the uncontested catch over the middle.
A few reps later, WR Chris Conley shined with a tremendous out route, selling the go route, breaking down and turning to the out route for the catch.
Brandin Cooks' ability to spin DBs right around is just unfair, especially if the DB is in off coverage.
DB Tavierre Thomas put on a clinic covering WR Chad Beebe's slot fade up the field in their first matchup of the day. Just perfect. But, a little later Beebe went against Thomas again and stole one out of the air deep down the field on one of the best catches of the day.
Releases from the slot have a lot of basketball connotations but mastering a basketball type release isn't always the only thing. A release must be timed up perfectly for the particular route that the WR is executing. WR Chris Moore showed exactly how to release from the slot against press coverage later in the one-on-one drill and maintain the proper timing in the process.
The handwork between DL Jon Greenard and OL Tytus Howard was brilliant to watch. It looks like a couple of tae kwon do masters chopping, swiping, pulling, clutching, ripping. It's clear that Greenard knows how to use his hands well but Howard nearly countered everything Greenard threw at him. After one-on-one drills were over, Howard, Greenard and DL Jerry Hughes were chopping it up all together. Literally. I couldn't hear a word but all I could see was the three of them talking with their hands, motioning as if they were right back in the play against one another.
Hughes vs. LT Laremy Tunsil was worth the price of admission; watching those two figure each other out was really fun. I love watching how Laremy never gives up his hands early. He doesn't give answers to the test and there's Hughes swiping, chopping at LT's hands trying to get an edge, something he was unable to get on the first of their two reps.
DL Maliek Collins looks to be as quick and powerful as I can remember. His first pass rush rep didn't look like it would add up to much as he initially flew up the field. Then, he dropped that inside arm, planted off his outside foot and took a beeline to the QB. Explosive? Very. On the next rep, he bull-rushed right down the middle of one of the guards and nearly bent him backwards. Collins shimmied to get a read on his approach and when he felt that he could win leverage wise with the bull rush, he walked said OL right back into the coaching staff.
Watching two former wrestlers go at it is all kinds of interesting - DL Roy Lopez Jr. v. OC Justin Britt. Hip placement. Hands. Feet placement. Loved those two battling.
I thought OL Scott Quessenberry had four solid reps in one-on-ones. He was definitely a winner of the drill. His leverage and strength pop on tape to me.
He and OL Jimmy Morrissey had some of the best reps of the day for the offensive line. Morrissey also walked away with a pancake in nine on seven run drills. He's naturally leveraged given his height but he's a powerful dude, to say the least.
DL Mario Addison has lost seemingly nothing in his arsenal. Absolutely nothing. His juice off the edge is still nasty. On his first pass rush of the day in one-on-ones, he burst off the ball and hit the OT with a strong chop/rip. Once he had the QB in his sights, he bent the edge a perfect 90 degrees to the QB with little resistance. On the second rep, he leaned into the OT with a strong inside rip and forced a holding penalty. He's a house of fire off the edge, my goodness.
I could watch DL Rasheem Green all day long. My gosh. On his first rush in one-on-ones, he shimmied off the ball to determine his plan and then bull rushed right down the middle of OT Charlie Heck. Green knocked Heck backwards and then ripped inside to get to the QB. Seeing that live, I almost yelled out some encouraging bad words but I know I can't or shouldn't. But, DANG, that was impressive. What I loved, though, was Heck's response on the next rep. Green tried to cross chop on him and Heck caught him with his outside arm and kept Green from getting to the QB. Love the adjustment mid-drill from Heck. Love the explosiveness in Green.
The Michael Dwumfour bull rush is real. That's one strong, powerful lower body now.
There were a couple of really strong one-on-one pass protection reps for rookie Kenyon Green. I feel like I've watched Kenyon forever dating to his days in high school and he didn't look much different as a Texan. He did miss on a run block later when he pulled across and didn't come under control to block the edge defender. Overall, the youngster is making progress.
Dang, DL Ogbo Okoronkwo can SMOKE the edge. Man, that dude has some juice and bend.
I see you DL Thomas Booker with the forklift move. Sweet execution to get free to the QB.
When the pads go on, it's time. Time to let it GO. It's also time for inside drill. Whatever you call it (inside, 9-on-7) it's the big boys letting go on one another and it's GLORIOUS!! The first play of 9-on-7, DL Maliek Collins split the RG and RT like he was the Incredible Hulk breaking free from being restrained. He was in RB Marlon Mack's vision before Mack even got the handoff.
The even better part of that first run was Mack's cut based on Collins' penetration. He immediately jump cut outside and was free, heading up field. Mack certainly looked frisky and fresh today.
On the next play, DL Jon Greenard blew up one edge while LT Laremy Tunsil completely locked up and walked a linebacker on the other side. Just watching LT toy with that linebacker and move him around the formation was impressive.
A Cedric Ogbuehi-Kenyon Green double team, followed by an Andy Janovich teeth-jarring block on the LB is enough to make my day.
Oh my gosh, do not come at DL Ogbo Okoronkwo with weak sauce. The hit of the day HAD to be O-Beezy's. He nearly tackled Marlon Mack with a tight end that was trying to kick him out on the run play. He DESTROYED him. MY. GOODNESS. Those are the hits that dudes dream about delivering. The DL room is going to have fun with that one tonight in the film session.
One of my favorite plays of the day was a simple five yard catch during team drills…well, it seemed simple on the surface. QB Davis Mills brought the offense to the line of scrimmage with five wide outs and an empty backfield. The Texans brought a blitz from DB Tavierre Thomas on the inside and Mills saw it right away. The hope, though, was whether the HOT receiver saw it too. WR Chris Moore did. He broke his route off before the safety could come up and get in position to cover. It's the risk a defense takes but it's only a risk if the QB and WR are on the same page and Mills and Moore certainly were on that completion.
Man, LB Garret Wallow and FB Paul Quessenbery had a monumental collision on an inside run during team period. I heard that one all the way over to the sideline. WHOO, that was FUN!
Mills to TE Pharaoh Brown down the seam during a team period was so pretty. The pitch was perfectly placed and the catch was on point before the safety was able to get over the top to break it up.
During that same team drill, Mills threw the slant to Nico Collins and followed that up with one to Chris Conley. Those two came on different backfield action but resulted in the same catch on two exactly perfect throws from Mills.
There haven't been too many opportunities for interceptions thus far in training camp , but LB Blake Cashman had one right in his hands today…and couldn't hang on. He did a brilliant job reading the QB's eyes and bursting into the passing lane. But, alas, no interception. Later in team drills, he dove in front of a receiver to break up another pass. The former Jets LB has shown some super quick feet and instincts in the passing game.
Man, offensive coordinators, like Pep Hamilton, must LOVE the first day in pads. Play action is like stealing because all 11 defenders want nothing but to hit someone on a run play. The first play of the second set of team drills, the Texans three linebackers were ALL caught sprinting into the line of scrimmage, leaving no underneath defenders for the three defensive backs in coverage. Mills threw a dart to Brandin Cooks on the deep dig route for a first down.
LB Christian Harris and Neville Hewitt caused a fumble during a team period in practice. The two converged on TE Brevin Jordan and knocked the ball loose as Jordan headed upfield after making a catch. Harris, in particular, popped off the proverbial page today. There were a few times that he filled a gap properly (and speedy) or ran down a ball carrier showing that speed. The thing I've reminded people throughout Training Camp is that he's a ferocious hitter as well. He'll show that off in pads for sure.
Okoronkwo was on one today. This is the third or fourth mention of him because he stood out all throughout the day. There was one pass rush in particular that got him completely clean to the QB on a play in a team drill late in the practice. My gosh. Speed, power, arm over, redirect to the QB - that was a sack.
Jalen Camp deep ball!! NICE!! Camp leapt to make a great catch on a throw down the field. The speedy wideout had everyone's attention after that catch during team drills.
On the first play of a red zone drill, DL Roy Lopez Jr. showed off his speed as he ran down RB Marlon Mack from the backside of the play. Whoa, that was some impressive movement from the second year defensive linemen.
Perhaps the best catch of the day was Brevin Jordan's down near the goal line in that same series. QB Mills dropped one right near the pylon for Jordan who split the CB and the S on that side of the field. Then, Jordan hit the boosters to get up in the air to make a wonderful twisting catch.
Maybe I was wrong on the catch of the day, though. Coach Lovie Smith put the team through a two minute situation to end practice. On the first play of that two minute drive, Mills threw a dime to Nico Collins who rose up to snatch the rock and shield DB Jonathan Owens from making a play on the ball. That was a sick catch given that Nico knew he was going to get stung and still held on to the rock.
The last play, though, was another winner for the offense. WR Chad Beebe ran an out and up and QB Kyle Allen found him down the far sideline for a touchdown to end the two minute drill and end practice.
Just gotta keep stacking days to get ready for September 11th. See y'all tomorrow, everyone!