The grind is officially on, but the good news is that it's almost over. Preseason game #1 is on the horizon in four days and that should get everyone hyped as we move ever so closer to it. There was still a ton of work to do after a day off on Monday, so let's get into my Harris Hits from Day NINE of Training Camp presented by Xfinity.
I love watching WR Brandin Cooks in one-on-one situations because I know he's going to win the route. What makes it really fun, though, is that he does it in different ways all over the field. That's what I love. On the first rep of one-on-ones, he ran a hitch against press coverage and was able to throw on the brakes to let the DB fly on by, catching the Davis Mills pass uncontested. The Old Top Gun trick to a T.
WR Phillip Dorsett is back at practice and it's highly evident how difficult he is to cover in one-on-one situations as well. Dorsett and Cooks have speed, no doubt, but it's how they threaten to use that speed that defensive backs fear. That makes underneath routes that much easier to complete because DBs are so deep conscious. For Dorsett's first rep in one-on-one, he stemmed his route upfield against off coverage and then with the DB so far off, he darted underneath for the catch and run. Then, later in the drill, he moved back outside and ran an outstanding out route to get wide open. Inside or outside, Dorsett showed it off today.
I've been saying it all throughout Training Camp, but TE Pharaoh Brown looks like a different player - figuratively and literally. He dropped weight from last year and looks extremely good physically. His offseason transformation is showing in his routes. He ran an out route for his first rep in one-on-ones against DB Isaac Yiadom who was playing cornerback. Isaac had outside leverage but Brown got on Yiadom's toes, swam back to the outside and was open for the catch. That was powerful, smooth and effective from Brown.
DB Tremon Smith has had some outstanding reps during one-on-ones in this Training Camp, including his first rep against WR Chris Conley in one-on-ones. Smith forced a throwaway staying in Conley's hip pocket throughout his route. On his next rep, he went inside to cover TE Mason Schreck and went into velcro mode before knocking away the pass. Later in team drills, he came up with a pick deep down the field in the end zone. He was in perfect man cover positioning and reeled in the deep throw for the defense.
Great, great route from WR Jalen Camp in one-on-ones - love the minimization of movement, violent plant and cut, little physical push off and sprint across the field for the reception.
The first rep between WR Chris Moore and DB Tavierre Thomas was teaching tape on both sides. Moore ran an out and up on Thomas and seemingly started to pull away down the field. He had Thomas by a few yards, but then the vet DB showed exactly how to finish a rep in man coverage. He never looked back for the ball and as Moore slowed to track the ball, Thomas got back in phase (i.e. back in position to make a play on a pass to the receiver). When the ball descended on Moore, Thomas timed his swat perfectly and knocked away the pass. Moore - great route to get separation. Thomas - unreal recovery without interfering or holding.
This isn't a Harris Hit, in some respects, but I feel like I've heard so much about " who is going to be THE slot receiver for this team?" I can't say this loudly enough - an offense doesn't need a slot receiver, per se, as much as it needs a pass catcher, ANY PASS CATCHER, that creates mismatches and wins from the slot. Period. There are so many different options to be that person on this team, play to play, that there doesn't have to be one guy devoted to that particular spot. So, when you hear ANYONE ask that question, keep that in mind.
WR Nico Collins has won reps all throughout Training Camp and in a multitude of ways. Today in his first rep of one-on-ones, I was struck by how he won his rep, especially due to the fact that the DB (I think it was Fabian Moreau) beat up, or tried to beat up, Collins throughout the route. Collins was going to run the dig route and get to his spot, even if he had to carry Moreau on his back to do it. So, visualize Collins running upfield about 15 yards, turning a 90-degree angle and breaking across the formation. Now, visualize that same route with a 200-lb defensive back hanging on to Collins' body and the receiver not slowing down, or being hampered, catching the ball, away from his body as he broke across the middle.
Covering routes in the slot is tough, really tough, but I loved Desmond King II's rep against WR Chad Beebe. A route takes a while to develop, obviously, but often the route is won right at the outset. King II immediately cut off Beebe's path to the inside and that slowed Beebe enough for King II to then get in the receiver's hip pocket all the way down the field to force the incompletion.
Loved seeing WR Connor Wedington get deep for a wonderful pass/catch connection. Then, on the very next rep, there was Johnny Johnson III getting off a physical cover to make a catch on the dig route.
When the team transitioned into seven-on-seven, second play of the series, TE Brevin Jordan ran a sick route to get open for his QB. He started wide then motioned behind WR Nico Collins, went vertically, dipped inside to get the LB to overcommit and then explosively broke it back to the outside wide open for the easy catch.
I see DB Derek Stingley Jr. getting more and more comfortable by the minute. I just can't remember a Texans cornerback, other than Johnathan Joseph, who could so fluidly transition from one direction to the other so easily. During seven-on-seven, the Texans offense ran a combination route that should've gotten a receiver open. But, Stingley started in on Nico Collins who was starting to cross the field. However, as Stingley started to come across too, he spied WR Chris Moore heading back into his direction. So, Stingley communicated to his underneath defenders that he was passing off Collins' route to them and he immediately redirected back into Moore's path. Then, as the ball descended, Stingley flipped his hips with a baseball/speed turn to get into phase. As a result of Stingley's positioning, QB Davis Mills was forced to throw well into the back of the end zone, away from harm, incomplete.
Mills answered with a DART to Chris Conley on the curl route at the goal line on the next play. Solid timing and excellent low and away throw and completion.
A few plays later DB Jonathan Owens had an outstanding cover and pass break up on a throw to WR Chad Beebe.
TE Pharaoh Brown missed coming up the unquestioned catch of camp, nearly hauling a back shoulder fade with one hand. That. Close.
During team drills, Mills hooking up with Phillip Dorsett across the field was NICE. Timing was good for a play that needed some time to develop, but it was executed to perfection.
Good to see LB Kevin Pierre-Louis punching one out of the arms of RB Dameon Pierce. I don't like fumbling at all, but it was a perfectly timed punch out near the end of a run. Pierce did get the ball back so, also, a good lesson in ball security at all times.
You know you've reached the dog days of camp when RB Rex Burkhead and DB Derek Stingley have a, uh, get-to-know each other tete-a-tete on a run play in team drills. Almost there, boys, almost there.
During OL/DL one-on-ones, the first rep that really got my attention was from DL Ross Blacklock. When that man uses his quickness as an asset, he's incredibly hard to block. He seems to be learning how to get on the edge of a guard better than before and, once he's there, he's hard to handle. Today, on his first rep in one-on-ones, he got on the outside edge of the guard, dropped his inside shoulder and ripped through to the quarterback. Really good rep.
Man, I'm telling you OL A.J. Cann is one strong dude. And, he does a great job getting hands on a defender early in the rush to help control the behemoths he faces routinely.
I'm giving DL Derek Rivers a nickname - Low Rider. I don't know that I have seen a DL in this organization who can ghost (dip underneath a OT's hands) like he can AND stay upright. He dips as low to the ground as anyone I've seen and maintains his momentum and feet too. Soooo impressive. On his second rep a little later, he went inside with an arm over then ripped underneath the OL to get to the QB.
The two reps that OL Justin McCray had in one-on-ones were stellar. He defeated a cross chop on the first rep and then held up against an inside hump move on the other. That was really excellent work from the veteran interior lineman. McCray wasn't finished because his next rep might've been better than those two as he faced whirling dervish DL Michael Dwumfour. Staying square on the quick Dwumfour is far from easy, but McCray slid laterally very, very well to do just that.
On the last rep between the two, Dwumfour hit McCray with a sick inside spin move, including a perfectly executed ice pick in the ribs. I said to no one in particular "Finally…got him". But, I was wrong as McCray recovered back inside and squared up to Dwumfour before the second year DL could get to the QB.
Sorry, sorry, a rep between rookie OL Austin Deculus and DL Jon Greenard sent me down a 2019 Florida at LSU rabbit hole…then I'm watching those two battle each other in college…then I'm watching Derek Stingley locking up Florida's All-American TE Kyle Pitts…then I'm…man, sorry. The whole point is as I was watching Deculus face Greenard, the former LSU OL looked comfortable against the former Gator pass rusher, which got me thinking when those two had locked horns. And, to the wormhole, I went.
When watching DL Mario Addison, POWER isn't always the first word that comes to mind. But, because he keeps edge protectors on their heels with his cadre of pass rush moves, he can produce that power when it's least expected. On his first rep in one-on-ones, he began to turn the corner with his speed then BAM, he hit OL Laremy Tunsil with an inside long arm and it caught Laremy off balance. Just that little bit from Addison gave him the advantage on that rep. I just feel like when I'm watching Addison, I'm watching an artist go about his work. He's really fun to watch/study rushing the passer.
What I love about competitors, though, is they have long memories. They don't forget. On his next rep, Tunsil faced DL Jerry Hughes and slid brilliantly inside to cut off Hughes. And, I'm not talking two seconds after the whistle blew to end that rep, Tunsil pointed to the back of the line - he wanted Addison again. Addison immediately buckled up his chin strap and was ready to go again. Watching it all happen live, I wasn't totally sure why Tunsil and Addison went against each other again. They don't usually do three reps, but watching it back later, I saw it right away. This time, Addison tried to go high side and Tunsil kept running him upfield, ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage. That was fun to watch.
Thought that OL Scott Quessenberry had a number of solid reps during one-on-ones. Feisty and agile, Quessenberry won nearly every one of his reps on Tuesday.
DB Steven Nelson has strung together really good days for this defense in Training Camp. His coverage has been on point in zone and man and he made life tough on the offense on Tuesday, in particular.
I'm glad that for all the blocking that the fullbacks do, they were rewarded today. During team drills, QB Davis Mills found FB Paul Quessenberry wide open for a touchdown reception. Every now and again, a bone for those fullbacks is a GREAT thing. A little while later in team drills in the red zone, Coach Hamilton gave Quessenberry a carry for a touchdown too! Bones galore for the fullbacks.
Down in the red zone for team drills, QB Kyle Allen DRILLED one to TE Seth Green on an out route. I mean, that ball was smokin' hot on its way to Green.
The situation for Tuesday's practice: 22 seconds left, down four, no timeouts, ball at the +18 yard line. Mills did a bang up job getting the Texans to the five yard line with six seconds left. However, a great tackle by DB Derek Stingley on WR Nico Collins at the two yard line ended the situation with a defensive win. Stingley's break on the ball was the most impressive aspect of that play. When he saw Mills cock his arm and Collins heading inside, Stingley took off like a shot. He nearly picked it off and then nearly knocked it away, but then did the one thing he HAD to do - tackle Collins short of the EZ to let the clock run out.
On the second series, the defense threw the kitchen sink at QB Kyle Allen and it forced an incompletion as a result on first down. So, on the next play from the 18-yard line, WR Chris Conley split the corner and the safety up the seam and Allen stuck one in his chest for a touchdown to win the situation..err, game. Well, you get the point.
Alright, that's going to do it for today's observations. There's one final early morning practice on Wednesday before a night practice on Thursday at NRG Stadium. Then, a walkthrough on Friday and preseason game number one on Saturday night. We're almost there, but there's more work to do, that's for sure. See ya tomorrow, everyone!