The Texans started a three-day mini-camp on Tuesday at the Methodist Training Center.
With approximately 25 veterans not participating in practice, it's a chance for rookies and other young players to put to use what they learned in 10 organized team activities (OTAs) over the previous three weeks. The Texans were the only NFL team not to have a mini-camp exclusively for rookies before OTAs.
"I feel like I have a much better feel for them now at the end of this process than I would have right after the draft for three days when they don't know what they're doing," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "I like that, and I think our scouts get a real good evaluation of who's probably going to be able to help us going into camp, too."
None of the Texans' starters are participating in mini-camp. That includes quarterback Matt Schaub (foot) and wide receiver Andre Johnson (knee), who did not participate in OTAs as they continued to recover from injuries.
The rest of the starters and a few key backups are also not practicing, but they will work with strength and conditioning coach Cedric Smith throughout mini-camp, as they did on Tuesday.
"They worked all morning," Kubiak said. "They worked out together, lifted and came out and worked on the field. I like getting a hard look at these young guys at the end of OTAs because now they know what they're doing and I can evaluate them better and I've got all of our scouts in this week to take a look at them. We get a true evaluation of what we're probably going to get from them come fall. Some good, some bad today, but we've got a couple more days to see where we're at."
Second-year quarterback T.J. Yates is among the veterans Kubiak is holding out of mini-camp practice. That means John Beck and Case Keenum are running the Texans' offense.
Kubiak said both players have "come a long way," but he was particularly impressed with Keenum, the undrafted rookie from Houston, on Tuesday.
"A guy that jumped at me today was Keenum," Kubiak said. "He's had 10 days of practice. He's not a rookie today anymore in a lot of ways. He came in here and ran the team really well today. He's been taking care of his business, getting better."
Kubiak also said he likes the mix of veterans and young players on the field, adding that some of the team's fifth- and sixth-year players set a good example for the rookies.
"I told the guys, those guys that are out here that are veterans right now, that's why they're going to play in this league for 10, 11 years," Kubiak said. "It's so important to them, watching Troy Nolan work, (Quintin) Demps work, (Tim) Dobbins work. Those guys, they're the heart and soul of your team when it's all said and done because they do so much for you and they've got to be there when you lose players and on special teams with (coordinator) Joe (Marciano). Those young guys can learn a lot from those guys."
Mini-camp will continue on Wednesday and Thursday before the Texans go on summer break. For rookies and other young players – along with wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker and the three other players trying out for the Texans this week -- it will be their final chance to make a positive impression on Kubiak and the coaching staff before training camp.