The Houston Texans were back on the practice fields at the Houston Methodist Training Center for a third consecutive day of training camp. "High-tempo" is how training camp practices have been described under the new coaching staff this year.
Friday's practice consisted of a lot of team and 7-on-7 work, a few takeaways by the defense and some pretty cool new drills.
"It's been a good three days," quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. "We've done a lot of good things on offense and continue to keep correcting and building as training camp keeps progressing. Guys are eager to get full-speed 11-on-11 reps and we've been able to compete at a high level for the last three days, so just taking it one day at a time, focusing on getting better and I think we're making good strides in that area."
Players were still in shorts and jerseys on Friday. Head coach David Culley expects padded practices to start Tuesday as the team continues to ramp up.
"I can't wait to see them get in pads," Culley said. "Here's the thing about it. You don't find out if someone can play or not until you see them in pads."
Practice kicked off with some 1-on-1 work. Wide receivers battled defensive backs on half the field, while the other half of the field was tight ends and running backs getting work.
Despite great coverage on him, wide receiver Chris Moore had a tremendous catch to end the period.
Taylor had high praise for the receiving corps, including Anthony Miller and rookie Nico Collins.
"They're doing a great job," Taylor said. "Anthony has been playing primarily slot receiver for us and he's made a ton of plays. Nico, pretty sure you all see as practice goes on, his size is he's able to go up and get those second-level passes."
The Texans added new wide receiver Jordan Veasy, who wears No. 84, and he caught a nice pass from Davis Mills in 7-on-7 drills.
Wide receiver Chris Conley continued to impress as well making plays in practice.
Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith placed an emphasis on increased takeaways this offseason and there were plenty for his players on Friday. Justin Reid scooped up a fumble recovery in team drills, Christian Kirksey had an interception, rookie Roy Lopez picked up a loose ball and Whitney Mercilus also added a takeaway. Those were just the ones I jotted down – there might have been a few others.
Mercilus has embraced his new role as defensive lineman in Year 10. The hardest part of making the switch from outside linebacker has just been changing his vantage point from standing to hand in the dirt. This offseason, he spent six months in Arizona to get this mind, body and spirit right for 2021.
"I feel better, I feel stronger, I feel leaner," Mercilus said.
Defensive lineman Ross Blacklock says he is enjoying learning the new defense because it seems easier. He can just rely on his instincts and not overthink.
"I'm loving it man, everybody's flying around, making plays," Blacklock said. "I just feel more comfortable in this system. I think it will be real good for me and not only for me, but for the team as well."
The second-year defensive lineman trimmed down to 290 pounds, losing ten pounds this offseason. He did a lot of working out, trained in California and hired a chef to eat healthier. He added that he hasn't eaten candy in months.
Any time the big hula hoops come out for position group drills, the intrigue level rises. On special teams, the big round circles were placed on the field while defensive backs worked on staying in their lanes. Texans sideline reporter and football analyst John Harris called it, "musical chairs meets punt coverage."
During kickoff returns, Andre Roberts showed off his explosive speed. Defensive backs Desmond King II and Tremon Smith also worked on their return game.
Rex Burkhead made a nice catch-and-run in team drills.
Davis Mills showed off his wheels when he had to scramble from defenders.
Defensive lineman Charles Omenihu batted down a ball at the line of scrimmage with such force that the sound could be heard from the sidelines.
Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn is no longer the only Texan from the Aloha State. He now has a Hawaiian teammate in sixth-year linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, who signed this offseason. The two grew up on the same island and played for rival high schools.
"I always saw him around," Fairbairn said. "We always played sports against each other: volleyball, soccer, football. He's a great athlete back in Hawaii, he killed it so it's great to have him on the team."
Fairbairn also added a puppy recently. Mochi is an Irish doodle, half Irish Setter, half poodle.
Speaking of puppies, cast your vote for the Texans pup name:
The Texans will welcome fans for Saturday's training camp practice for the first time in two years at the Houston Methodist Training Center.