2020 Training Camp Harris Hits:
The pads stayed on for a second consecutive day and that's never a bad thing, honestly. First of all, that's real football, second of all, it means GOING INSIDE!! Nothing quite like practice in a temperature controlled indoor facility, no? Regardless, here are my Harris Hits from an efficient Saturday afternoon practice.
One thing that consistently stands out to me about this team is how the veterans handle their business, doing the little things that great teams all do. One small example of what I observed took play when the horn blew for the punt team's period. The players on that unit like AJ Moore, Keion Crossen and Michael Thomas nearly sprinted down to the end zone to get ready for the drill. Sounds simple, but it sets a tone that those guys and everyone in that entire drill should follow.
Here's another one that stood out to me. Earlier in the day when the defensive backs and receivers worked on releases (WR) and cover techniques (DB), the time expired on the drill before every player could get a rep. As such, a couple of receivers stayed behind on their own, with a couple of defensive backs, to get a rep before the team transitioned into a different group/team drill. Sure, it doesn't sound earth-shatteringly important, but the little things at this level add up in key situations. Of course, my inner coach was warmed over by seeing those players tackle the little things that always matter in January and beyond.
Speaking of Keion Crossen, man, I wish I had the juice that he has every day. My gosh, he's at max juice in nearly every single drill. He's constantly pumping guys up, cheering and chattering all throughout the practice. That sort of thing, that energy can be contagious and it's great to have a veteran, a guy who has been through plenty of NFL training camps, display such a great attitude in the dog days of camp for all to follow and emulate.
A few weeks ago, when Coach Bill O'Brien was asked about some players that had made an impression since the players had arrived back on campus, if you will. One of those names was receiver Chad Hansen. Going back to Hansen's days at Cal, I was a big fan of his game. He was fluid and could get separation with excellent routes. He caught everything and had tremendous body control. He worked with Deshaun Watson this offseason a bunch and on Saturday, they connected a number of times as a few receivers were still held out of practice. Looking back on my notes, I have "NICE (insert route, catch, hands)" written three different times. He just kept getting open and making catches. Oh yeah, it sounds simple, but he's making it look even easier. I don't know what the future holds for Hansen with the number of vets in that receiving corps already but, on Saturday, he made sure he made an impact on this team and offense.
One of the things I love to see is the way individual drills are utilized later in practice during 1-on-1 or team competitive drills. Let me explain. I looked down at some point during individual period and the defensive backs were working a drill with secondary coach D'Anton Lynn. It was a man-to-man cover drill, in which the player had to rip back across the face of the receiver (Coach Lynn, in this instance) and cut in front to make a play on the ball. I specifically remembered watching safety Justin Reid performing that drill. He executed that drill perfectly but I really didn't think much more of it at the time. A little while later, though, the defensive backs and the receivers went one-on-one and it was time for Justin Reid to cover one of the Texans receivers. Lo and behold, Reid used the EXACT same technique from that drill earlier to jump in front of the receiver and make an interception. Most often, players, honestly, just try to survive individual period because it's repetitive and boring (been there, done that, trust me). But, Reid showed exactly how that period can be put to proper use and it was great to see.
The best overall rep of the day for three players included Reid, tight end Jordan Akins and quarterback Deshaun Watson. They say that Iron Sharpens Iron, right? Well, when these two 2018 third rounders matched up in one-on-ones, it was just beautiful. Akins finished the rep with a one hand catch that was just sublime, but Reid made a tremendous break and was right in the hip pocket. Then, Watson made an incredibly accurate pass to Akins where Reid, even in tremendous position, couldn't knock it away. Each of the three players on that rep made each other better and it was great to see Akins make that outstanding catch to finish the drill.
I mentioned yesterday the manner with which receiver Randall Cobb works the middle of the field with his routes. He went to work on a defensive back on one rep that was straight out of the And 1 basketball series. Cobb hit the defensive back with a deadly hesitation/crossover to get clean and as soon as he turned his head, the ball was on him for a completion. He's really fun and he's really pushing Keke Coutee and vice versa.
Coutee had a number of moments during the day that caught my attention again and others. He made a diving catch on the far sideline on an out cut thrown by AJ McCarron. He caught a deep route after flashing some quick, decisive footwork to beat the defensive back to the end zone during one-on-ones. He's certainly not going to be forgotten about as The Voice of the Texans Marc Vandermeer warned us all on Friday.
Another one of those pass catchers that's been around here for a few years and continues to grind is Steven Mitchell Jr. His first route during one-on-ones, he threw a stutter-and-go on a cornerback and left him in the dust for a deep, wide open touchdown.
When tight end Jordan Thomas arrived in 2018, I talked with him a bunch while his college team's rival Ole Miss played at NRG Stadium against Texas Tech. I asked him if he knew anyone on the Ole Miss squad, figuring that he might know someone from his home state on that squad. He immediately said "Oh, yeah, the twins." and he pointed out to the field at Ole Miss safety C.J. Moore. I wasn't exactly sure what he meant by the twins until the next day when the Texans claimed rookie A.J. Moore off waivers, C.J.'s twin brother. Ahhh, the twins. So, whenever Thomas and A.J. match up, I always take note because those guys have known from way back in the day and all they've just taken their backyard games to a much larger stage. On Saturday, Thomas split out wide and Moore was in his face in press coverage. I don't remember who threw the rock, but the quarterback threw high to Thomas down the sideline and Moore climbed the ladder to knock it away. That got a bunch of "ATTABOYS" from his defensive mates and coaches.
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil noted during his Zoom meeting that it was the first time in his career that he played on a line with all five starters returning. He noted that it was "huge" to have that continuity on the offensive line. I can't emphasize that point enough - continuity on the offensive line is massive and the Texans should have that for a while.
Rookie John Reid had a pass breakup in one-on-ones which was great to see. I hadn't had much chance to watch him the first two days but I turned to look just in time as he was making that play during one-on-ones. I can't wait to see more from the rookie as he grows/matures in his rookie campaign.
Alright, I think I'll cut it there. Be sure to check out all of our training camp coverage at houstontexans.com, our app, Texans Extra Points this weekend on KTRK Channel 13. It's GO time and I'll have much more for you soon...Monday (Sunday is a day off, not for my nostrils, though - COVID testing, baby!)
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