2020 Training Camp Harris Hits:
Oh, the air conditioning was turned off and the heat went way up during Tuesday's practice. It started, and ended, down on the goal line, so that meant it was heated more than just in the atmosphere. Here are my Harris Hits from Tuesday's practice.
Once the activation and the individual periods were over, Head coach Bill O'Brien yelled out the words that every player loves "GOAL LINE...Down here, LET'S GO!" Who doesn't love goal line? Hint: Nobody.
The ball was placed at the four yard line and it was go time. Both sides dug in ready to swap paint on quarterback Deshaun Watson's call. Then, on the first play, Watson pulled it out of the running back's belly and tossed a short pass to a wide open Duke Johnson for a touchdown. It was the perfect lesson for any defense down on the goal line - lose focus/get singularly focused and it could go badly.
Then, the defense got to work. On the next play, linebacker Benardrick McKinney put a lick on the Texans running back to keep him short of the end zone. B Mac has seen more than his share of goal line situations in games, in the playoffs, but he was charged up during this drill, no question about it. The offense fumbled the next snap, but on the final snap of the drill, the defense strung out a wide run and bumped running back Buddy Howell out of bounds short of the end zone.
Push up count? Defense - 10. Offense - 30. Like golf, the lower the number of push ups, the better.
I've mentioned defensive lineman Charles Omenihu a few times since the start of training camp and he continues to take strides toward being an impactful player on this defense. I can't tell you how many times I heard "Nice work, Chuck" or some version of that throughout the entire practice. What I loved to see on Tuesday was how Charles held up against the power of interior linemen against the run. A little later in the practice, the defensive/offensive interior went after it in a half-line situation. On the final rep of the drill, I just saw Omenihu flash inside and then celebrate at the end of the play. His progress is a major factor for this defense in 2020.
When the receivers and defensive backs got together for some one-on-one work, safety Eric Murray nearly came down with a pick on one of the first plays of the drill.
Then, quarterback Deshaun Watson came down in the second half of the drill and, well, the incompletions stopped. He hit Steven Mitchell Jr. - complete. Keke Coutee - complete. Chad Hansen on a speed out - complete. DeAndre Carter - complete. Now, DW4 should complete every darn pass but he does it making it look so easy.
My favorite throw of the day, though, came during the ensuing team session. Watson hit Steven Mitchell Jr. on a crosser for about eight yards. On the next play, Watson scanned the field and then when he saw tight end Jordan Akins, he let one rip. I mean, there were some serious RPMs on that ball to Akins. There had to be because safety Justin Reid was in Akins' hip pocket all the way across the field. But, Watson stuck that thing into Akins before Reid could get a hand on it. Watson reached back a bit for the 98 mph fastball on that throw, for sure.
The offense kept that drive going a bit until defensive lineman Angelo Blackson stuffed a Texans running back on third and one to end the drive. Marc Vandermeer and I talked about Blackson a bit on radio today and he's been ultra-valuable to this team defending the run throughout his career here. He certainly lived up to those words on that 3rd and one stuff.
From that play on, the defense really did an excellent job in nearly all facets of practice. On the following play, rookie defensive linemen Ross Blacklock and Albert Huggins stuffed an inside run. Then, the defense strung out an outside run for no gain. The next three plays in the team period were a positive for the defense.
One of the better pass rush reps of the day, on both sides, was when tackle Rodrick Johnson and edge rusher Jacob Martin faced one another. Martin used his speed to convert to power against Johnson. But, as Johnson yielded a bit, he then re-anchored against Martin and kept him from going any further at the quarterback.
For situations during Tuesday's practice, Coach O'Brien gave his offense a little over a minute on the game clock, down by eight, ball on the offense's 35 yard line. The defense was able to win that drill, keeping Watson and the offense out of the end zone. Watson completed a couple of passes on that drill and moved the offense inside the 25 yard line, but he couldn't connect with Randall Cobb or Jordan Thomas across the middle that would've provided one final shot for the end zone.
After another team period, the two units ended up back down on the goal line to finish the practice. Deshaun Watson ran one in on the first play of the drill, but after that touch, linebackers Zach Cunningham, Benardrick McKinney and Tyrell Adams were instrumental in stopping the Texans' running backs from getting into the end zone. Trust me, Karan Higdon and Buddy Howell weren't tip-toeing into the line either. There were a few loud collisions, but each rep went the way of the defense. Rookie running back Scottie Phillips did punch one in on the final play of the drill for the offense.
Four days into practice, I can tell you that the "Player with the most energy" award goes to defensive back Keion Crossen, with honorable mention to "dancing machine" outside linebacker Jon Greenard. I just can't comprehend having the juice those two have on a daily basis...man, I'm old. So, glad they're not.
Alright, that'll do it for today. Wednesday is an off day for the players so I'll be back with some more Harris Hits on Thursday as we continue to gear up for Thursday September 10th. See ya then, everyone!
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