2020 Training Camp Harris Hits:
The Texans took the practice field on Sunday and continued the ramp-up to the season opener on September 10th at Kansas City. Here are my Harris Hits from the day's activities.
I remember seeing Zach Cunningham play for the first time at Vanderbilt University back when he was just a sophomore. The guy tackled everything in his path and nothing has changed since he became a member of the Texans. He completely dominated during the first 11-on-11 team drill of the day. He stuffed two run plays, in particular, before they could even get started.
The first one, he seemed to pop out of nowhere and surprise running back David Johnson for the stop. The second one, he drew a bead on the ball as it was snapped and ran through about three different blue-shirted offensive players to eventually get to the ball carrier. He's been a complete, and total, game changer for this defense and those two plays show how he impacts this defense on a play-in/play-out basis.
Mixed in between those two Cunningham stops were a couple of Brandin Cooks' catches. I've always wanted Brandin Cooks on my team. Thankfully, he finally is and those two catches really showed why. On the first one he leapt over the defensive back on the sideline to snatch the pass out of the air and then he two tapped the feet in bounds for the completion. The offensive guys went nuts seeing him make that catch. He then hooked up with Deshaun Watson on the following play for another catch down the sideline that got the offense charged up again.
A little while later, Cooks made a catch on an absolute laser from Deshaun Watson as he crossed the field. I texted Marc Vandermeer up in his perch to say "yeah, that's good enough - wrap him in bubble wrap". That's what Marc, Andre and I talk about during preseason games when we've seen enough to know a guy is ready "Wrap him in bubble wrap - we've seen enough". I want to see more every day from Cooks because I'm greedy that way. What I saw today, though, was enough for me to be giddy about what he can do for this Texans squad this year.
On the last play of that team sequence, quarterback Deshaun Watson RIPPED one to receiver Kenny Stills for a first down. And, by RIPPED, I mean, Watson spun that ball with some serious RPMs. I always like to mention those type of throws from Watson because it was so comical after the 2017 NFL Combine when "analysts" mentioned that they didn't think he had the arm strength of the other quarterbacks in that draft class. Furthermore, they didn't think he even had the arm strength to succeed as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Uh, yeah, that was a miss. Major miss.
Either way, it's clear that those two (Watson and Stills) have spent plenty of time together because of the connection they appear to have. During the two minute situation drill near the end of practice, Watson eyed Stills two consecutive times to get the offense moving down the field. Stills caught both and picked up first downs on both of them to give the offense a jolt to start that drill.
One of the best catches of the day was David Johnson's catch during that same two minute drill. A few plays after Stills' consecutive catches, Watson dropped to throw and was forced to scramble to his right. When he did, Johnson, who had run a short route to that side, turned up the sideline upon seeing Watson scramble. Watson then floated a pass for Johnson who dove to make the catch for a big first down as the clock ticked toward zeroes.
I don't typically discuss a bunch of special teams, but I will here: Punter Bryan Anger dropped absolute BOMBS today. The Texans did, what appeared to be, an extended punt period, and Anger just hammered punts throughout the period. I was standing close to the sideline and could hear some of the players remarking about the hang time, the spiral and the distance on each of his punts. Just crushed every single one of them.
The last one he dropped on about the three yard line. The ball hit the ground, went straight up in the air and was downed on the two by one of the gunners covering the punt. There's no better mic drop for a punter on his last rep of the day like that.
One constant throughout this training camp that really impresses me is the way that veterans are consistently talking to younger players to help them learn. I don't know that I've seen Laremy Tunsil out of a rep and NOT talking to Max Scharping or a younger player. Brandin Cooks spent a few minutes with Isaiah Coulter after the rookie had gotten free on a route but was grabbed by a defensive back in the process. Those are just a few that I've seen, but I love the "pass it down to the young guys" attitude that these veterans have, especially this season.
Coulter made a tremendous catch during WR/DB 1-on-1 drills for a touchdown. Well, I should say he made an excellent move to get free from the defensive back, which got him wide open for Deshaun Watson to drop it in the bucket to him for a touchdown. That's more like it, really.
One player that continues to thrive in this ramp up to the opener/training camp is tight end Jordan Akins. During a late game two minute situation drill, Watson dropped to throw and saw Akins breaking his route to the sideline. It's not an easy throw to make because he can't lob it (Akins will run out of room) nor can he laser it (too much trash/chaos in the way) yet Watson knows the exact type of in-between throw to give Akins a chance. Akins took advantage of that chance snatching the ball for a first down and a new set of downs.
The play prior to that one, though, Akins ran down the seam and Watson laid one down the seam to him. Justin Reid was in perfect position on the coverage and I think, THINK, that he pinned Akins' inside arm to his body. As such, Akins threw up his right hand and nearly came down with a one hand catch that would've been the catch of the camp. Instead, the defense, Reid in particular, came away with a PBU.
The drill ended a few plays later as Lonnie Johnson came down with a tipped interception in the back of the end zone. I think that replay might have overturned the call, but it was one heck of a play by Johnson and his fellow defensive back (I couldn't see who else was back there) to stop the offense's progress.
Alright, I'll cut it there and start to prepare for another Monday and more practice this week. Can't wait! See ya then, everyone!