2020 Training Camp Harris Hits:
It feels as if training camp just started but today was the last one. Well, kinda. Tomorrow will be an off day and Thursday is the scrimmage in NRG Stadium. After that, the remainder of time before the opener will essentially turn into a two week prep for week number one. As such, here are the last Harris Hits of the 2020 season...LET'S ROLL!!
The practice started with a significant amount of special teams and individual work. Then, they went to a few situations down in the red zone. Quarterback Deshaun Watson connected with Brandin Cooks on one throw and David Johnson on the other, but the defense stiffened and made the eventual stop.
Watson and the offense ran it back, repeating the same situational drill immediately afterward. On the first play of that drive, DW4 then stuck one between a couple of linebackers to Duke Johnson for a significant gain. Then, on the very next play, Watson dropped one into Kenny Stills' bread basket for a quick touchdown. Two play drive, with a Kenny Stills touchdown to finish? That sounds familiar. Either way, those two throws were a couple of Watson's best throws of the day.
The player that seemed to Win The Day, using a famous Chip Kelly slogan, was tight end Kahale Warring. Early in practice, Warring couldn't hang on to an excellently placed throw from AJ McCarron. A pair of defensive backs each got a hand on the ball and knocked it away, but it would've been a confidence booster for Warring to make a first down catch, no doubt. A little while later, Warring had a ball thrown slightly behind him that he couldn't reach back and make the catch. Now, Plastic Man would've struggled to make that catch, though, but it was another target that didn't end up in a reception. Furthermore, those were his only opportunities to that point and I was hoping that Watson or McCarron would look him up later to stoke his confidence a bit. A few plays later, he made a semi-difficult catch on a slant route and I wrote in my notes that that catch could be the one that gives him a bit of a boost.
A few drives later, Warring was on the field with Deshaun Watson and the quarterback looked him up in the end zone. Warring ran a corner route near the back of the end zone while the defense was in man coverage. Watson lofted one to the back corner and Warring leapt above the defensive back in coverage and snatched the ball out of the air as if that was the last pass on earth. Touchdown! His teammates went crazy and I'm not really sure if Warring realized what he'd done. He kind of had this quizzical look on his face after he came down with the touchdown but his teammates all knew - that was a DUDE Play.
When the offense went down the field the other way, AJ McCarron hit Warring on a rollout for a first down. Then, a few plays later, the last play of the day, McCarron sent Warring deep down the field and launched one near the end zone. Warring, again, went up to snatch the pass and then kept his feet so he could make a mini-dive into the end zone. Another touchdown! It was an excellent day for Warring and I hope he can bottle this and use these superpowers in 2020 and beyond. Those catches were ones that he made at San Diego State and hopefully this will boost his confidence in the future.
Whenever analysts and talking heads discuss the receiver position, very rarely is DeAndre Carter's name mentioned as a factor in the passing game. The thing is, though, that Carter has been outstanding, catching nearly everything thrown his way and he's making catch after catch all over the field. I thought the best catch he had today was one in which defensive back John Reid was draped all over him on a crossing route and Carter still was able to latch on to the throw from AJ McCarron. A few plays later at the end of the drive, the offense faced a 4th down and goal at the four yard line. Carter broke to the outside and McCarron hit him with the pass. Carter, then, turned up the field and snuck the ball inside the pylon for a "gotta have it" touchdown on fourth down. I've said this before about Carter - he's the type of player good teams must have because he knows every receiver position, returns kicks and comes up with big plays in key spots (@ Jets 2018 & @ Bucs 2019 come to mind). With a couple of receivers out of practice, Carter continues to make plays, efficiently and effectively.
The defense had moments in this practice as well, but the best one was probably a juggling Eric Murray interception. Fellow defensive back Bradley Roby was in man coverage on tight end Jordan Thomas and Murray came over to help on the play. Deshaun Watson eyed Thomas and let fly down the field. Roby got a hand on the ball and tipped the ball into the air. Because Roby tipped it, the ball "got on" Murray quicker than he expected, sort of like a grounder takes a bad hop and ricochets into a third baseman's chest. Murray, though, never lost concentration on the ball and was able to corral the interception after tipping the ball back into the air himself.
The defensive backs made a number of impressive pass break ups during the day. In addition to the interception Murray had, mentioned above, cornerback Cornell Armstrong was able to chop the ball out of a receiver's hands as the ball arrived in the end zone for one outstanding pass breakup.
A few plays later, safety Michael Thomas made one of the best plays of camp. Actually, it was one of the best competitive players all around - quarterback, tight end and safety - this play was one of the best reps of camp. Quarterback AJ McCarron led the team into the red zone, down inside the ten yard line. He went back to pass and saw Jordan Thomas down the seam with Michael Thomas covering him. JT seemed to snatch the pass over the top of the shorter Thomas, clutching it in one hand above his head. But, because Michael was tight in coverage Jordan Thomas couldn't bring the ball into his chest. Michael then just started chopping and swiping at the ball and eventually knocked it away as the two fell to the ground. The defense got hyped as the ball hit the turf.
Earlier in the drill when Deshaun Watson had the offense on the field, he threw a touchdown to Duke Johnson...and I'd like to tell you more about the play but I can't. You'll see it soon enough.
One of my favorite plays of the day occurred later in practice. Deshaun Watson was in the gun and as the play clock wound down, he tried to get the defense to show its hand and it worked. He examined the defense and changed the play at the line of scrimmage (or appeared to). On the snap, he stepped back and let fly down the sideline to David Johnson who went up and snagged the pass, but unfortunately he landed out of bounds. Regardless, I loved the cat and mouse game that Watson had going with the defense, not to mention the fact that he could rely on Johnson to make the proper adjustment when necessary.
Okay, that's going to do it for today and, thus, for training camp 2020. It won't be the last Harris Hits as I'm sure I'll get some work at the scrimmage on Thursday as well. Either way, I really appreciate all of your support and eyeballs reading these Harris Hits every day. See you soon!