* EDITOR'S NOTE:**Texans fan Alan J. Burge continues to write his "Voice of the Fan" column for HoustonTexans.com. His latest installment is below. Alan's views do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.
*As you may recall, three weeks ago I won the lottery and got a chance to stand on the sideline at the opening session of the Texans' organized team activities (OTA). That day, among other things, I talked about the excitement of change, the size of Mario Williams, and how the game has changed over the years.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to return to the Texans' practice facility for the first of at least two mandatory full squad mini-camps conducted by head coach Gary Kubiak and staff.
It was a perfect opportunity to witness the progress that's being made by an organization that is determined to drag itself out of also-ran status.
And yes Texans fans, there is progress. I can see it and I can feel it.
Sure, it's only June and it's easy for us die-hards to get fired up over just about anything, but this team and coaching staff doesn't resemble anything we've seen here in a while. Considering Texans fans have yet to see a winning season, that would be a good thing.
There's intensity. There's camaraderie. There are new playbooks on both sides of the ball. There are tight ends, fullbacks, and defensive linemen running all over the place making plays. Click my heels – where am I?
As I entered the practice facility just before practice began, I saw the linebackers joined in one of those circles you see on highlight films. They were revving up. They were intense. They were one. Keep your eyes on these guys. Even though positions may be unsettled, linebackers coach Johnny Holland has his guys wound up something serious – and it's only June. DaShon Polk exemplified the corps' enthusiasm when he yelled "I'm the king of the world!" after making an outstanding defensive play in full-team drills.
The pace of practice is incredibly fast. No one sits. Few stand for more than 30 seconds before they are called into another drill. It's quick and precise. They say you play how you practice.
And the demand for precision plays no favorites. During passing drills, Kubiak yelled to running back Antowain Smith "run and finish it" after carrying a short pass just shy of the requisite orange cone on the sideline.
To this semi-trained eye, there is essentially no difference between OTAs and mini-camp in terms of what you see on the field. Players divide up into units and spend around two hours doing various individual and team drills. On this day, players wore helmets, jerseys (no pads) and shorts. And it was hot.
Yes, with summer officially starting in a couple of weeks, the heat is definitely on at Reliant Park. It almost makes you feel for guys like undrafted free agent defensive ends John Chick, who hails from Gilette, Wyo., and Jeff Charleston, who played his college ball at Idaho State.
Welcome to Texas, guys, and if you think it's hot now, just wait until August.
The first half of the mini-camp session concentrated on individual unit drills. Timing and the technical aspects of hand and footwork were being taught on both sides of the ball.
As you looked around the practice facility, you could see Jon Hoke running the defensive backs through hand-check drills on the sled while Bob Karmelowicz instructed the defensive linemen on the finer arts of swim moves and chops.
Even though Williams sat out because of minor toe surgery (if you can call having your toenails removed minor), I was impressed to see him seek out Karmelowicz after a set of drills for some one-on-one tutoring.
On the offensive side, Mike Sherman is a tireless teacher who appears determined to turn the Texans' offensive line into a strength. The linemen seem to really respond well to Sherman's coaching and it's exciting to think of the possibilities now that the line has added depth and talent to a new scheme. Kubiak watched the quarterbacks like a hawk as they executed various passing drills with the tight ends, fullbacks and wide receivers.
And yes, in case you were wondering, tight end Bennie Joppru appears to be running at full speed. Keep your fingers crossed.
On this day it seemed like the wide receivers had the defensive backs' numbers except for one play where safety Jason Simmons jumped a short route by a receiver and knocked down a Sage Rosenfels' pass.
"All Day" Derick Armstrong continued to pluck everything out of the sky and Eric Moulds won most of his one-on-one battles against Dunta Robinson. You can see that Moulds and tight end Jeb Putzier are going to impact this team in a very big way.
David Carr looks as confident as ever and should be greatly improved in this system. With as many as five targets in routes at any given time and an improved pass-blocking scheme, Carr now has all the weapons around him to do what good NFL quarterbacks are supposed to do.
For those looking for an early sleeper, look no further than Chris Taylor. The 6-0, 224-pound running back out of Indiana is taking full advantage of a nicked up running back corps and made several impressive runs during full-team drills. Taylor has good size and adequate speed and could be one of those guys who really benefits from the Texans' new system.
Last but not least, as I watched new Texans general manager Rick Smith chat with owner Bob McNair on the sideline, I couldn't help but think how much this organization has changed in the past year.
I see talent across the practice field. I see a more knowledgeable and assertive owner. I see a management and coaching staff that is young, talented and hungry.
I feel a turnaround in our midst.
You can email Alan Burge at: email@example.com. To comment on this article, visit the Texans' message boards.