The wait is finally over! Football season is officially back as the Houston Texans opened training camp Saturday. The fans and media all had the pleasure of satisfying the anticipation of the opening of camp which, a sense of desire that probably only rivals a sleepless childs’ excitement as they wake up on the morning of Christmas Day to open gifts.
The atmosphere was similar to a major homecoming like pep rally, fans were given and additional boost of enthusiasm as the HBO Hard Knocks crew made their rounds through the stands and common areas, and they literally had at least one camera crew following J.J. Watt‘s every move.
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As we go through training camp, I will be providing my daily observations, broken down by position group.
Let’s start with the most anticipated position battle on the roster:
Ryan Mallett looked very strong and sharp at the beginning of practice in his first few series, and he hit Nate Washington on a beautiful play for a touchdown, however the defense adjusted, and under pressure Mallet struggled big time. Perhaps it was the fact that he spent a significant amount of time with the second team later in practice, but his passes suddenly became more inaccurate and he made a few poor decisions that could have been proven to be costly during a real game situation. I recall one play where he tried to throw a pass between two defenders and if the interception wasn’t dropped it easily could have been a “Schaub-6”.
Brian Hoyer was his usual self, calm and collected in the pocket, displayed some great pocket presence under pressure, and dissected the defense with some very accurate short and intermediate throws. He evenly peppered basically all of the skill players on offense, connecting several times with DeAndre Hopkins, very intelligently connecting with tight ends and backs in pressure situations. Hoyer did make one mistake on a misread with Tight End C.J. Fiedorowicz and was intercepted, but otherwise Hoyer’s performance was a good first impression. (Mallet fans, I know you don’t want to hear this, sorry).
Tom Savage had a very limited amount of reps and mostly took the field with 3rd team players and undrafted free agents. The only observation that I could truly make is that he appeared to be more confident and got in and out of the huddle quickly.
In my opinion this group has the most area of opportunity on this team. The first team defensive line absolutely owned this unit. J.J. Watt‘s first play would have been a unblocked sack on Brian Hoyer and if this was a game situation the hit that he could have delivered might have sent him into orbit and rearranged a couple of satellites. No one stands out on this offensive line unit, because to be frank it’s a blur between the first and second team units, and that’s not a good thing. Pass protection simply has to get better if they want to give either quarterback a chance to make plays (or even survive the season)
Arian Foster wasn’t himself. He dropped a wide open pass in the end zone and the entire offense was held accountable, coaches included, by doing push ups to pay for the miscue. Foster also had a false start penalty that in a game situation would have taken a very manageable down and distance into a tough play to convert into a first down. I did not observe much from the other backs but will watch this position more closely going forward.
DeAndre Hopkins is in mid season form already. Jaelen Strong looks amazing. Strong, fast, and is in great shape. Very impressed with that kid. Nate Washington looked like he took a few sips from the fountain of youth on a brilliant TD catch from Mallett. Cecil Shorts got locked down by A.J. Bouye. Uzoma Nwachukwu had a highlight-reel catch. He earned some film points with the coaches i’m sure. A hodge podge of other receivers took snaps with Savage but nothing stood out.
Impressive as a group. Fiedorowitz stood out the most, but again, limited work for this group.
Sloppy, unorganized, communication issues. A lot of work for this group overall.
The screaming fans anticipating J.J. Watt autograph opportunities after practice put up a better fight against the security staff than the Offensive line did vs the Defensive line. As a unit they absolutely had their way with the big boys. This could be a sign of things to come.
Probably the deepest unit on this team. Great start to camp as a unit, a lot of big plays were made. Coverage was so good that the defensive line was able to record at least 4 “coverage sacks” that I could recall. With such a strong defensive line you would think that the secondary would benefit more from them than the other way around.
Not much to report here. A few punts were fielded. Not much activity on special teams I’m sure they’ll focus more on this as camp goes on. Randy Bullock looks like he lost quite a bit of weight and is in pretty good shape