The final week of voluntary workouts got underway

11 observations from Texans OTAs

Photo by Edward Clarke

These are the 11 observations you need to know from the third week of the Texans OTA workouts.

Undrafted wideout battle

Tyron Johnson from Oklahoma State and Johnnie Dixon from Ohio State are fun to watch for different reasons. They both have a legit shot at the last wideout spot and are kind of fighting each other for it and kind of not. Texans wide receiver coach John Perry mentioned Johnson can play both outside spots while Dixon can work inside and outside.

They both have had their moments so far in camp. If I had to say one was ahead of the other I would look to Dixon being slightly ahead of Johnson due to the inside-outside ability. Johnson might have more eventual upside due to his height and physicality. They have been a fun watch.

The toughest tight end matchup on the Texans

Jordan Thomas won almost every rep against every type of defender he went against today in the passing drills. Thomas looks worlds different than last year from a movement standpoint. He's fluid and physical and his routes look a lot more solid. I am not sure there will be many defenders who can cover him without some trouble.

If his blocking is improved, he will be on the field a ton for the Texans. While he isn't the most experienced tight end currently on the roster he seems to be the most complete from a total production potential. He will be a fun watch this year if they development continues.

The "other" Jordan

Jordan Akins looks smooth. Texans tight ends coach Will Lawing said it is fun to coach a room with so many players with different talents and styles. Akins is another player who has done a lot to improve his body in the time from year one to year two.

Akins is very athletic, this isn't a surprise, but his receiving skills have smoothed out compared to last season's work. While he doesn't present a huge physical mismatch like Thomas does he won't be an easy cover for linebackers or safeties however teams decide to defend him. It will be interesting see the different ways Bill O'Brien uses him.

Watson whipping it around

Deshaun Watson was tossing darts around the field. A couple of throws didn't go the offense's way in one drill and responded by drilling a laser to three different receivers. He has had a lot of solid throws in the workouts and plenty of them as responses to a poor play or play made by the defense.

It will be awesome to see Watson work with the full offense. The passing potential of this group is very high and Watson having a real offseason, instead of one filled with rehab, will be huge for him.

Long way to go, but something to show

Jermaine Kelly is an interesting player to watch going forward. Last week Bill O'Brien mentioned he is basically a rookie after missing his whole first year with an injury. Well today, he made a veteran play that had the defense going wild.

Kelly made an athletic leap in front of a wideout near the sideline snagging an interception. The defense went wild celebrating the big play mobbing Kelly and even treating it as a regular season interception with some players running to the end zone to pose for the camera. The energy level was high for the defense after that. Kelly also had some nice work against Vyncint Smith in a couple of drills. He has a lot to work on but is a name to watch heading into training camp.

Tytus' timeline

Tytus Howard continues to work into various roles with the team. He had one rep today, again not live and without pads, where he stymied a rusher with pure technique and footwork. It was impressive and rusher eventually just gave up. He wasn't afraid to get physical, as physical as the drills allow, either. He had a nicer day than some of the other tackles. I don't know if he has shown that he is better or worse at any given position. There is a lot more to evaluate in joint practices and preseason with him.

Get used to Watson to Coutee

The more work Watson and Keke Coutee get the better. Remember how good Wes Welker was for Bill O'Brien's offense in New England? I am not saying that is Watson and Coutee but this is easily the best QB-slot WR combo the Texans have ever had. With Watson's mobility Coutee is never going to be out of a play.

The next thing the offense needs to work with on Coutee is getting him deep from the slot. At Texas Tech, he was one of the best in the nation at attacking the middle of the field deep. There is hope with the chemistry he and Watson are building they can soon add that to the offense.

Peter Kalambayi continues to impress

Peter Kalambayi is a load for offensive linemen to handle. The defenders are always a little more physical in these drills and that worked to his advantage but the linebacker is a player to watch going into camp and the season. He has flashed some coverage ability as well as the talent to rush the passer.

He blew up one play today that would have resulted in a live rep sack. If he can carry this over to camp and even the season the Texans have a nice young player to provide depth at linebacker and play on special teams.

Catch of the day: Vyncint Smith

The catch of the day was an absolute beauty. Smith cooked the defense, was a few steps clear, and perfectly caught the over-the-shoulder pass. He is a totally different guy than the wide-eyed rookie from Limestone. Anyone challenging him for his roster spot will have a tall mountain to climb.

Backup slinging it

A.J. McCarron has a short memory. A couple of bad plays in a row didn't bother him as he hit a dime across the field down the sideline to move the offense in a drill. He isn't afraid to take a big shot downfield and try to make a play. This is a good development for the wideouts trying to make an impression as they will end up working with McCarron a lot during camp.

No (K)ompetition here

Ka'imi Fairbairn nailed his opportunities kicking on Tuesday. He made the most field goals in the league last year missing just five total. Hopefully the Texans won't have to call on him as much this year but if they do you can feel confident in John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a "Ka'imi" Fairbairn.

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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