The Lions were in town for joint practice to push the Texans a little

11 observations from Texans training camp for Aug. 14

11 observations from Texans training camp for Aug. 14

@EdClarke03/Eddie Clarke

Matt Kalil

If you missed Monday's observations you can find them right here

Lions in town and Patricia driving around

Bill O'Brien praised the Lions and mentioned how easy it was for the Texans and Lions to decide what they were going to do for joint practices. Lions head coach Matt Patricia has an injured left leg and he was in a boot. So to get around he rode his ATV around the field. He never really went too fast. Overall I would say today was a win for the Texans.

Kalil's long day

It was a roller coaster day for the Texans left tackle. He started off not getting the job done on the ground in the first set of team drills but his pass protection held up. Later, he was annihilated and placed promptly in Deshaun Watson's lap. It was an ugly rep and the start of four straight bad plays by the Texans offensive line. Kalil held up later in some pass protection situations but when he is bad, it is really bad.

Right side, strong side

Max Scharping at right guard and Seantrell Henderson at right guard had a pretty nice day. In the Texans first team drills of the day they bullied the Lions. Later there was a missed assignment on the right side that blew the play dead but overall it was a nice day for Henderson and the Texans rookie.

I am higher on Henderson than most, I think he has had a nice camp. I am not concerend with him holding down the right side. Scharping seems to get a little better each time he is out. There are still a couple of moments where he looks like a rookie but he doesn't make many mistakes twice.

Wideouts winning

​The Texans wideouts feasted on the Lions secondary today. Darius Slay is the best cornerback on the Lions and DeAndre Hopkins earned a few victories over him. DeAndre Carter again had a nice day from the slot. Even after he slipped Tyron Johnson recovered to win a one-on-one rep. Not saying they won every matchup but the Texans wideouts clearly beat the Lions defensive backs today.

Will Fuller caught an over the shoulder pass on the sideline in front of the fans. The fans were going to cheer the catch no matter what but the referees at practice confirmed it was a catch. That got Deshaun Watson a high five from Bill O'Brien.

Roby's run continues

Bradley Roby has been a very nice addition to the Texans. He is the best defensive back to play opposite Johnathan Joseph in a while. He had some very nice plays today including being step for step and knocking a Lions pass catcher out of bounds to prevent him from scoring.

Karan on my wayward back, there'll be paydirt when you are done

Karan Higdon had a nice day and flashed for the running back group. He powered through a few Lions for a big play in the red zone. He and Damarea Crockett are in an absolute fight for the third running back spot. They trade the lead frequently. Joint practices Thursday and the preseason game Saturday will be huge for both of them.

Lamar Miller had one play today where he hit the edge and was flying up the field. He has the most juice we have seen him have in a long time.

Defensive line dominance

The Texans were missing Carlos Watkins and D.J. Reader today among others. That didn't matter as the defensive line worked the Lions. J.J. Watt was an absolute terror drawing multiple blockers regularly and not having it matter. Whitney Mercilus was as disruptive as ever. There was one hiccup where the linebackers and defensive line let a Lions player go nearly untouched into the end zone but other than that a very strong day for the front.

Angelo Blackson has had a nice camp as a depth player on the defensive line. He batted down a Matt Stafford pass today.

More on Mercilus

Bill O'Brien hinted after practice the team will be seeing more of what Whitney Mercilus was doing in 2016. Mercilus' most prolific pass rushing seasons were 2015 and 2016. He was injured in 2017 and last year the team used him differently limiting his pass rush opportunities. With no Jadeveon Clowney we are seeing much more pass rush opportunities for the Texans veteran.

He his a spin move on the Lions left tackle today that would have had him sending Matt Stafford into another dimension if he could have tackled the Detroit quarterback. It was glorious.

Tight end talent

Jordan Akins had an amazing over the shoulder catch with the defense draped all over him. Jordan Thomas just missed skying for a touchdown but later shook loose for a wide open score. Darren Fells won a few pass catching reps today. Lions tight end and first round pick T.J. Hockenson was filthy on a few plays. He is an incredible athlete for his size. The big fellas had a good day today.

Play of the day

DeAndre Hopkins was sliding backwards on his butt. ON. HIS. BUTT. Darius Slay was in coverage. Hopkins came down with the ball snatching it out of the air for a touchdown. It was one of the best catches of his career. My jaw dropped. Slay looked dejected. Watson just smiled. There weren't even cheers really the fans were so stunned.

Quote of the day

"We haven't seen him. We haven't really seen him since the end of the season. So, I really don't know. I can do my best to answer your question but I really don't know. When he arrives we'll handle it when he arrives, but that's his prerogative. He doesn't have to be here right now. That's part of the franchise tag and all those different things."

Bill O'Brien when asked about Jadeveon Clowney. And about those trade rumors, are you hearing all that?

"No, not at all."

Got anything to say about it?

"Nope."

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It's go time! Composite Getty Image.

96 games down, 66 games to go as the Astros tackle a fairly significant series in Seattle to open up the figurative second half of the season Friday night. It’s actually just over 40 percent of the schedule remaining. With the Astros having closed within one game of the Mariners in the American League West it’s the biggest series possible for them as the season resumes. But it’s not remotely make or break. Measuring by run differential the Astros should already be out front. They have outscored their opponents by 49 runs while Seattle is just plus-19. The actual standings can be explained in no small part by this comparison: in one-run games the Astros are a pitiful 7-17 while the Mariners are 19-14.

The spectrum of outcomes this weekend ranges from the Astros sweeping and leaving the Emerald City two games on top, to getting swept and heading down the coast to Oakland four games behind. Of note, the Mariners beat the Astros in five of the seven meetings to date this season. So if Seattle wins this series it clinches the season series and playoff tiebreaker should a spot come down to it. The Astros and Mariners have another series to come after this one, three games in Houston the final week of the regular season.

Trade deadline looming

What may be even more important than this weekend’s games is who gets what done between now and the July 30 trade deadline. With Justin Verlander clearly not close to returning, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss both performance question marks, and both Ronel Blanco and Hunter Brown being asked to handle unprecedented workloads for them, the Astros’ rotation needs obvious fortification. The Mariners’ rotation is second to none in the American League and their bullpen is good. Seattle’s lineup is atrocious. The Chicago White Sox are on pace to be one of the worst teams of all-time. The ChiSox’ offense is a joke with a team batting average of .220. The Mariners’ team average is .219. Only the White Sox and pathetic Marlins are scoring fewer runs per game than the M’s.

The Mariners have 11 players with at least 100 at bats this season. Eight of them have an OPS of .690 or lower. Cal Raleigh has the highest at .734. The Astros have 12 guys with at least 100 at bats including Jose Abreu. Abreu, Chas McCormick, and Mauricio Dubon are the only .690 or worse OPS guys. Kyle Tucker is the Astros’ OPS leader by a significant margin, .979 to Yordan Alvarez’s .912. What’s that you ask? Who is this Kyle Tucker? 35 missed games and counting for “Tuck” with his leg bone bruise, with return not imminent. T-Mobile Park is a notably better pitchers’ park than is Minute Maid Park, but not enough to shrug off the Mariners’ offensive ineptitude. The Mariners team payroll is more than 100 million dollars below the Astros’ payroll. The Mariners have the clearly better farm system from which to deal. If Seattle doesn’t add offense, its ownership and front office will deserve a continued fade in the second half, on top of the Mariners’ 8-15 gimp into the All-Star break.

Don't forget about the Rangers

With the Astros and Mariners going at it this weekend with the division lead in the balance, a reminder that this is not a two-team race. The Texas Rangers rallying to take the final two games at Minute Maid Park last weekend sent up a flare that the reigning World Series Champions are definitely still in the picture. The Rangers sit four games behind the Astros, five back of the Mariners. If the Rangers manage to win their series in Arlington with the Orioles this weekend, they are guaranteed to gain ground on at least one team ahead of them. The Astros-Rangers season series sits tied at five wins apiece with three games left, it will be decided in Arlington the first week of August. The Rangers and Mariners play seven more times.

In broader view, as measured by opponents’ records, the Astros have the toughest remaining schedule among the three. Among the 30 big league clubs the Rangers have the fourth easiest slate left, the Mariners have the fifth easiest, the Astros have the 15th easiest. If the Astros ultimately are not to win the West, there is the Wild Card race to keep in mind. The Astros are seven games behind the Yankees, four behind the Twins, and three and a half back of the Red Sox. Those three currently hold the Wild Card spots. The Astros are also a game and a half behind the Royals. The Astros have already lost the season series and tiebreakers to the Yankees, Twins, and Royals. The Astros and Red Sox have all six of their meetings yet to come.

Remembering Ken Hoffman

This is my first column since the passing last Sunday of my friend and eventual colleague Ken Hoffman. I originally learned of Ken’s quirkiness and wit through his columns at the Houston Post. He was a big sports fan. Our friendship was driven in part by our shared passion for tennis. We played probably more than a thousand times over nearly 20 years. Tennis and baseball were Ken’s two favorite sports. His two favorite athletes were Roger Federer and Jose Altuve. Well, after he and his wife Erin’s son Andrew, who was a pitcher on Trinity University’s 2016 NCAA Division Three national championship-winning team.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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