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

11 observations from Texans training camp for Aug. 14


@EdClarke03/Eddie Clarke

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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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