DESHAUN WATSON SHOWING TREMENDOUS ACCURACY

11 observations from Texans training camp, July 29

11 observations from Texans training camp, July 29
Photo by @edclarke03/Eddie Clarke.

If you missed the coverage from Sunday July 28 you can find it here

Justin Reid returns

The second year safety was back out for the Texans after missing a few days. It is likely Reid would have been ready, but he was hit by a drunk driver while driving before camp started. He mentioned the team was being cautious with him by not having him start camp active. His wrist still has a cast, but he said after practice that was a precautionary situation.

One handed no problem

Justin Reid found himself with an interception on a target that seemed to be intended for Keke Coutee. The young safety was all over the field as the Texans like to move him and fellow safety Tashaun Gipson around. Reid has frequently heaped praise on Gipson and every time sounds excited to play with the veteran.

Watson whipping it

Deshaun Watson can sling it, and he is better than he has ever been throwing the ball. Sometimes in previous camps he had missed a spot here or there. Misses are the rarest of rare and his decision-making is better than we have seen. He finds the open man. No locking in on one player.

The other tight ends

Jerell Adams has had a very nice past two days for the Texans. The once highly touted prospect came to camp as an afterthought but as opportunities have presented themselves he has made big play after big play. His hands look really solid and though he has a long long road ahead and needs some luck to make the team, he is helping his chance to stay in the league.

Darren Fells is the best blocking tight end on the team. That's why he is here, not to catch. That being said he made up for some disappointing receiving performances the past couple days. He had a couple of nice snags today and one late in the workout Sunday.

Henderson solidifying

Right tackle Seantrell Henderson was a player, despite his history, I believed in coming into last season. Then he was lost for the year in game one. With hopefully a full camp ahead of him, Henderson seems to be the favorite for the right tackle spot. He had a couple of rough reps against J.J. Watt today but found himself a victory before the day was over against Watt. Not saying Henderson can't be caught at right tackle, but he's in the lead now.

Paying for your mistakes

Tytus Howard had a false start today and was then shown to the sidelines for the mistake. Hard to tell on Howard's overall performance today, but he held his own on more than a few snaps. He's not struggling regularly which is a good sign.

Watson magic

In some situational work for the team today Deshaun Watson's Houdini-like powers were at work again. The offense needed a first down and after surveying the field for a moment or two Watson took off rushing for the 16 yards needed to get the first down. Nobody was anywhere close to him. Now, would J.J. Watt have annihilated Deshaun Watson and stopped the play dead if it was a live rep? Probably. Can he do that in practice? No. We will call it a draw ultimately.

Tyron Johnson continues to push

"13 big play" is something I frequently write in my little notebook while watching practice. He hauled in a touchdown catch in team drills today. When the team is far away and the offense makes a lot of noise and signals touchdown we frequently ask "who caught that?" It is quickly answered when Johnson comes running out of the end zone with the ball tossing it to the coaches.

Veteran factor at running back

Taiwan Jones would make this team if the cuts were tomorrow. The ninth year veteran has actually played running back sparingly in his time in the NFL. He has just 44 rush attempts in his career and just once since 2016. But he's a special teams contributor at a high level, and played for the Texans special teams coordinator Brad Seely. Well, he might have matched half his career total in rushes the past couple of days. He can also catch the ball too. Jones is a threat to beat out young players for a spot.

Play of the day

Will Fuller skied for a pass, contorted his body sideways, landed on both feet, and kept running. It was smooth, seamless, and frankly looked easy for him.

Quote of the day

"Different strokes for different folks...with all those running backs with the exception of Lamar (Miller) it's special teams. Where are they on special teams? What type of effort do they give? When you watch guys like Taiwan Jones, Josh Ferguson, (Karan) Higdon, (Damarea) Crockett, and you see the effort they give on special teams that goes a long way. (Cullen) Gillaspia, obviously at fullback. That's a big part of it too."

When asked about what he is looking for in a backup running back Bill O'Brien mentioned each running back by name except for D'Onta Foreman and Buddy Howell.

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*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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