Some of my observations from the first day of workouts for the Texans
Texans want Clowney
Bill O'Brien didn't mince words when stating his desire to have his star player back. He made it clear they obviously have to work with Clowney and his agent to make it work for both sides.
Texans have Watt
J.J. Watt at Texans Training Camp 2019
A surprise for sure to see J.J. Watt out and practicing. There was some expectation he would miss a couple of days when he was announced to be on the physically unable to perform list. He missed nothing. Watt joked he found out Thursday morning. He also said his plan was always to practice day one.
He didn't look like he has missed a beat from last season either. He gets limited reps because when he is in the offense can't execute their plays in practice. It's light work the first couple of days but offensive linemen have to breathe a sigh of relief when Watt exits the field.
The first round pick
True to form with most of the Texans offensive linemen Tytus Howard gets work at plenty of positions. He is getting a lot of reps and it will be fun to watch him work when the pads come on. Howard handled Brennan Scarlett on one rep and kept hand fighting with the linebacker for a few moments after the drill was over. He also held his own against Whitney Mercilus in one rep as well.
The young lineman showed good feet and a solid base in some of the drills. Saturday, when the pads are on for the first time, will tell a lot more.
The former first round pick
Matt Kalil was out working with the Texans. The former Vikings and Panthers left tackle got plenty of work for the Texans which was nice since he was recovering from injury earlier in the year. Ideally a veteran presence like him would help should there be a first or second year player next to him at left guard. The experience may not matter if Kalil can't play. He wasn't tested much Thursday.
Is your refrigerator running routes?
I say this with the utmost respect: Jordan Thomas is the size of a refrigerator and he shouldn't move as well as he does. He showed some huge progress as a rookie last year and developed a solid relationship with Deshaun Watson. That has only gotten stronger. Watson and Thomas are always on the same page and I am not sure how teams are going to guard Thomas but I know they aren't going to have an easy time if this continues.
Will Fuller is back
One of the best surprises of training camp is the fact Will Fuller is practicing from day one of the workouts. He looked crisp and on the same page with the quarterbacks. There was a toe-tap back of the end zone catch he easily hauled in. He also snatched a ball out of the air with ease that was a rocket. His hands are worlds better than his last year at Notre Dame and first year in the NFL.
Kinda coach Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson's official title is special adviser to the head coach. Today, and most days, he was working with the wideouts. He coaches like you would expect Andre Johnson to coach. He is quiet and deliberate. Everyone is listening and watching when he shows something. Today he was delivering advice on footwork in a certain drill. Later he pulled second-year wideout Vyncint Smith aside to coach him up.
Lonnie Johnson learning
There were some teachable moments for Lonnie Johnson the team's second round pick this year. He was coached up on how much to use his hands and when to use them. He's a physical corner and when he lines up with any of the wideouts it is apparent what the Texans liked to see. He lost a rep earlier in a drill only to recover later and beat that same wideout to the ball for an interception. There's a ways to go but there is something there.
The free agent corner was a terror in drills. He is freaky athletic and played wideouts multiple ways to his success. Very impressive day for a guy the team is counting on.
Play of the day
Deshaun Watson is a wizard. The drills obviously aren't full contact and they don't even have pads on but there is still a pass rush. J.J. Watt looked to have blanketed Watson on one drill. It was moments away from being blown dead. Then the wizarding started. Watson, off balance, slipped one past Watt's massive mitts into the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. It was incredible.
Quote of the day
"I've always been involved in personnel decisions since I've been here. It'll be no more or no less."
Said by Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien.
After Houston fell to the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the ALCS, the national media couldn't wait to pile on the Astros, their dynasty, and fanbase. A perfect example of this came from Dan Clark, who said the Astros choked or cheated in every season outside of 2022.
The Houston Astros have been great for nine years, but how will history look back at them, winning it all just once?
'15 - ALDS choke
'16 - Missed playoffs
'17 - Cheated
'18 - ALCS choke
'19 - World Series choke
'20 - ALCS choke
'21 - World Series choke
'22 - 💍
'23 - ALCS choke
— Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) October 24, 2023
Clearly, this take is totally ridiculous. Every time a team loses, it doesn't mean they choked. Sometimes the other team is better, and you just got beat. However, if you asked most fans, they would probably tell you the Astros had some great opportunities and weren't able to cash in.
So, just for fun, let's go through Dan's list and discuss if he has a point. And these are just my opinions below. I'm sure plenty of Astros fans will feel differently, and that's fine. John and I don't agree on all of these in the video above, so be sure to watch for the full discussion.
With that disclaimer out of the way, off we go.
2015: These were the baby Astros. Nobody expected them to get to the division series against the Royals. Houston went 70-92 the previous season, so this was a big jump in 2015. They lost to the Royals in 5 games in the ALDS and Kansas City went on to win the World Series over the Mets, taking the series 4 games to 1. The Astros did lead this series 2-1, but lost Games 4 and 5 pretty convincingly. Not a choke.
2016: Didn't even make the playoffs, further proving 2015 wasn't a choke. This team wasn't ready yet. They exceeded expectations in 2015 and took a step back in 2016. Not a choke.
2017: Won the World Series. While Dan will say it doesn't count because they cheated, I say, at least they won. Houston fans are well aware the Dodgers and Yankees had their own style of funny business going on in the video rooms, too. At least the Astros didn't cheat AND lose that year. They won the title so clearly, not a choke.
2018: Boston won the most games in baseball during the regular season (108). They won the ALCS 4 games to 1 over Houston and went on to win the World Series. The ALCS series wasn't close, and Jose Altuve had knee surgery immediately following the season. Boston was later punished by MLB for cheating in 2018. Not a choke.
2019: He might have a point here. This was the best roster the Astros ever had in my opinion. Houston never won a home game in this World Series. Heading home with a 3-2 lead in the series, the Astros were unable to close the deal against the Nationals (sounds familiar). The Astros won 107 games in the regular season, more than any other team. The top of their rotation was Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke. They choked.
2020: This was the weird covid season. The Astros didn't have a winning record in the regular season and got down 3-0 to the Rays in the ALCS. Houston won three straight and lost in Game 7. Both Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez were injured and unavailable that year. Not a choke.
2021: The Braves were just better and won the World Series in 6 games. Atlanta hammered Houston 7-0 in Game 6, securing the series. Lance McCullers was the ace of this squad and hurt his arm in the ALDS. Verlander didn't pitch in 2021. Not a choke.
2022: Astros win the World Series in 6 games against Philly.
2023: This one I could be convinced either way. I lean to it not being a choke because this team barely made the playoffs, winning just 90 games. They finished with the same record as the Rangers, and won the division because of head-to-head record. The Astros were down 2-0 in the series to start.
However, they did return to Houston up 3-2 needing only 1 win in 2 games to advance. But once again, the Astros couldn't win a game at home, and lost the series in 7 games. They also went 2-14 with runners in scoring position in Game 7, so that looks pretty bad. Inconsistency plagued this team all season, and it showed up again in the ALCS.
I'm willing to say the 2019 World Series against the Nationals was a choke for the reasons I listed above. And I'm kinda on the fence about 2023. The Rangers were the better team for most of the regular season, but not winning 1 game at home in the ALCS is hard to ignore.
Maybe you can convince me one way or the other in the comments! Go 'Stros!