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.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.