MINI-CAMP REPORT

Cody Stoots: 11 observations from Day 1 of Texans minicamp

Deshaun Watson looked as healthy and effective as he was last season. Getty Images

 

The Texans began minicamp Tuesday in the afternoon. Here are 11 observations from the first of three scheduled practices: 

1. The Texans hosted the Santa Fe High School football team on Tuesday. Coaches and players met the team after practice and took pictures and received autographs. Bill O'Brien announced the team would be donating $100,000 to the Santa Fe Strong Memorial Fund. 

2. Deshaun Watson didn't wear a brace or anything on his knee at the workout. He moved the same way he did last year before his season-ending ACL surgery and did plenty of dynamic drilling having to use his mobility. O'Brien joked after he didn't notice Watson wasn't wearing anything on his knee. 

3. Watson missed almost no throws. Minicamp possesses a pass-heavy setup so there was plenty of work for Watson. Some of the drills saw Waston hold the ball a little long but when he made his decision the passes were among the best Texans fans have seen. He had one miss in a simulated 7-on-7 drive that saw the offense complete a touchdown pass to end a seven play drive. The ability to quickly get the ball out will be key as Watson learns more about defenses and sees new schemes as his second year in the league rolls on. 

4. DeAndre Hopkins is effortless in almost every movement on the football field. He eliminated Kevin Johnson with ease in one practice rep securing a bullet from Watson. Johnson would get some very physical payback later in the practice on Hopkins. 

5. Keke Coutee wears number 16 which is one of the most unique numbers for a pass catcher in recent memory. Also unique to him is his ability to create separation against NFL talent. There were only a handful of drills where he faced press coverage and even then he got into his route. When there wasn't press coverage, he was open. Quarterback Stephen Morris missed Coutee on what would have been a huge play in a team simulation drill. Coutee against new cornerback Aaron Colvin was a joy to watch.

6. Braxton Miller looks more like a wide receiver than ever before. He had an amazing over the shoulder catch from Watson that looked like the two have practiced it for years. He won his share of matchups with corners and safeties in the drills. 

7. Rookie tight ends Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins each has some nice plays. It became apparent Akins can be a size mismatch against corners and safeties in a lot of situations. Thomas, who spent time as a wide receiver at Mississippi State, is fluid on the field and runs well for his size. Linebackers had issues against him. 

8. Andre Hal is absent from the workouts due to his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Bill O'Brien noted the team would be with him every step of the way as Hal attempts to beat cancer. His absence opens the door for rookie S Justin Reid to play right away. Reid will be challenged for playing time by Kurtis Drummond, in his fourth year with the team, and former cornerback turned safety Treston Decoud. 

9. O'Brien praised Justin Reid's smarts after practice. Reid said he felt like the transition to the NFL was about the speed of the game primarily but felt like after the few weeks he has been in the NFL he feels more in tune with the duties and responsibilities of his position. In a red zone situation, Reid easily covered Will Fuller for a pass breakup. The safeties had a good day. 

10. Justin Reid has the line of the day when asked about playing against DeAndre Hopkins. "What is it J. Cole says? 'Long live the idols — may they never be your rivals" said Reid. He said it is great to watch players like Hopkins and now get to compete with them. He said a lot of the wide receivers work with him on how they attack defensive backs with certain routes and how he should counter those routes. 

11. Julién Davenport has altered his body quite a bit. He looks a lot closer to what you would expect from a regular offensive lineman. He is listed with the same height and weight as veteran Seantrell Henderson. They both are listed at 6'7" and 320 pounds. Davenport doesn't look far from Henderson or Kendall Laam. He said after the workout he feels like his body is getting to where he wants to be after a full year with the Texans. He mentioned "good weight" is a term he hears a lot and once he adds weight wants to convert it to muscle and drop his body fat percentage. 

Other notes

Rookie tackle Martinas Rankin is out of the workouts with an injury. Fox 26 reported it is a broken foot suffered in rookie minicamp.

Joe Webb worked as a quarterback joining Brandon Weeden and Stephen Morris as the quarterbacks competing for backup reps. 

Benardrick McKinney is likely in the best shape of his career according to O'Brien. McKinney said he is trying to increase his on-field game to better take advantage of the mental side of the game as it has slowed down for him.

J.J. Watt is headed for illustrious but strange company

Maximize opportunity before Watt gets wasted

Houstontexans.com

Thursday the reality of what J.J. Watt is facing really hit me. The Houston Chronicle reported Watt had a minor offseason knee surgery. The last three years prove he's far from immortal, though the once incredible career is back on track. For how long, no one knows. Then I finally realized it.

J.J. Watt is on pace to be the greatest defensive player to never play for a conference championship or a Super Bowl.

I started digging into the lists of the all-time great defenders and the best pass rushers in the game's history. Most of the players who would easily be considered a great on defense have at the very least won a Lombardi. If they haven't won the big trophy they've either played or been one game away.

Two names stick out on the all-time greats list. Deacon Jones played three postseason games all in the divisional round. Dick Butkus never played in the postseason. You have to go to 24th all-time in sacks, Pat Swilling with 107.5, to find a sack leader who hasn't at least played in a conference championship or better.

It's a line on almost every great's resume and Watt's missing it.

Watt's only 30 sacks away from the top 20 in career sacks. His three defensive player of the year awards in four years cemented an era of dominance rarely matched in NFL history. He will put on the gold jacket one day. It would be bittersweet to find himself among those greats having never played in a game with that level of importance.

Unless he plays in one.

Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien can't mess this up or they will be accessories to a sports crime: cementing Watt's place as the all-time great without a huge game to his name. The Texans enter one of the most important offseasons in franchise history. They have to find a way to protect Deshaun Watson as he's the key to making sure Watt's schedule pushes beyond 16 games each year. It's no easy task, but go do it. Make the defense's job just a little easier with some powerful offense.

Give Watt and company just a second more too with better secondary play. Help him out with a better pass rush next to him and not just opposite him. There's so many things the Texans have to get right with their massive cap space and three picks in the top two rounds.

It won't all be Gaine and O'Brien's fault if they don't do it, however they have a chance, with Watson and the rest of this team, to make sure a truly significant game appears on the schedule for Watt. Just one conference championship appearance, then, who knows. Maybe the big one and the Lombardi trophy.

Now here's a thought that will shake all Texans fans.

If the Texans don't nail it this offseason and show the next few seasons they're not legit threats, maybe Watt fills the hole in his distinguished career elsewhere. Reggie White left in his 30's. DeMarcus Ware found glory with the Broncos after a long Cowboys career. It isn't unheard of to see one franchise's legend don another team's colors.

I'm not sure what would hurt Texans fans more. Knowing Watt never played in the biggest games with the Texans or seeing him get to one of those games with another team. It's the hope neither of those things happen. There are almost never happy endings in football, but Watt's story deserves one or more of those chapters.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome