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.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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