COUNTDOWN TO THE SEASON

Cody Stoots: 11 observations from Texans-49ers preseason action

Deshaun Watson played one series. Houstontexans.com

1. Only a handful of what will likely be starters played for the Texans Saturday night. J.J. Watt, Tyrann Mathieu, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Johnathan Joseph and Benardrick McKinney were among the players held out. Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus also sat out for the defense and Keke Coutee is still out for the offense.

2. Deshaun Watson was in for one series leading the Texans on a scoring drive. His first pass was a quick decision to Bruce Ellington who took it 37 yards for a big gain. Later Watson was a bit behind Braxton Miller leading to Miller getting hit and an incompletion. There was a clear emphasis on quick stuff as Ellington caught another quick one. Ryan Griffin hauled in a big play as he came across the defense and Watson found him for 22 yards. A few more quick strikes had the Texans on third and goal from the one. 

3. With third and goal from the one, the Texans attempted to run a quick play to Bruce Ellington but Troymaine Pope appeared to run the wrong route disrupting the play and resulting in an incompletion. The Texans went for it on fourth down and Watson found Ellington just past the goal line to score the touchdown. Watson seemed to be behind his receivers on a couple of throws but it wasn't anything egregious. 

4. Duke Ejiofor showed up early and often for the Texans but in a different way from last week. He had two special teams tackles and sniffed out a reverse by Dante Pettis, son of Astros third base coach Gary Pettis, for a big tackle for a loss. The pass rushing wasn't as present as last week, however, but, he went against the 49ers first team for a good amount of reps. 

5. Kevin Johnson had a scary moment early in the game. Marquise Goodwin blew past him for a big gain on third down and as Johnson gave chase he stumbled smashing his head into the turf. He was on the ground for a long while and it appeared as though they would cart him out but he popped up and walked off under his own power. He did not return with a reported concussion. 

6. Aaron Colvin had a tough couple of reps tonight against the 49ers slot specialist. Second-year wide receiver Trent Taylor shook Colvin in the red zone for a touchdown beating him by a good margin. Taylor again beat Colvin for a first down on another drive hauling in a Jimmy Garoppolo dart. Colvin was an ace at the slot assignment for Jacksonville last year and has made a lot of good plays in practice. It was likely just a bad day but something to monitor next week against the Rams. 

7. Justin Reid had a bounce-back performance with still some room to grow. It appeared Reid, Zach Cunningham, and Aaron Colvin had a miscommunication allowing 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk to scamper almost untouched for a 24-yard pickup. Reid looked to get lost in the play but that was seemingly his only big mistake. Later, Reid diagnosed a play quickly and blasted the ball carrier stopping them short of a first down. He has flashed plenty of talent but will need to correct the small mistakes. He will be asked to play early in his career a good amount with Kareem Jackson and Tyrann Mathieu being the only safties ahead of him on the depth chart. 

8. Sammie Coates and Braxton Miller had a tough night in their competition to solidify a spot on the team. Coates had a couple of early snags linking up with Brandon Weeden. He also returned a kickoff. In the second quarter, his night ended as Weeden threw him a high pass that went through his hands and he was drilled by the 49ers defender. He wouldn't return due to a concussion. Miller didn't get a lot of opportunities in the game. He couldn't come up with an early Watson toss and with the offense struggling to get into a rhythm he didn't get much action his way. 

9. Rookie wide receiver Vyncint Smith caught the deciding score from Joe Webb on a 41-yard pass play that was reviewed and ruled a touchdown. Smith is an interesting candidate for the team as it is highly unlikely he can make the 53-man roster. He has skills and instincts that earned him the initial investment and with Sammie Coates in concussion protocol for an undetermined amount of time the rookie could see a few extra reps. He is certainly a candidate for the practice squad and could cement that status in the next two weeks of work and the game against the Rams. 

10. Texans rookie safety Justin Reid addressed the new tackling rules and the emphasis of those rules: "We got shown film right before the game started about things that happened in other games," he said. "It's a big emphasis." He said he pulled up a little on his big hit but he said you have to learn how to play around the rule. Showing the team examples is a nice touch. Any new rule is over-emphasized in the preseason but there will be plenty of controversy associated with this new rule in the preseason. 

11. "I'm not sure, he's at the hospital right now," said Bill O'Brien of Kevin Johnson after the win against the 49ers. "I think he's doing OK considering what happened. I think he's going to be OK." Johnson's health is paramount because the Texans aren't deep at cornerback. Johnson Bademosi isn't an every down player, though he had an interception against the 49ers. Dee Virgin hasn't impressed to a great degree and other players haven't shined. If Johnson is out for an extended time expect to see more than a few free agent names associated with the Texans. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent. 

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Laremy Tunsil's absence is something to note after missing time last season. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Houston Texans took to the field for OTA practice on Wednesday. Here are 11 observations from the practice.

1. Derek Stingley doesn't take full reps yet. Stingley is working up to full reps after last year's injury-plagued college season. Lovie Smith said the plan is to work to get Stingley, as well as other rookies, up to full reps in practice.

2. Despite not having full reps, it doesn't mean the third overall pick can't impress. Stingley did well in the drills with other defensive backs showcasing his agility and quickness. During one of the team drills, Stingley effortlessly matched step for step with Chris Conley on a play that finished on the other side of the field. It was also surprising to see Stingley working on punt returns as well.

3. It is just shorts and helmets so not much can be gleaned from the team's other first-round pick Kenyon Green. Green worked at left guard with a variety of other offensive linemen. Lovie Smith made it clear there are currently no first, second, or third teams for the Texans. Green's pre-season analysis will pick up when training camp and pads roll around.

4. Max Scharping looks to be in phenomenal shape. The former second-round pick has been a disappointment in his time with the Texans. Scharping enters a year when he will need to battle to remain on the roster. It seems the delicacy of his roster spot led to an incredible offseason for Scharping.

5. Laremy Tunsil and Maliek Collins are two veterans who are not at the optional team activities. Lovie Smith detailed he has spoken to any player who isn't here and understands this is indeed optional.

6. With Laremy Tunsil missing, Charlie Heck saw snaps at left tackle. The team's right tackle for the majority of last year looks, like the above-mentioned Scharping, to be in great shape. He was moving well on a few of the plays which required the line to get out and block.

7. Roy Lopez, who was a surprise contributor last year, had what would have been a great play in a full-speed game situation. Lopez darted past the offensive line sniffing out a reverse and tapped the receiver as he went by. It would've been a 10-yard loss and a smushed wideout in a live game.

8. Nico Collins had a few nice plays. Collins displays his athleticism and he made some nice cuts in his routes to get open.

9. Pharaoh Brown and Marlon Mack had two bad drops in the team portions. Brown made up for it later with the catch of the day, sliding to haul in a Davis Mills pass near the sideline.

10. This is not an impressive tight end group overall. Not yet, at least. There are several new faces and their actual tight end abilities are unknown to this point. Brevin Jordan had some nice plays in the open field and Davis Mills found him a few times on dump-off passes. Rookie Teagan Quitoriano didn't practice today.

11. Davis Mills operates with the calmness of a player who is the for sure unquestioned starting quarterback. As he should, that's what he is for the Texans. Mills didn't show off a lot in this practice but he didn't make too many mistakes. There was a wideout miscommunication that almost went for an interception. There is a clear emphasis on getting the ball out on time for Pep Hamilton's offense. Mills had a few chances to drive a deep pass, but opted for a quick pass to not hold onto the ball too long. This should be expected and obvious, but he isn't anywhere near the quarterback I saw last year have one of the worst training camp practices of all time.

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