Cody Stoots: 11 Observations from Texans training camp for Monday, Aug. 13

Deshaun Watson looks healthy and mobile. Photo by Edward Clarke


1. The defense were the big winners today in team drills. The offense never really got anything going on a consistent basis having just small spurts of success. Bill O'Brien was not happy after the practice and said they'd be working today to fix what happened in the morning session. When asked about why his team was sluggish O'Brien simply stated to ask the players about the sluggish play. 

2. J.J. Watt would have sawed Deshaun Watson in half if it was a full live rep in team drills. Watt skirted around a mass of blockers and defensive players and slowed up just short of eliminating Watson. Instead, he held up his giant paws forcing Watson to alter his trajectory. 

3. Tyrann Mathieu is so quick and description of his movements often lands on sleek. He fires through on blitzes and rarely sees himself far away from the ball when the play is headed his way. His versatility from the safety spot will give the defense a fun chess piece to play with. 

4. The inside linebacker trio of Benardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, and Dylan Cole is an absolute blast to watch play. This might be the most athletic the Texans have been at inside linebacker ever. Cunningham joked after the workout he almost came down with an interception off Deshaun Watson. Cole is sudden in his arrival to the play and squeaks through if offensive linemen aren't careful with him. 

5. Kareem Jackson is a veteran and despite newly being at safety he can still impart knowledge from his new position. He had a teaching moment with Cunningham on a play where he and the second-year linebacker got together after play with what looked like Jackson suggesting a different approach to the play to Cunningham. Watson nearly threw one to Cunnigham later in practice. Jackson looks natural at safety with Mathieu and Justin Reid. 

6. The defense had a tough time catching Deshaun Watson today on his pocket movement. There were a few plays where Watson showed off his mobility in short pocket movements and flat our evasion of the rush. The plays didn't often end up as big positives for the offense, but it was nice to see Watson move around with ease. 

7. Watson has a unique ability to change his arm slot and complete passes. One play he ended up scrambling and fired a pass into the end zone in what looked like an unusual throw but it ended up getting where he needed it to be. This isn't a habit as much as a tool for Watson. Traditional looking throws are as pretty as ever. 

8. Jadeveon Clowney was in some position reps early in practice as he works back into form for this team. 90 appears to be on schedule to get some good practice done and play in the first week of the regular season. 

9. Sammie Coates got a lot of work today. He is in an uphill battle to steal a wide receiver spot on the team but with rookie Keke Coutee out and Chris Thompson dealing with a concussion, Coates found himself running plenty of routes. He stands out among the wideouts as the most physically impressive. He made a diving catch on a broken play from Watson but had an end zone drop and was on the wrong page with the Texans QB once. With the potential to contribute on special teams, Coates may carve out a roster spot. 

10. Duke Ejiofor and a few other players mentioned they are excited about the 49ers coming to town for joint practices Wednesday. Ejiofor said he is thrilled to be healthy and is working on the consistency the coaches demand from him. He mentioned he talks with veterans and other pass rushers about what moves might be more effective against certain offensive linemen. 

11. Former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was taking in Texans practice today. He was clad in Texans gear as he spent time with Bill O'Brien early in the workout. He is the older brother of John Pagano who is the team's Senior Defensive Assistant and outside linebackers coach. 

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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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