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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3 players the Texans must trade before the deadline

Trading Mercilus would be a big win from a cap perspective. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Strapped for cash and no picks within the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, the Houston Texans should consider having a fire sales ahead of the NFL trade deadline. With the team going nowhere and the uncertainty of the future, J.J. Watt has dominated the rumor mill with the Texans doing the unthinkable of departing from their franchise star.

But despite sitting at 1-6 on the season, the idea of trading Watt has become less probable following Aaron Wilson's appearance on Locked On Texans. During the interview, Wilson — Texans beat reporter for the Houston Chronicle — said it would be hard for ownership to sell the idea of moving on from Watt seven months after the untimely departure of DeAndre Hopkins.

So with the Texans holding on to their future Hall of Famer, that should not hinder the organization from exploring trade options with the other 52 men on the roster not named Deshaun Watson.

The Texans are in desperate need of a rebuild to repair the destruction caused by former head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien. Houston has several tradeable assets on their roster — some of which a contender may overcompensate for in hopes of obtaining the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February.

To get a jumpstart on what could be a two-year rebuilding project, here are three players the Texans should consider moving ahead of the Nov. 3 trade deadline.

Whitney Mercilus

If the Texans elect not to move on from Watt, the organization should have a 180 approach to Whitney Mercilus. The 30-year-old outside linebacker is scheduled to make a projected $35.5 million over the next three seasons, and his on-field production does not match the big payday coming from the Texans.

Prior to his massive $54 million contract extension awarded last December, Mercilus was on a roll in 2019. He recorded 7.5 sacks — five coming within the first four weeks of the season — to go along with 48 total tackles and four forced fumbles. Seven weeks into the 2020 season, Mercilus is nowhere close to matching his 2019 output with only 3.0 sacks, 14 total tackles and no forced fumbles.

But despite his decline as of late, multiple teams around the league can use Mercilus' services to enhance their pass rush. The Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans are two championship-contending teams who desperately need to upgrade their front seven in their attempt to represent their respective conference in Super Bowl LV. The Packers are dead last in quarterback pressures, and Jadeveon Clowney is far from the disruptive force the Titans expected.

Mercilus' arrival to any of the two teams may not be a bona fide game-changer, but an upgrade nevertheless. Perhaps a change of scenery could be the key to unlocking the Mercilus who logged a career-best 12 sacks in 2015.

The Seahawks could also use the talents of Mercilus to enhance their linebacking corps, but their recent trade to acquire DT Carlos Dunlay could leave Seattle short on their trade offer to Houston.

Best trade partner: Titans

Duke Johnson

The Houston Texans' run game has been nonexistent throughout the season, and it's time for the organization to experiment with a younger prospect — preferably Scottie Phillips — during the second half of the season.

While it would be nice if the Texans could find a trade partner for David Johnson, no team would be willing to take on the near $8 million base salary he is due next season for his lack of production. Which leaves the better half of the Johnson Brothers up for grabs in Duke Johnson.

Duke has experienced a significant decrease in his touches when compared to last season and could be more beneficial to a playoff team seeking help in their backfield.

The Chicago Bears are the one team where Duke's talents could be beneficial and properly utilized. Chicago lost their Pro-Bowl running back Tarik Cohen for the season due to a torn ACL and has since struggled in the run game. David Montgomery has done a moderate job filling in for the injured Cohen, but the second-year halfback has yet to prove himself as an every-down back.

Duke's skill set as a pass-catcher coming out of the backfield is the most suitable attribute he would be able to provide to the Bears. Cohen is one of the most dynamic dual-threat halfbacks, and Duke would be able to give the Bears' offense a sense of normalcy in his absence.

The New England Patriots may explore the market to enhance their backfield. But one can imagine that Bill Belichick is more interested in adding a receiver in an attempt to salvage the remainder of their season.

Best trade partner: Bears

Will Fuller

Next to Watt, Will Fuller has been the second most discussed Texan in the rumor mill. Fuller could survive the trade deadline and become a foundational piece to the Texans' rebuilding project, but Houston may not be willing to tie long-term money into the Notre Dame product given his injury history.

Several teams around the league have their eyes set on a potential deal for Fuller, but none more so the Packers.

Green Bay is seeking a receiver who they can pair alongside Pro-Bowler Davante Adams. A potential deal for Fuller would give the Packers a quality second-tear receiver, while reprising his role as a team's No. 2 option — similar to his early days playing alongside Hopkins.

Fuller would also be a tremendous upgrade to the Patriots. New England does not have any quality receivers on their roster, and their depth has become more vulnerable after the team placed Julian Edelman on IR following knee surgery.

While the Patriots are in dire need to add a receiver, Belichick may hesitate from giving up too many assets — especially draft picks — that could be valuable to their own rebuilding process should the Cam Newton experiment fail. While on pace for a career-year, the Texans should look to cash-in on Fuller while his trade stock is at an all-time high.

Best trade partner: Packers

Coty M. Davis is a reporter for ESPN 97.5 Houston/SportsMap covering the Houston Texans. He is also the co-host of Locked On Texans, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network. Follow Coty on Twitter @CotyDavis_24.

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