Cody Stoots: 11 observations from Texans training camp for Thu., Aug. 16

The Texans have had trouble running the ball the past two days. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

1. DeAndre Hopkins started off against the 49ers much better today than yesterday. The only fight today was against gravity as Hopkins shook his man and skied for a one-handed catch that is amazing to most but seemingly routine for the Texans star. Later Hopkins found himself working hard in teams as Deshaun Watson went to him over and over again. 

2. Hopkins addressed his altercation with Jimmie Ward after practice. He said it was "nothing" and joked they were actually playing tic-tac-toe. He went on to say it was just a scuffle and "that's football" before saying he and Ward were cool. 

3. Richard Sherman and Deandre Hopkins squared off late in the practice. Sherman looks so weird in 49ers gear and he was quite the match for Hopkins. After the practice Hopkins said it is nice to see guys like Sherman in practice because they are an elite talent and then he gets with those players to find out what he can improve on. Hopkins said it is an information exchange in those situations. 

4. The Texans pass catchers started fast and furious against the 49ers. Hopkins, Will Fuller, Bruce Ellington, Braxton Miller, and Sammie Coates all started the drills portion with consecutive catches. The wideouts didn't stay dominant though as the 49ers DBs caught up and pulled out some wins of their own. Keke Coutee is missing a ton of opportunity with his injury and it may be opening the door for Braxton Miller or Sammie Coates to make the roster. Coates had a wonderful over the shoulder catch and Miller shook loose with ease a couple of times. It is the most interesting battle in camp and gets even more interesting when Coutee returns and takes some reps away from the other pass catchers. 

5. Bruce Ellington is hard to cover and his movements once he gets the ball are fluid and sudden. There hasn't been a 49ers player that could cover him in space yet. Ellington hasn't played a ton in the NFL but the Texans seem to trust him with various wideout duties including the slot. 

6. The running game was again disappointing. The Texans got very little going on the ground once again. Troymaine Pope has some nice wiggle in the tight spaces and shot through on a few reps but his size might make that difficult to replicate in a full go game. Alfred Blue made some people pay on the line of scrimmage today. 

7. Kareem Jackson had an interception off Jimmy Garoppolo today. The 49ers started a team portion by taking a shot deep only to find the Texans new safety patiently waiting for the ball. Kurtis Drummond had another interception today as well in team drills. 

8. A scary moment for Brandon Weeden as a 49ers linebacker fell onto his legs as Weeden headed to the ground. Weeden was animated in his displeasure with his opponent as touching the quarterbacks is off limits. Weeden hit an amazing play-action pass to Braxton Miller after a successful run and still, despite his age, has a cannon. 

9. Speaking of cannons, Deshaun Watson almost put a hole in Ryan Griffin in a red zone rep. With his head surveying left to right and a pass rush closing in Watson fit a rocket into the tightest window we have seen since the Texans arrived back in Houston. Between two 49ers players and almost through Griffin. Touchdown Texans. 

10. Justin Reid earned a hearty congratulations from Tyrann Mathieu after he popped a 49ers player to end a rep. Reid said after practice the first game was a great experience because now he can start adjusting to the speed of the game and see the level at which he can compete. He had a great pass break up on a long Jimmy Garoppolo pass to a tight end. 

11. Bill O'Brien explained the "starters" would play "about the same" as the first preseason game. He explained they got a lot of game-like action over the past two days making it less important for them to play in the preseason game. He said it was just "really good work" the past two days. 

Looking ahead: The 49ers play the Texans Saturday night. The players to watch will be Sammie Coates (18) and Braxton Miller (13) as they battle for a spot on the team and on defense pay attention to Duke Ejiofor (53) to see if he is more consistent and Angelo Blackson (97) to see if he is still causing mayhem on the defensive line. The team needs to be better at rushing the football so pay attention to that as a whole for the offense. 

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Keep an eye on Kevin Harvick. Photo by Wiki Commons

It's been a season of surprises as the NASCAR Cup Series begins its West Coast swing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This is one of NASCAR's many mile and a half tracks, but this one is different as it is much more bumpy and when this track gets in the sun, it gets slippery as well. The track is a lot more narrow than the other mile and a half tracks as well, so there will be a lot more close quarter racing.

Last week at Homestead, William Byron pulled away from the field and went on to claim his second career victory. The Charlotte native battled back from early tire issues and ran as low as 31st until he was able to claw his way back to the front around stage 2 when he drove around the two JGR teammates of Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin to take the stage victory. There has been a lot of expectations and hype around this young phenom but in his first three years, it took him a while to grow into a race winner. It wasn't until last year when Byron claimed his first win at the Daytona fall race. This year he was paired with crew-chief Rudy Fugle. This pair amassed tons of success when they worked together in the Truck Series back in 2016 when they won seven races. It seems now that the pair could be back to their winning ways. This looks like this could be a good pairing down the line.

As we all know, this has been the season of surprises and those surprises continued last week as Michael McDowell went on to his third consecutive top ten finish as he finished eighth. McDowell has been sort of a journeyman driver. He has raced for teams such as LeaVine Family Racing and the now defunct Michael Waltrip Racing where he got his start. While it has only been three races, he's in the midst of a career year beginning with a victory in this year's Daytona 500. Many thought that victory was a fluke and that he was "wasting a playoff spot," but since then he has proved his haters wrong as he currently sits fourth in the points. Will this streak continue? I think it can. His string of good runs puts him in an advantageous position as he gets to start up front each week and knowing how important qualifying was, he has really been able to take advantage of this. Look for the #34 Loves Ford Mustang to build on this.

The favorite for this week's race has to be Joey Logano. In the fifteen races Logano has started in here, he has ten top fives and two victories including last season's spring Vegas race in February. He hasn't got off to the best start as it's been three up and down races for him. From finishing second at the Daytona road course to following that up with a twenty-fifth last week at Homestead. This week though I believe he can get everything back on track with a good run or a victory.

The driver that I am picking to win this week is Kevin Harvick. The future Hall of Famer has been stout this season with a 6th and 5th place finish. The speed for Harvick and his team have been there, but they just haven't been able to get the win. But this week he's going to a track he has excelled at big time. He will start from the pole this Sunday and that should really scare the whole field. He has two victories here and twelve top tens since his beginning back in 2001. I look for him to get his third victory here and begin another run for his second championship.

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