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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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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