TEXANS CAMP REPORT

Cody Stoots: 11 Observations from Texans training camp for Tuesday, Aug. 14

Cody Stoots: 11 Observations from Texans training camp for Tuesday, Aug. 14
Will Fuller has been looking good in practice. Photo by Edward Clarke

1. Bill O'Brien was much more pleased with today's practice as opposed to the start of the week. He said he liked the way his guys competed against each other today. The offense struggled a little more early but late found some rhythm and success and ultimately the end zone. It would still be considered a defensive win for today though. 

2. The Texans are managing reps for certain players this training camp. DeAndre Hopkins and Whitney Mercilus fall into that category. O'Brien mentioned it was a focus to manage the workload and to have them ready for the regular season. He noted there is still close to three weeks before the regular season and players fall into different levels of their reps. 

3. Seantrell Henderson is "fine" according to O'Brien despite missing today. Kendall Lamm and Chad Slade are among the names competing for backup tackle snaps. Lamm had some wins today but the offensive line as a whole struggled at times during situational practicing. 

4. Will Fuller had a huge day today. Deshaun Watson found him a few times for impressive plays. Fuller used a double move to escape Kevin Johnson in a one-on-one drill. He also pulled down a corner strike from Watson that required some impressive contortion to stay in bounds and bring it down. Fuller looks much more complete this year and the opportunity afforded him while Hopkins has his reps managed has paid off. 

5. Kevin Johnson had a long day today. A few red zone drills saw Johnson bested by Sammie Coates and Vyncint Smith. Smith had to make a contested catch with Johnson being physical at the point of attack but he pulled it down eliciting loud praise from tight end Ryan Griffin. Coates outmaneuvered Johnson in the corner for a score. Both plays would be unlikely to happen if there was a pass rush but in this instance, the offense got the best of Johnson. 

6. Sammie Coates is moving into the realm where it would be a surprise if he is cut by the Texans. He ran right by Johnathan Joseph in a drill displaying surprising burst and speed. He plays outside wide receiver and is likely competing with Braxton Miller on a near daily basis for the fifth wideout spot. Miller mentioned after practice he aims to listen to the coaches as he is asked to process a lot of information playing inside and outside for the offense. 

7. Aaron Colvin is fun to watch in coverage. The intensity around him is impressive to see and he is focused in his approach. He had a great pass breakup in a drill against Bruce Ellington and he almost stalks wideouts the way he moves around before the snap. He will be a player to watch as the 49ers come to town tomorrow. 

8. Christian Covington and J.J. Watt absolutely mauled the offense on one team play. In a totally live rep, the duo would've easily combined for a sack and their disruption was evident on quite a few plays. Covington looks completely healthy after ending the year on injured reserve last year. He seemed to be hitting his stride and having him back this year will strengthen a strong position group for the Texans. Angelo Blackson flashes in practice a lot as well. 

9. Covington and Watt's teammate D.J. Reader crashed Watt's post-practice podium appearance joking around about Watt. Reader noted Watt is quite the Jeopardy player and Watt hates Reader's dirty locker. He also mentioned Watt was the better soccer player of the two and better at shooting video games when they play, but Reader took the credit for besting Watt at sports video games. A lighthearted and fun moment post-practice. Watt said at the podium today he would be playing in the season opener against the Patriots. 

10. Dylan Cole summarized the Texans emotions and feelings ahead of their joint practices with the 49ers with the notion he was ready to "hit someone else" noting he is tired of talking trash to teammates after practice and they are ready to see fresh opponents. He praised his fellow inside linebackers and said he believes they could be the best linebacker group in the league. Cole also joked people know who he is but not enough to recognize him on a trip to the grocery store. 

11. O'Brien seemed to relish the joint practices beginning. He noted he is fond of those and though he wouldn't go far enough to say they were better than preseason games. He mentioned the specific focus they can take in a joint practice as opposed to a preseason game. He gushed about 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and mentioned he is excited to see his players execute what they have learned and use their instincts with their visitors in town. He also said he and 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan have agreed if a player does something that would get him ejected in a game he will be ejected in joint practices as well. 

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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