Cody Stoots: 11 Observations from Texans training camp for Wed., Aug. 15

Deshaun Watson and the Texans got in some work against the 49ers. Zach Tarrant/Houstontexans.com

1. DeAndre Hopkins and 49ers DB Jimmie Ward fought after the first rep of joint practices. Ward jammed Hopkins hard and went under the chin and dislodged Hopkins' helmet. After the rep was over Ward swatted at the ball eliciting a shove from Hopkins. The Texans wideout shoved Ward in the face and the fracas was on. Ward took some swings at Hopkins and the two tangled and went to the ground. Hopkins ended up on the bottom of the pile with Ward on top of him and coaches and teammates pulling the two apart. Both were sent off, though Ward returned to the sidelines. Oh, and Hopkins caught the ball. 

2. “Ridiculous. We gotta move on from that quick" was Bill O'Brien's response. 49ers head man Kyle Shanahan lamented the missed opportunity for those two in practice. Tuesday O'Brien said anything eliciting an ejection in the game would see a player leave practice. In a game, both would have been ejected. 

3. The defenses were the big winners today with the offenses having minimal consistent success. Not to say there wasn't any, Jimmy Garoppolo and Deshaun Watson both threw some beautiful passes today, but chalk up a win overall for both defenses. 

4. The Texans had no luck running the football today against the 49ers. The team lacked consistent gains on the ground and often found themselves with the line of scrimmage as their best result. The offensive line struggled to protect Watson a few times in the middle of practice but picked it up near the end where Watson was able to stand and deliver a few nice passes. 

5. J.J. Watt is no stranger to being the driving force behind a "welcome to the NFL" moment and today he was at it again. 49ers rookie tackle Mike McGlinchey had very limited success against Watt. He was mauled in a one-on-one drill by Watt and in some team reps Watt flew by the rookie for what would have been the end of Garoppolo. Watt has looked fantastic this preseason and much closer to pre-back Watt than last year's version. 

6. Angelo Blackson again had a solid day as he works into the defensive line rotation. He won a few reps in line drills and in some team drills flashed penetration which would have ended with a sack in a game. He even batted a ball down as well. He has a great shot to make this team and could easily be one of the backup defensive linemen for the Texans. 

7. With no Jadevon Clowney or Whitney Mercilus in team drills, the Texans have to be thrilled with that their pass rush looked like today. Watt was a monster as usual. Brennan Scarlett is making the most of his opportunities and is annoying offensive linemen. Rookie Duke Ejiofor flashed a nice pass rush move or two today as well. It may not be until the season debut against the Patriots, but watching this Texans pass rush is going to be fun.

8. The Texans wide receivers had one heck of a day in drills and even in some of the team portion. Even without Hopkins, they should count today as a big win for them over the 49ers secondary. Almost every wideout had a play or two to be proud of in drills.  

9. The Texans secondary can chalk up a win as well for today. Though they had a few breakdowns in the latter portion, they did well against a fairly talented 49ers group. Marquise Goodwin is a freak for the 49ers and seems like he will end up the No. 1 target there. He didn't have a lot of success today though. Kurtis Drummond had a pick-six for the team and Tyrann Mathieu took a Garoppolo pass back to the house in a team session. 

10. Sammie Coates and Braxton Miller didn't do anything to separate themselves from each other in their quest to round out the pass catchers. Miller shook loose on more than a few 49ers and left them looking for their jocks. Coates ran right past a DB catching a beauty of a pass from Brandon Weeden for a touchdown in a one-on-one drill. Bruce Ellington had a shake on a 49ers defender than nearly broke his ankle as Ellington ran free. A good day for the pass catchers on the Texans. 

11. Ryan Griffin seems like he could end up being an under the radar fantasy option from the Texans. Watson found him again and again and Griffin hauled in some tough catches. The two linked up a little last season and with Griffin the clear-cut No. 1 he is creeping up the rankings of Watson's favorite targets. Rookie Jordan Thomas is huge and it almost looks awkward but he's very athletic. He caught a pass off his shoelaces today that was an absolute bullet from Watson. 


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Should Watson be in the MVP conversation? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2020 NFL season has a lot going on. Even if we take the coronavirus out of it, there's still a lot to digest. There are so many great performances being put up, one can make an argument for several players to win league MVP. The quarterback position typically gets more credit than others. If I restrict the argument to quarterbacks only, we're looking at Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Derrick Henry are the leading contenders at running back. On defense, there really isn't a standout defender. The defense gets no love, but there are several guys in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Deshaun Watson has been putting up numbers that have matched or rivaled some of the top MVP candidates over his last seven games. That stretch has coincided with the firing of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien. Coincidence? I think not. Taking the reigns off a wild horse can often lead to said horse running free and flourishing! So question: Should Watson be getting league MVP considerations? I think so.

For starters, he's been one of the best players in the league over the course of the last seven games. 18 passing touchdowns and only two interceptions. The only quarterback with a better touchdown to interception ratio over that same span is Mahomes (19 and 2, as opposed to Watson's 18 & 2). Factoring in total season stats, of course Mahomes is doing much better. He's on a better team with a much better coach and general manager. The same could be said for Wilson and Rodgers. Put Watson on any of those teams and their records wouldn't be any worse than what they are now.

The Texans are 4-3 since firing O'Brien. While that isn't a great record, consider the fact they started the season 0-4 and looked like a total disaster. Watson looked like he was caged and couldn't wait to be freed. The team's record could be even better if the defense had a pulse. The proper supporting cast has a lot to do with a player's MVP candidate's chances. Now that one of his favorite weapons, Will Fuller, and the team's best corner, Bradley Roby, are both suspended for the rest of the season by the league for violating the substance abuse/PED policy, things will get much tougher for Watson.

If he continues to put up these cartoon like numbers, I don't see why he wouldn't be in the MVP conversation. He's currently fopurth in passing yards, sixth in completion percentage, tied for fifth in passing touchdowns, eighth in QBR, and third in quarterback rating. Watson is emerging as the star he was projected to be coming into the 2017 draft. I'm not saying Watson deserves to be the league MVP, but he deserves to be in the conversation. His MVP candidacy should be treated like the family gathering hierarchy: once you reach a certain age and/or status, you're no longer resigned to the kiddie table. Now you get to sit with all the adults, engage in their conversations, and gain access to things you couldn't previously. Watson won't win the MVP award, but I strongly believe he could finish top five. Especially if he keeps making lemonade with the lemons he's been given.

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