Team scrimmage news and notes

Deshaun Watson and Randall Cobb established chemistry during Texans' team scrimmage

Photo Courtesy of the Houston Texans

Back up quarterback A.J. McCarron and running back Buddy Howell were left baffled by the results of the previous play. With the ball in their possession, there was a miss-communication between McCarron and Howell that resulted in a failed handoff. As the ball fell to the ground bouncing freely, outside linebacker Jacob Martin gained its possession to score a touchdown for the defense.

Head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien described Martin's defensive act as an example of the high "energy" he plays with, and it was one of several highlights that took place inside the NRG Stadium, Thursday night, during the Houston Texans' team scrimmage.

On a night when the Texans witnessed Deshaun Watson establishing chemistry with Randall Cobb on a few deep throws and an improved pass-rush defense, ended with their star quarterback along with Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas, and J.J. Watt leading a discussion at midfield about social injustice. The passionate team meeting was the pinnacle of Houston's team scrimmage.

"We spoke with players and we just felt that, relative to everything that's going on, we had some good discussions today — these are ongoing discussions," O'Brien said. "As a team, we decided that we want to go out there and scrimmage — get something done. We play two weeks from now, so we felt like that was important. We also felt like it was important to give the guys time to talk about things."

The uproar over the shooting of Jacob Blake — an unarmed African American male who was shot seven times by Wisconsin police on Sunday — reached its tipping point in the world of sports on Wednesday.

The Milwaukee Bucks set off a chain reaction by boycotting their playoff game against the Orlando Magic that resulted in an abundance of professional teams canceling their planned events. In the NFL, nine teams canceled practice — including the Washington Football Team, who postponed their scheduled team scrimmage on Thursday. But with their season set to begin against the Chiefs in less than two weeks, the Texans — as a team — felt it was best to proceed with their planned scrimmage while keeping the fight against social injustice at the forefront.

Stills, who was emotionally distraught during practice on Monday, had a performance that could have been detrimental to an opponent team's defense. He connected with Watson on several pass attempts, and recorded a touchdown in the process. The team scrimmage might have been enough for safety A.J. Moore to gain more playing time in 2020, as the third-year defensive back notched a sack and an interception on McCarron.

Unfortunately, Houston's team scrimmage did not end without a visit from the always unwanted injury bug. Wide receiver Chad Hansen sustained an apparent shoulder injury after taking a hit by cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. O'Brien said there will be more information on Hansen's injury on Friday.

As the players departed the field to head to the locker room, one significant theme stood out following Thursday's team scrimmage. The Texans' fight to help end systemic racism is just as serious as their quest to capture their first Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2020.

"I think Doc Rivers, what he said after their game really hit home for me," O'Brien said. "I think that's something that should be played on loop. It was so passionate and just so real. I just have a lot of respect for Doc. I think Andy Reid had some great things to say. I would say the big word is 'empathy' and how can we come together and figure out how to put actions in place that create change."

"I think that's what our players are talking about. Our players are very bright guys and we have a lot of good pros on this team. They wanted to scrimmage and they also wanted to talk about what's going on. So, we'll just keep working on it."

Absent from Thursday's scrimmage: Dylan Cole. Brandin Cooks. Isaiah Coulter. Keke Coutee. Phillip Gaines. Cullen Gillaspia. Jonathan Greenard. J.J. Watt.

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Davis Mills has to work to do. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Houston Texans took to the field for their second day of workouts on the field. Here are 11 observations from a shaky offensive day.

1. Mills had a shakier day than his first. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. There were a lot of teachable moments for him in this practice. General manager Nick Caserio said consistency is the biggest thing for him in evaluating a player. Part of the consistency is how often do you make the same mistakes, according to Caserio. Mills has work to do before Monday’s practice.

2. Even with the shaky day, there is still excitement to Mills. Seeing how he bounces back will be big, and the challenge won't be easy as the team will have a padded practice on Monday. Traditionally, defenses are ahead of the offense early in training camp.

3. Nico Collins and Davis Mills weren’t on the same page on Saturday. The two had a few miscommunications that led to some incomplete passes. Mills also came up just a little long on a deep pass to Collins. Later the two hooked up for a nice completion as Collins beat rookie Derek Stingley Jr. but it was not the best day for the two second-year players.

4. There weren’t a lot of receivers getting open today. Brandin Cooks is about the only player who constantly gets open. It led to Davis Mills holding the ball a few times and ultimately deciding to check the ball down. The secondary had a solid day.

5. Lovie Smith said after practice they don’t scheme up a lot of short passes and this team will need to move the ball through the air. He did lament that sometimes you have to take a quick and short gain as an offense. Smith also joked when you don’t like the passing game you can give credit to the coverage.

6. Speaking of the secondary, it featured a lot of Derek Stingley Jr. on Saturday. The first passing drill with the offense against defense saw Stingley Jr. square off with Brandin Cooks. It was again a win for Cooks, but the rookie had some nice moments on the field. Chris Conley also had a nice win against Stingley Jr. in coverage. The Texans have to get their first-round pick acclimated to how they will use him. I will say though that Stingley Jr. makes things look fluid and easy as he moves about the defense.

7. Safety Terrence Brooks has put together a nice couple of days to start training camp. He has had at least one pass break-up in each of the first two days and he has a lot of energy in the secondary. Rookie Jalen Pitre dashed into the backfield sniffing out a toss play showcasing his anticipation.

8. Garret Wallow was a player showing up to camp with high expectations, and he’d earned them. The late-round pick last year had done a great job getting his body in shape, and it feels like he is all over the field. Wallow had a pass break-up Saturday and he is near the top of my list for when the pads come on Monday.

9. Speaking of players who will excite when the pads come on, Kenyon Green is near the top of my list too. The “other” first-round pick for the Texans hasn’t played as much as you would maybe like so far, but he absolutely STONED a defender on a running play. There is work to do, but Green has flashes and in pads, he should flash more.

10. Jerry Hughes is one of the oldest players on the field. You wouldn’t know it though. The veteran has a ton of energy, and he’s very vocal. He easily dismissed Laremy Tunsil for what would have been a sack. Hughes is going to be a necessary contributor to this team in 2022.

11. Jonathan Greenard, Justin Britt, and Kamu Grugier-Hill all practiced after missing time on Friday. Phillip Dorsett has yet to really get involved and Lovie Smith said Dorsett is a little dinged up. The team will practice in pads on Monday for the first time. Jalen Pitre, Kenyon Green, Garret Wallow, Christian Harris, and Roy Lopez are the players I have near the top of my list to keep an eye on as the pads come on.

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