Day 1 of Spotlighting Unheralded Players from Training Camp

Hidden gems at Texans Camp

Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The first day of the Houston Texans 2019 Training camp is in the books. The players aren't yet in pads, so we'll save the heavy-hitting for a later date. As we roll through camp, I'll take a closer look at some players that caught my eye that day or in days prior.

I'll be zeroing in on players that don't come with the hype of being an early draft selection or big name free agent signing. Most of these players were day three selections in their respective draft class or went undrafted, altogether.

For today, my attention kept drifting towards a possible weapon for the Texans' franchise signal-caller, Deshaun Watson. We all know DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee and even Vyncint Smith and DeAndre Carter to a lesser extent.

Due to the injuries of Fuller and Coutee in the past, the Texans have to be proactive in acquiring talent that could step up when needed, like Smith did with a 35-yard touchdown catch in a close loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018. Much like with the undrafted Smith, the Texans usually have to wait until after the draft to try and find these diamonds-in-the-rough.

Behind the three receivers, whose roster's spots are chiseled into place; Smith and Carter are the favorites to gain the fourth and possible fifth spot among receivers on the final 53, but there's a lot of football to be played over the rest of July and into August, that could shuffle in some surprises.

Among the core attempting to race from the back of the pack for a chance to gain one of those highly coveted spots as insurance to Hopkins, Fuller and Coutee, are the likes of Johnnie Dixon, Isaac Whitney, Stephen Louis, Steven Mitchell Jr., Floyd Allen and Jester Weah. But after one day, it was Tyron Johnson that caught my eye.

Tyron Johnson

6'1 --- 193 pounds

4.34 (Pro Day 40-time)

I noticed Johnson cutting on a dime today at a break-neck pace. After making a few notes, I decided to study a few of his games from his last season at Oklahoma State.

Positives:

  • In and Out of routes quickly
  • Can change pace in route to create separation and lull a defensive back in
  • Sharp cuts and stops
  • Works to open spot on extended plays
  • Explosive on the line
  • Hesi-step (Will hesitate in break or off the line to setup the defensive back)
  • Ability to win over the top
  • Return man ability in space (hitches / tunnels / screens / soft spot in zone / drags)
  • Locates the ball well
  • Willing blocker (but needs to add bulk for running game and as a possible gunner on STs)
Negatives:
  • Needs to work back to the ball
  • Lacks physicality through contact, shies away
  • Doesn't fully trust his hands
  • Goes too wide on press
  • Out route is a crap shoot for QBs to throw to with him
  • Occasional bad drop
  • Needs route work and consistency

Johnson should have returned for his senior season. In the games I watched, he took about 90% of the reps on the left side of the formation. He felt comfortable from this side running "Go" routes, along with skinny posts, deep posts, tunnels and hitches. When he was feeling it, he'd setup defensive backs with hesitation or jab steps.

I believe the Texans benefited from the New Orleans' kid leaving school early, as they got a young man with NFL potential on the undrafted market. He's in the right spot to assist with his strengths and develop his weaknesses.

I've often said that Bill O'Brien blew me away his first season as the Texans' Head Coach, when I watched him working with All-Pro, veteran receiver, Andre Johnson. O'Brien was/is meticulous in route-running and one of the best teachers in this aspect. Johnson should develop his abilities into an NFL player, if given time and sufficient reps.

2019 Roster Expectation:

While I believe O'Brien will get Tyron Johnson "right," I think it'll come after a "redshirt" season, similar to his time in college. The NFL "redshirt" season comes in the form of the practice squad. The Texans have their three studs at the receiver position and a couple of guys that they've grown comfortable with to some degree. A year around the best receiver in the game, DeAndre Hopkins, another receiver with 4.3 speed that knows how to win with it at the NFL level in Will Fuller and a young receiver that is the king of the sharp, quick cuts, in Keke Coutee, along with Bill O'Brien's "route school," could make this kid a find for the future.

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Houston couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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