Day 1 of Spotlighting Unheralded Players from Training Camp
Hidden gems at Texans Camp
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.
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.
- 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)
- 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.