Texans training camp: Davis Mills bounces back after struggling against Rams

Texans training camp: Davis Mills bounces back after struggling against Rams
Hopefully, Mills will play better against the 49ers on Thursday. Photo via: Cody Stoots.

The Houston Texans hit the field after their preseason victory against the Rams. Here are 11 observations from the practice.

1. Davis Mills failed to impress on Friday against the Rams. Sure, he had a few nice plays but overall, I was left wanting more from his performance. Practice on Monday saw Mills bouncing back. He was whipping the ball wherever he wanted. It was a solid bounce-back performance overall for Mills.

2. Davis Mills connected on a bomb to Brandin Cooks down the sidelines. This offense needs Cooks to be good and Mills relies on him quite a bit as almost a safety net. There is potential for Cooks to have one of his more statistically impressive seasons.

3. Phillip Dorsett is making this team. Dorsett had the hard grab on Friday before the touchdown and just seems to find an open area. He has the chance to be the yards after catch leader on this team. It was a slow start due to injury, but Dorsett has come on nicely.

4. Nico Collins had a few more highlight reel plays in practice. He makes some hard stuff look easy. It will be interesting to see how the dynamic of Collins and Brandin Cooks develops when both are on the field. Cooks has yet to play in the preseason.

5. Brandin Cooks did Derek Stingley dirty on Monday. It was almost like the recent weeks of praise for Stingley annoyed Cooks. It was a few moves and Cooks made it past the rookie for a score. Mills put the ball right on the spot. Cooks, remains, un-guardable in camp.

6. Derek Stingley is so smooth. He moved off a player he was covering to close the distance on Brandin Cooks coming across the middle. It was non-contact but assuming he makes the tackle it would have been stopping Cooks short of a first down, forcing a fourth down.

7. Rookie linebacker Christian Harris is still not practicing. Lovie Smith said he won’t play this week. With injuries to Harris, Garrett Wallow, and Kevin Pierre-Louis, undrafted free agent Jake Hansen has gotten a lot of work. Hansen played for Lovie Smith at Illinois.

8. The Texans have two players competing for fullback. Paul Quessenberry and Troy Hairston are the remaining options for that position. The team cut veteran fullback Andy Janovich. Hairston is a special teams ace capable of playing on almost every special teams unit. I’d think he has a shot to surprise and make the team.

9. Rookie tight end Seth Green made a fantastic play Monday. He caught a deep pass over his shoulder as he was headed out of bounds. Both feet in. There is room for Green on the practice squad, but the likelihood he can make the initial roster feels slim.

10. Steven Nelson had some very nice plays Monday. The combination of Nelson and rookie Derek Stingley is far superior to last year’s situation. I don’t know where it is compared to every top cornerback tandem, but they are so much better than last year.

11. Lovie Smith continues to say the third preseason game will be the main one for starters playing time. The 49ers could see Brandin Cooks, Jerry Hughes, and others who have yet to play in the preseason.

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Will the Astros ever give Joey Loperfido a chance to fix the black hole at first base? Composite Getty Image.

So how long do you suppose the Astros will cling to the ludicrous notion that Jose Abreu will return to being a sustainably decent hitter (much less a good hitter)? The All-Star break? The trade deadline July 30? The day the Astros are eliminated from the playoff race? End of the season? End of his contract at the end of next season? Maybe they sign him to a two-year extension?

Since rejoining the team Abreu has played in 13 games, starting 12 of them. He has seven hits in 42 at bats for a .167 batting average. That’s only not horrible in comparison to the sub-pathetic .099 mark Abreu had when hiatus time arrived. Since returning, Abreu has walked once. If you remember or are familiar with Susan Powter you know what comes next. STOP THE INSANITY!

Kyle Tucker’s absence obviously punches a big hole in the Astros’ lineup. Still, that regularly running out Jeremy Pena in the cleanup or fifth spot in the lineup doesn’t seem completely ridiculous, is ridiculous! Pena has been abysmal for the last month. May 11 he put up his fourth consecutive multi-hit game. In 29 games since, Pena has added one more homer with an anemic on-base percentage of .238. Not batting average, OBP. Yuck. All teams solicit All-Star votes for non-worthy guys. Pena plays in the same league as Gunnar Henderson, Bobby Witt Jr., Corey Seager, and Anthony Volpe. Hyping Pena for the All-Star game is plain ol’ silly.

Jon Singleton ever slotting in the lineup fourth or fifth, sigh. He of one homer and 28 strikeouts in his last 79 at bats. It’s just a sad state of affairs that no one below Pena or Singleton in the lineup should obviously be higher in the lineup. Mauricio Dubon, Victor Caratini, Trey Cabbage are all bottom third of the lineup if in the lineup type guys. Chas McCormick seemingly losing almost all of his hitting ability has hurt. Yainer Diaz stinking for much more of the season to date than he’s been good has hurt.

The refusal to try Joey Loperfido at first base is somewhere from perplexing to stupid. Look, Loperfido is not an elite prospect. His poor contact skills may doom him from becoming a quality regular. But find out! He struck out a bunch in his first taste but also hit .333. The low upside of the Abreu-Singleton combo is obvious. Evidently to just about all but Astros’ decision makers. Going with Trey Cabbage over Loperfido in the outfield also underwhelms.

Chasing down the Mariners?

It could all still turn for the better, but the Astros are at increasing risk of fading to oblivion behind Seattle in the American League West race. They deserve to be 31-38. They have a losing record at home, they have a losing record on the road. They have a losing record in day games, they have a losing record in night games. They are 7-14 in games against left-handed starting pitchers, they are 24-24 (hey, .500, yippee!) vs. right-handed starters. It would take a serious collapse to fall entirely out of the Wild Card race before the trade deadline, but the Astros are flirting with danger there too. They have to leapfrog several teams to get to the third Wild Card position, currently held by the Minnesota Twins. This doesn’t seem to be a good weekend to gain ground on them. Not that A.J. Hinch’s Detroit Tigers visiting Minute Maid Park this weekend are anything special, though in Friday night’s series opener the Astros face the arguably best starting pitcher in the big leagues this season (Tarik Skubal). But the Twins have four games at home against the lowly Oakland A’s.

If Minnesota is not to overtake Kansas City and Cleveland to win the AL Central, you know Carlos Correa would love to make the playoffs at his ex-team’s expense. Wednesday Correa banged out the first five-hit game of his career. It’s pretty amazing that Jose Altuve has never had a five-hit game given how great a hitter he’s been and the relatively few walks he’s drawn. Sunday in Anaheim, Altuve racked up his 39th four-hit game. Remember, last September, Altuve hit five home runs over seven innings that overlapped two games against the Texas Rangers.

George Springer is the lone Astro ever to rack up six hits in a game, doing so at Oakland in 2018. So far this month, Springer is six for 40. Springer has two seasons left after this one on the six-year 150 million dollar contract he signed with Toronto. At 34 years old he is playing as if washed up. 2023 was the worst season of Springer’s career and he has fallen off a cliff from there thus far in 2024. Springer is batting .198 with his OPS at a sickly .582.

There is only one player in the modern era (1900 forward) of Major League Baseball to amass seven hits in a nine-inning game. In 1975 Rennie Stennett went seven for seven at Wrigley Field in a Pittsburgh Pirates 22-0 obliteration of the Chicago Cubs. The “Bleacher Bums” must have had fun that day.

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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