Davis Mills was a bright spot for Houston. Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images.
The Houston Texans had their last official workout before the summer break. Here are 11 observations from the practice.
1. The final day of workouts for the offseason possessed the best throws from Davis Mills of the open practices. Mills was crisp and showcased touch, power, and accuracy. Mills is by far the best quarterback in camp.
2. The highlight of the day was a strike down the middle of the field by Mills to an outstretched Chris Conley. The reception was fantastic from Conley and the ball from Mills was only where his wideout could catch it. The catch was about a 50-yard play.
3. Mills and Nico Collins have good chemistry. There was again a front-of-the-endzone touchdown catch from Collins today. Collins showcased body control and hands on the catch as he took it to the ground for a score.
4. Brandin Cooks is a tough cover for the defense. Steven Nelson didn't have a chance of stopping Cooks in the red zone. There was a sideline connection to gain a chunk of yards later in practice. Cooks should be in line for similar numbers to last year, but maybe with more efficiency if the other pass catchers can step up.
5. Pharaoh Brown shook loose in a red zone rep for a score. The big-bodied tight end hauled in a strike from Mills for a score. The tight end position is wide open for all contributors to step up and take over spots for the team.
6. A few hiccups for the running backs today. Marlon Mack had a drop on an easy pass. Rex Burkhead fumbled the ball on an inside toss from Davis Mills. It was a so-so day from a running back perspective.
7. Ross Blacklock made a big play on a rushing play that would have resulted in a huge loss for the offense. There is a lot of competition along the defensive line and that could be a tough spot to cut down in training camp.
8. Speaking of the defensive line, there were a couple of wins for those guys today. Laremy Tunsil saw on a couple of plays the reason why Jerry Hughes has been in the NFL for so long. Hughes won a rep that would have resulted in a crushing blow on a quarterback in a live rep.
9. Kenyon Green did a bit more than he had in previous open workouts. Derek Stingley did a bit less. Stingley has yet to widely participate in what coaches call "competitive" reps such as 1-on-1, 7-on-7, and team situations.
10. I hope I don't have to talk about him, well, ever, but the Texans might have a top-five player at one position. Punter Cameron Johnston can BOOM the ball. He spends time on a side field trying out new types of punts. It is remarkable to watch. That hopefully is the last punt update of the 2022 season.
11. This concludes the offseason portion for the Texans. The team now has a break of about six weeks until training camp begins in late July, and thus the 2022 season really begins. The current win projection for the Texans at most sportsbooks is 4.5 wins.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.