The Texans suffered some injuries. Composite image by Brandon Strange
The Houston Texans wrapped up another open practice in the optional portion of the offseason. The mandatory minicamp gets going a week from today, but before we get there, here are the observations from today's workout.
1. Starting center Justin Britt went down with an injury during one of the team portions of the practice. Britt hopped away from the play, then went to the ground. He pounded the ground a few times and was grabbing his left foot/ankle area. Later, Britt was up and walking, but an unfortunate moment for the veteran. Britt is tough, he played through a serious knee injury last year, so hopefully, this doesn't linger. Scott Quessenberry played center after Britt's injury. Quessenberry is the younger brother of former Texans offensive lineman David Quessenberry and current fullback Paul Quessenberry.
2. Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton went down without contact running a drill. He was carted off the field. Hamilton came over as a free agent from the Broncos and certainly had an opportunity to make the team. The injury looked bad, and teammates came over and offered their condolences before he was carted away.
3. Rookies Derek Stingley, John Metchie, and Teagan Quitoriano didn't participate in most of the practice. Stingley did walkthroughs at cornerback, but I didn't see him do anything else. Metchie caught passes and ran some light routes by himself with coaches throwing the ball to him. Quitoriano has yet to do anything with the other tight ends when it comes to on-field work.
4. The defensive backs had a nice day today against the wideouts and the tight ends. Lovie Smith praised the performance of the defensive backs after practice, but noted as the head coach he wants to see more from the offense. If I had to hand out a "winner" for today, it would be the secondary for the Texans. Kendall Sheffield forced a fumble after a Phillip Dorsett reception. Tremon Smith was among the defensive backs who had a pass breakup. M.J. Stewart, the veteran free agent signed from Cleveland, broke up a nice Davis Mills pass intended for Chris Moore. Moore should have probably been able to make the play.
5. Rookie safety Jalen Pitre is a fun watch. Head coach Lovie Smith said the former Baylor safety has been "outstanding" to watch. His recognition already looks impressive. Pitre went step-for-step with Brevin Jordan across the middle and at the last moment lunged past Jordan to knock the pass down. It will be exciting to see him with pads on as he flashes in the running game as well. He fits in nicely on the field with other veteran safeties.
6. Speaking of rookies having success, Chrisitan Harris was on the field with, as Lovie Smith described them, "the ones" during practice. It is clear there is an opportunity for the third-round pick to impact this team. There are veterans in front of him, but he, as well as second-year linebacker Garrett Wallow, will factor into the defensive game plan it seems.
7. Marlon Mack displayed some burst and a few of the traits and moments that led to him rushing for 1,999 yards over two seasons earlier in his career. Mack said after the workout, he has been back to normal for a year now after an injury derailed his 2020 campaign. Mack said he just needs an opportunity to showcase his ability, but knows this will be a competition at running back. Mack notably made a quick decision cut and took a ball up field with speed. Later, he was patient in taking a ball to the edge and cutting up the field.
8. Tytus Howard looks to be in incredible shape, maybe the best of his NFL career. Howard played at right tackle and rarely did he fail to outright win his rep. With Howard at right tackle, Charlie Heck played some snaps at left tackle. Laremy Tunsil is still absent from the practices, but these workouts are not mandatory. Justin McCray saw some work with Heck, Justin Britt, A.J. Cann, and Howard.
9. Nico Collins had a few nice plays during the practice. Collins drew high praise from veteran Steven Nelson after practice, who said he likes Collins and his game a lot. There were more than a few reps where it looked like Collins was open, or about to be open, before the ball ended up somewhere else. Collins will be an important piece of the offense.
10. The tight ends have yet to impress. Perhaps their value and skills will be better on display when the pads are on, but the receiving of this group is not good right now. Pharaoh Brown dropped an easy play over the middle. Outside of Brevin Jordan, there hasn't been a tight end flash when catching passes.
11. Davis Mills had yet another solid day. Mills barks orders out and adjusts plays quite a bit. He handles the pressure the defense is allowed to get on him easily. Mills also has showcased some off-platform and on-the-move throws. There was one disappointing pass where he overshot Chris Conley on the sideline, but based on the gestures from Mills, it seems like Conley may have cut the route a little short. Mills is making quick decisions and I'm excited to see more game-like situations from him.
Bonus: The Texans had a handful of their former players out at practice today. Andre Johnson was the most notable, but former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Wade Smith took in practice, as did original Texans Kailee Wong and Chester Pitts. Johnson spoke with the media and jokes he felt rookie Derek Stingley was quieter than Johnson was, and Johnson said it was weird to meet someone who came off as more reserved than he did. I don't buy that from Andre for a second! Stingley hasn't talked a ton, but to beat Johnson's laid-back and reserved nature, Stingley would really have to dial it back.
As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.
Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).
Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.
But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.
Cristian Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. He acknowledged that some of his struggles last year could be attributed to some extra weight he was carrying around in addition to the already-documented mechanical flaws he had.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 22, 2024
In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.
Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.
The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.