Houston Texans minicamp: 11 observations you need to know about from Day 1

Texans Will Anderson, CJ Stroud
Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images
2 undeniable x-factors that will determine success for Texans prized rookie

The Houston Texans had their first mandatory minicamp practice of the offseason. Here are 11 observations from the practice.

1. C.J. Stroud had an up-and-down day. There was nothing horrible about his day but Stroud had some bad moments. The bad moments were often followed by an impressive play or two. There’s plenty to dig into from this practice for a rookie quarterback.

2. C.J. Stroud’s worst moment of the day was on a rollout. The naked bootleg had Stroud with a roll to his left, but the throw left plenty to be desired. Stroud threw it to nowhere and nobody.

3. The previous play was bad, but the next one was the throw of the day. Stroud hit Nico Collins down the sideline for a big play. The pass was perfectly placed to beat the coverage of the defense. Collins hauled it in and went out of bounds. Fantastic stuff from the rookie quarterback.

4. Noah Brown dropped a pass out of the slot that would have been a big play. The coverage was there, but it hit Brown in the hands and he didn’t come up with it. Later, Brown came over and dapped up C.J. Stroud, who had thrown the ball, and the two had a discussion in what can be assumed about the offense and that play.

5. Brevin Jordan dropped a touchdown pass in 7-on-7 work that C.J. Stroud threaded perfectly. Another rep in the red zone 7-on-7 drill saw Stroud find rookie running back Xazavian Valladay for a touchdown. Stroud had checked it down to shortly before the end zone and Valladay took it in.

6. C.J. Stroud threw the best ball to the back corner of the end zone. His pass in that 7-on-7 set was better than Davis Mills and Case Keenum.

7. Davis Mills outperformed C.J. Stroud in the 7-on-7 drills in the red zone. Mills had a nice day, but I wouldn’t categorically say it is for sure better than C.J. Stroud’s day. Both quarterbacks led “game-winning drives” in the two-minute drill near the end of the practice.

8. Will Anderson was a menace. Well, as much of a menace as you can be when it is no pads at minicamp. Anderson flashed the suddenness and speed you would expect from him. One play saw him dart into the backfield for what would have been a tackle for a loss. There was another play where he was held but would have had a sack. It’s no pads, and it wasn’t the team’s top linemen he was beating, but wins are wins.

9. The secondary is going to be interesting and fun to watch this season. There are deep options at the corner spot and Jalen Pitre is still all over the field. Derek Stingley looks like he’s competing for Mr. Universe. He looks like a million bucks, and nobody really challenges him. Eric Murray lined up where the absent Jimmie Ward would likely line up. The secondary is one of the stronger parts of the team.

10. The linebacker room is intriguing. Christian Kirksey is larger than almost all the backers and his long-term fit is unclear with some free agent additions in the room. Sleek and lean is how I would describe a lot of the linebackers, maybe venturing into the small territory. Henry To’oTo’o was barking orders, but his size disadvantage is clear. Christian Harris will be fun to watch this season.

11. The tight end room is something to monitor. We know about veteran Dalton Schultz, he will obviously be on the team and contributing a ton. Second-year tight end Teagan Quitoriano has leaned out a lot compared to how he looked last season. His athleticism is easy to see. Brevin Jordan might be in a fight to keep his spot, but I couldn’t tell you for sure who would take it. Andrew Beck is the hybrid player for the team. Part tight end, part fullback. Beck is constantly chatting and talking with the other tight ends about plays and the results of plays.


C.J. Stroud might as well be tied to quarterback coach Jerrod Johnson’s hip. The two are constantly next to each other and talking.

Dameon Pierce was absent from practice as he was sick.

No clear reason for the absences of offensive lineman Kenyon Green and safety Jimmie Ward.

Tank Dell dropped a punt. He is small. You knew that, but he is jarringly small and skinny compared to his peers.

The weirdest number on a player is cornerback Shaquill Griffin wearing number 16.

Devin Singletary dropped a touchdown pass in 7-on-7 work.

Jalen Pitre had what would have been a sack in a live rep when he blitzed C.J. Stroud.

Ka’imi Fairbairn nailed his two field goals at the end of the practice.

DeMeco Ryans is fun to watch at practice. He is so excited and constantly smiling. He’s very vocal too.

Both Cal McNair and J.J. Watt offered the first question to Mark Berman today in their media availabilities. Berman, of course, finished a legendary media career yesterday.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*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.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome