All eyes were on Davis Mills. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
The Houston Texans took to the field to open training camp and their 2022 season. Here are 11 observations from the practice.
1. This is assuredly Davis Mills’ team. The second-year quarterback took a load of reps in the workout and after head coach, Lovie Smith praised the leadership of Mills. The approach from Mills is absolutely that of a guy who knows this is his team.
2. Davis Mills didn’t have hardly any negative reps. He was crisp in his decision-making and on his throws. He was poised in the pocket and drills. There were maybe a handful of throws Mills will want back when he reviews, there were a couple of disconnects on a few deep balls, but a very nice start to camp for Mills.
3. The pocket movement was fun to watch from Mills today. The team did a drill where he took a snap, and a coach threw a blocking bag at the quarterback’s feet. Mills avoided the pretend defender and off one foot put a pass over the middle of the field. Mills had more than a few throws showing off his ability to adjust arm slot and throw off structure. It was again, a very solid day for him.
4. Head coach Lovie Smith had so much praise for Mills and the growth the quarterback has had. Smith went on to note when the team gets to pick captains, he will be casting one of his votes for Davis Mills.
5. The head coach of the team was honest about where they are after practice, but also where they want to be. While encouraging fans to show up and show out, Smith noted the organization hasn’t given the fan base a lot to talk about in the past few years. When asked if this is the start of a new era for the Texans, Smith simply said, “it has to be.”
6. Derek Stingley Jr. practiced and started one-on-one against veteran Brandin Cooks in a drill. Stingley Jr. broke on the play and almost batted the ball away. The third overall pick will not practice every time in training camp, and the reps will continue to be monitored, but he’s doing more than the last time the team was on the field. Lovie Smith said he expects Stingley to be ready to go in week one for the Texans.
7. Nico Collins looks much more comfortable and has added to his frame. Collins is extremely important in his second year for this team, and he’s clearly put in a lot of work on his game. One of the impressive things about Collins is his route running, especially when the ball isn’t coming his way. Collins finishes the reps, and the routes are clean and precise. He skied over the middle for an easy pass and had Mills seen him on a later rep, it would have been a 75-yard touchdown.
8. The play of the day was Davis Mills to Brandin Cooks. Mills scanned the field and found Cooks who skied for the reception. There was one play earlier in the workout that could have topped it, but it was just a tiny bit too long for Cooks to haul in. The duo remedied it later.
9. The team will practice in pads on Monday, so it is a little hard to judge the rushing attack right now, but there were a few impressive moments. Marlon Mack looked like he was shot out of a cannon at one point. He has the chance to be the lead running back for this team. Rookie running back Dameon Pierce had a very nice play on a screen and showed terrific burst too.
10. Jonathan Greenard didn’t practice as he’s coming back from an injury. Same with center Justin Britt. Phillip Dorsett didn’t work out much, if at all. Kenyon Green was practicing, but there was some allusion to him still working up to a full rep count.
11. I was worried about the tight end group, and I still am, but today was a good day for the tight ends overall. Brevin Jordan had a few really nice plays, including a juke of a player that led to an extra 10-or-so yards. Pharaoh Brown, despite towering over defenders, sneaks his way into zones. The rest of the room isn’t extremely impressive from a catching standpoint, but Jordan and Brown both had very nice days.
This isn’t an observation, but John Metchie III was certainly a topic from the team as training camp opened. Metchie announced this past week he wouldn’t be with the team as he battles cancer. Lovie Smith revealed Metchie spoke to the team to open training camp instead of him being the person to deliver the first speech. It is clear there is an extremely supportive organization behind their rookie wideout.
Phoenix All-Star Devin Booker and Houston rookie Cam Whitmore got into a minor scuffle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night and both players were called for a technical foul.
With a couple big blocks on the ensuing possession, Suns center Jusuf Nurkic was there to back his star teammate.
Booker scored 35 points, Kevin Durant added 24 and the Suns held off the Rockets 110-105, with the teams set to meet again in Phoenix on Saturday night.
Nurkic had 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks before fouling out. His biggest moment came in the fourth, when he stuffed Whitmore twice on the possession following the scuffle, drawing huge roars from the Phoenix crowd.
“Very important — that's the team sticking together,” Booker said. “That goes a long way. That's what you need when things get tough, it gets to the thick of things and the energy is high. You want to know you have people on your team that are built like that.”
Booker scored 20 points in the first quarter to help give the Suns an 18-point lead they would never relinquish. He has scored at least 20 points in an NBA-high six quarters this season.
Three-time All-Star Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game because of a hamstring injury.
The Suns took an 86-75 lead into the final quarter. Houston cut the advantage to six midway through the fourth, but Booker responded immediately with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine.
That led to the brief skirmish between Booker and Whitmore. Tempers stayed hot over the next few minutes — Houston's Alperen Sengun fouled out and then got two quick technicals, earning an ejection.
Booker hit both of the technical free throws, Nurkic followed with his two free throws from Sengun's foul, and that pushed the Suns' lead to 99-84. The Rockets would cut the lead to four with 16.9 seconds left, but Royce O'Neale hit two free throws to end the threat.
Jalen Green led Houston with 34 points. Fred VanVleet added 21. The Rockets connected on just 11 of 45 3-pointers and shot 33.3% from the field overall, which was their worst percentage of the season.
“It wasn't one of our better nights as far as guys getting open looks and making the extra pass,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We had a few guys who had it going, but a few guys who were struggling.”
Phoenix has won seven of its past 10 — and nine in a row at home — as it tries to stay in the top six of the Western Conference playoff race and avoid the play-in tournament. The sliding Rockets have lost eight of 10.
“We're getting confident in this building,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said.
Booker's big first quarter pushed the Suns to a 33-17 lead. The four-time All-Star made 8 of 10 shots from the field, including a 33-foot 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Phoenix settled for a 64-53 halftime lead. Booker had 26 points before the break while Green led Houston with 21.