STOOTS ON TEXANS

Houston Texans training camp: 11 observations you need to know about from Day 3

Davis Mills bounced back Monday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

The Houston Texans took to the field with pads on for the first time. Here are 11 observations from the first padded practice.

1. Davis Mills had a much better day today than he did on Saturday. Saturday saw Mills struggling to quickly decide and beat some solid coverage. Monday saw the offense chipping away at the defense with short and quick completions. Mills is much speedier than last year’s version in deciding.

2. Davis Mills has yet to throw an interception. This is a fact that delights and perturbs Lovie Smith who is the head coach but also calls the defense. In fact, Mills hasn’t really gotten close to throwing an interception.

3. Davis Mills has still yet to hit a clean deep ball. This isn’t a concern, Mills had some of the best deep ball numbers last year, but it would be nice to see him hook up on one of these plays.

4. Kyle Allen tossed a touchdown in the two-minute drill. He hit Chad Beebe on the sideline for a score. This came after Davis Mills led an unsuccessful two-minute drive.

5. The best play of the day from Davis Mills was in the red zone. He surveyed the field after the snap and tossed a dart only where a fully stretched Brevin Jordan could catch it. Jordan landed in the end zone. Touchdown offense.

6. Brandin Cooks is so good. Nobody can consistently cover him. Steven Nelson had a very physical win early in practice against Cooks, but later Nelson was yet another Cooks victim.

7. The most regular victim of Brandin Cooks’ skills was Derek Stingley. The rookie cornerback found himself on Cooks a ton and rarely “won” the rep. After practice Cooks and Stingley were working 1-on-1 on the practice field.

8. Jalen Camp had a few nice plays Monday. The second-year player from Georgia Tech is long and athletic. He skied for a pass early in practice and later hauled in a deep pass. There is competition in front of him but there is an opportunity for the youngster as well.

9. Rasheem Green is set to be a factor for this defensive line. I need more time to watch him in pads, but he blew up a play today that would have been a quarterback sack in a live rep. His physical stature stands out among the defensive linemen.

10. Nico Collins has a best friend that helps him a ton: the sideline. It is rare to see a player in just his second year use the sideline as much as Collins does, but he frequently makes plays on the sideline. Collins was practicing sideline and back of end zone catches with Mills and his footwork was very clean.

11. The running backs have a little more than you think they have. Marlon Mack is shifty and looks a lot closer to the player he was that rushed for 1,999 yards over two seasons in Indianapolis. Rookie Dameon Pierce has plenty of burst and vision to his game. When asked how the team improved the running game left tackle Laremy Tunsil said “we went and got Pep Hamilton and we’re fixing to get this (expletive) rolling.”

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Mattress Mack and the Astros host Pearland Little League at Wednesday night's game. Photo by LittleLeague.org

Sure, it’s impressive that the Astros have made four World Series appearances in recent years, but they’re not alone. There’s another baseball team around here that’s also headed to its fourth World Series since 2010.

Pearland defeated Oklahoma, 9-4, on Tuesday to win the Southwest Regional and qualify for the Little League World Series starting Aug. 17 in South Williamsport, PA.

Most fans and media say the Little League World Series is held in Williamsport, but it’s South Williamsport, just a 5-minute stroll across a bridge over the Susquehanna River in north central Pennsylvania.

Pearland is on a torrid 13-game winning streak that swept through district, sectional, state and regional tournaments to earn the Little League World Series bid.

Here’s how difficult the road to the Little League World Series is. There are 15 teams in MLB’s American League. If the Astros finish with one of the two best records, they’ll have to win two playoff series to play in the World Series.

Little League is a little bigger than MLB. Little League is the largest youth sports organization in the world, with 2.5 million kids playing for 180,000 teams in more than 100 countries on six continents.

Pearland, representing East Texas, had to defeat All-Star teams from West Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arkansas and Colorado to win the Southwest Regional. The Little League World Series will host 20 teams - 10 from the U.S. and 10 from international regions.

If you have children that play Little League, or you’re just a fan, attending the Little League World Series should be high on your baseball bucket list.

I covered the Little League World Series in 2010 when Pearland made its first appearance and made it all the way to the U.S. championship game. It may have been my most fun assignment ever.

The Little League World Series is played by 11 and 12-year-olds in Little League’s major division. When ESPN and ABC air these games, they’ll present the players as innocent little kids, like Beaver and Wally or Tom and Huck. They’ll show the kids playing Simon Says with the Little League mascot called Dugout. They’ll ask the kids who’s their favorite big leaguer.

I was a Little League coach. I followed Little League All-Stars across Texas all the way to South Williamsport. These kids are absolute baseball maniacs with $400 gloves, $500 bats and Oakley sunglasses. I thought the Astros might call and ask where they got their super neat equipment.

Especially in Texas, these kids are built tough with long ball power and play year-round travel baseball with high-priced private coaches. This isn’t a choose-up game in the park where kids play in their school clothes, one kid brings a baseball and the players share bats. I looked at some of the Little Leaguers and wondered if they drove to the stadium.

I half-expected, when ABC asked who their baseball idol was, they’d answer “me!”

Here’s how seriously good these kids can play the game. Justin Verlander throws a 97-mph fastball. That’s pretty fast. It’s not rare anymore for a Little League pitcher to reach 70-mph on a fastball. The Little League mound is 46 feet from home plate. A 70-mph pitch in Little League gets to home plate in the same time as a 91-mph pitch from 60 feet 6 inches in MLB.

In 2015, a pitcher named Alex Edmonson fired an 83-mph heater at the Little League World Series. The reaction time a Little League batter had against Alex’s pitch was equal to a Major Leaguer trying to hit a 108-mph fastball. Good luck with that. Alex pitched a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in six innings at the Little League World Series. Now 20, Alex is a relief pitcher for Clemson.

The Little League World Series is a trip. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Philadelphia and drive to South Williamsport. I sat next to CC Sebathia’s mother on the plane.

Admission to all Little League World Series games is free and snack bar prices are reasonable. A hot dog is $3. Alcohol and smoking are prohibited.

The first Little League World Series was held in 1947. Only 58 players have played in the Little League World Series and later played in MLB. The most famous are Cody Bellinger and Jason Varitek. Only two players from the Houston area made the leap: Brady Rodgers and Randal Grichuk both played on the 2003 team from Richmond, about 30 miles from Houston in Fort Bend County.

While you’re in South Williamsport, you should visit the Little League museum and Hall of Excellence. Among the inductees: Presidents Joe Biden and George W. Bush, Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kevin Costner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dick Vitale, Rob Manfred and someone who’d later play stadiums in a different way, Bruce Springsteen.

Speaking of Springsteen, I shattered a record at the 2010 Little League World Series. The record was Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. I was talking to a Little League executive while teams were warming up on the field. Born in the U.S.A. came over the stadium loudspeakers.

I told the executive, I’m a big fan but maybe this isn’t the best song you should be playing. The executive asked why not? Well, you might want to listen to the words. Born in the U.S.A. is a depressing song about a U.S. soldier who is sent to Vietnam and can’t find a job when he gets back home. It’s not exactly Yankee Doodle Dandy. You have teams from Asia here (Japan won the tournament that year). The executive said, please tell me you’re kidding. Here’s one verse:

Got in a little hometown jam

So they put a rifle in my hand

Sent me off to a foreign land

To go and kill the (what is considered a slur for Asians).

Later I got an email from the president of Little League International.

“Quite honestly, I've never listened closely to the words of Born in the USA. I see clearly how it is offensive to our Little League friends from Asian nations. I have directed our folks who coordinate the stadium music to discontinue playing it in the future.”

Play Centerfield by John Fogerty instead. The message of that song is, “put me in coach.” Little League couldn’t say it any better.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome