TEXANS CAMP REPORT

Texans training camp report: J.J. Watt makes his return to practice

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

When J.J. Watt appeared at his locker Sunday morning, he was greeted with a huge surprise. A box of Shipley Do-Nuts sat at his locker with a note that read, "From the Rook's" was the sight that welcomed the five-time Pro-Bowler back to the field.

After practicing in full pads for the first time on August 14, Watt did not touch the practice field all last week. His absence was the result of a new load management plan implemented by the Houston Texans' coaching staff.

Although he was not present on the practice field, Watt still managed to get some work done by participating in individual workouts inside Houston's Training Center.

"Now, because he has been playing a long time, some of that wear and tear begins to impact your body a little bit โ€” so, we are managing J.J. this year," Assistant Coach Romeo Crennel said on Sunday. "We're not putting him out there all the time, particularly in practice, and try to manage him in practice so that he can be ready for the games and then he will be able to play and produce at a high level in the games. I think that he will do that when we get to the games. He is strong, he is good looking and when he puts that uniform on, he's an imposing figure."

The new load management plan is a strategy by the Texans to keep their star defensive end healthy for the entire 2020 campaign. With the exception of 2018, the 31-year-old prodigy from Wisconsin has dealt with a plethora of injuries that have forced him to miss 32 out of a possible 64 games over the past four seasons.

In 2019, Watt missed half the regular season after he sustained a torn pectoral injury during a Week 8 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

However, with the help of his coaching staff, 2020 has the potential to be one of Watt's healthiest seasons. During his first media session at the start of training camp, Watt stated that the lockdown quarantine period due to COVID-19 gave him a considerable amount of time to get his body ready for the upcoming season.

"I would say that the quarantine situation has given me literally nothing to do but work out every day," Watt said. "It truly has been one of the best off seasons from a workout standpoint that I've ever had and I'm very, very pleased about it. My body feels as good as it's felt since probably 2014, 2015 โ€” somewhere around there. I'm really looking forward to getting into camp and just getting to work."

It's a competitive situation for the players in line trying to obtain the job as the Texans' third-string running back. Since the start of training camp, Karan Higdon has showcased his potential to upgrade from the practice squad, while Scottie Phillips continues to leave an impression as a rookie.

With the 2020 season set to kick off in less than a month, it appears that the Texans are closing in on their guy. Following Sunday's practice, Houston's Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien said that he expects to have Buddy Howell as the team's third running back.

"I'd say I think Buddy is right there right now," O'Brien said on Sunday. "I think again, special teams come into play there. Buddy is a different type of player, but a really good special teams player."

Unless David Johnson or Duke Johnson's season becomes riddled by nagging injuries, one can assure that Howell will reprise his role on special teams.

Since joining the team in 2018, the 24-year-old running back has appeared in 39 snaps โ€” with 25 coming during the Texans' season finale loss against the Titans last season. For his career, Howell has only recorded 10 yards on five carries.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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