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 — 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 — 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 — 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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Houston gets another victory in Anaheim

Astros overpower Angels again as magic number dwindles

Kyle Tucker had 3 of Houston's RBI on Tuesday night, including a two-run homer. Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

After a beatdown of the Angels on Monday in the opener, the Astros entered Tuesday's game looking to replicate that success. Though Los Angeles would put up more of a fight, Houston still used their potent offense to keep the game out of reach.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 90-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (8-3)

Losing Pitcher: Packy Naughton (0-3)

Houston's bats keep connecting to back up Urquidy

The Astros picked up on Tuesday's game where they left off on Monday, launching homers to take and extend a lead. A leadoff walk by Carlos Correa in the top of the second set up Kyle Tucker, who drove a two-run shot. Aledmys Diaz was next, making it back-to-back jacks to push the new lead to 3-0.

That gave Jose Urquidy a lead to work with, which came in handy as former Astro Jack Mayfield cut the lead to two runs with a leadoff solo homer in the bottom of the second. Other than that, Urquidy did well through five innings, allowing just two other hits over that span. LA got to him in the sixth, getting two singles to set up a three-run homer to end his night. His final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 79 P.

The runs keep coming

He would still leave in line for the win, though, as before that bottom of the sixth, the Astros had put up seven more runs across the fifth and sixth. A leadoff walk in the top of the fifth was followed by a two-run homer by Jose Altuve, then later in the frame, an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz made it 7-1. They pushed that to double digits in the sixth, with a leadoff solo shot by Martin Maldonado, a sac fly by Carlos Correa, and an RBI groundout by Kyle Tucker, putting them up 10-1 before the homer allowed by Urquidy cut that to 10-4.

Astros win to reduce magic number again

In the sixth, Cristian Javier took over for Urquidy, finished that inning, and returned for a scoreless seventh. He ran into Shohei Ohtani to lead off the bottom of the eighth and left a fastball in the zone, which Ohtani turned around 445 feet to make it a five-run game. Javier still got through the inning, leaving just the ninth for Houston's second reliever of the night, Josh James. James would get through a scoreless inning, erasing a leadoff walk as the lopsided win paired with an A's loss reduces Houston's magic number to 4.

Up Next: The third of this four-game series will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Wednesday. Janson Junk (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will make his third career start for the Angels, while Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.37 ERA) will have the ball for the Astros.

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