TRAINING CAMP NEWS AND NOTES

Texans training camp report: Kenny Stills speaks on social injustice

Photo Courtesy of the Houston Texans

Kenny Stills caught several deep passes from Deshaun Watson as the Houston Texans opened another week of training camp, Monday morning, inside the Houston's Training Center. As Stills and Watson rekindled their on-field connect from the previous season, a smile emerged on the face of the California native.

Unfortunately, the slight moment of joy the 6-foot-0 slot receiver felt did not last.

Stills arrived to practice with a heavy heart after receiving the disturbing news of Jacob Blake — an unarmed African American male who was shot seven times by Wisconsin police on Sunday. The shooting comes five months after the killing of Breonna Taylor and four months following the murder of George Floyd.

"I think it further proves the point that we need to make a change with what's going on with our law enforcement," Stills said following practice. "We have another unarmed black man being shot seven times in front of his children. I think there [are] other ways to deescalate these situations and just another horrible example of what our law enforcement is doing to our people."

Since 2016, Stills has been an activist fighting against social injustice and police brutality. Living by the phrase, "actions speak louder than words," Stills has partnered with police departments in Houston and Miami, with the hopes of improving the relationship between law enforcement and minority communities.

In mid-July, Stills was one of 87 people charged during a protest outside of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's home demanding justice for Taylor. The felony charges were dropped.

"It's great to have more people listening, more people paying attention, but there's got to be action behind that," he said. "Taking a knee, raising a fist and making t-shirts, putting people's names on our helmets or what have you – that's not going to bring somebody back to life. That's not going to stop somebody from getting shot."

"I'm really focused on the things that I can do outside of just taking a knee — like I always have been. So, yeah, it's great that we've got more people involved in the movement and more people paying attention, but it seems like, in a way, a lot of the leagues are just figuring out ways to market it and then make money off of it and then move forward."

Secondary continues to make strides

Stills was not the only player Watson made happy with his passes on Monday. During an 11-on-11 team scrimmage, third-year safety Justin Reid intercepted Watson's pass attempt to wideout Steven Mitchell Jr.

Reid's pick was the second interception by the Texans' secondary. The other was made by second-year cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. — whose defensive stop prevented Houston's offense from converting a touchdown inside the red zone.

Johnson has been one of a handful of players Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien have raved about since the start of training camp on July 25. The 24-year-old from Kentucky spent the bulk of the offseason honing his skills, with the goal of playing a more significant role as he enters his second season. As a rookie, Johnson recorded 40 tackles (33 solo hits) in 14 games (seven starts) last season for the Texans.

"Lonnie's made a lot of progress," Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien said. "I think the key with Lonnie is health. I think the other key is just continuing to grow in our defense. There are a lot of jobs that he can do, also. He can play corner. He can play safety. He can play down in the box. He covers kicks for us. Just staying on top of his assignments every week's going to be important."

Absent from Monday's practice: Isaiah Coulter. Keke Coutee. Jonathan Greenard. Cullen Gillaspia. And Phillip Gaines.

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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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