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's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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