Some physical standouts for the Texans as the youngsters get to work

What you need to know from Texans rookie minicamp

University of Kentucky Athletics

The Texans hosted a part of their rookie minicamp Friday and here is what you need to know. Obviously, the caveat is these are all rookies or players with very little NFL experience at all so take it for what it is worth.

Kahale Warring is an absolute specimen

When people talk about physical specimens you usually don't get the full effect until you see them in person. Such is the case with the Texans new tight end. He had some very nice catches and reps going out as a pass catcher.

Just on his size and movement he had more than a few moments that turned heads. He is fluid in his movement on the field. You can tell every now and then he hasn't been playing the position long but those flashes are few and far between.

He will have to grow into a role and experience in joint practices and preseason games will be important for him this year. It is easy to see how he can eventually fit on a team.

The Bouncers at tackle

I don't know if I can get the nickname to stick but I want to see Tytus Howard and Max Scharping on one of those campy 90's posters with Deshaun standing behind them like he is already in the club.

Both of these guys are physically imposing for different reasons. Howard looks like a monster athlete and showcases it with ease. He moves so well for someone at his size and it is easy to see why he draws Duane Brown comparisons when people are discussing his body and body type. Scharping is built like a brick wall. He is thick and you can see how powerful he is from just looking at him.

There is obviously a long way to go, even to either one of these guys starting, but if it works out like the Texans hope Howard is the team's left tackle and Scharping is the team's right tackle of the future (and hopefully the near future).

Go Johnnie go

Johnnie Dixon is fast and he has a chance to work his way into the conversation at wideout. The former Ohio State pass catcher has crazy fast feet frequently showcasing his agility. He can scoot too and it wouldn't surprise me if he was one of the fastest players on the field Friday.

The wideout room is a little crowded. Obviously DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee are on the team without question. DeAndre Carter is the team's specialist with returns so he will have to fight to keep his special teams spot as well as his wideout spot. The other spot has Vyncint Smith as the early leader since he played with the team last year but he can absolutely be challenged.

I will be anxious to see what Dixon can do when he is catching passes from Deshaun Watson and A.J. McCarron.

Kentucky's imposing duo

Lonnie Johnson looks a lot bigger in person than he does on television. He is every bit his 6 foot 2 inch frame and has some thickness to his frame as well. The Texans have rarely had a cornerback with his physical makeup and presence. He had some nice reps staying with wideouts today.

His former Kentucky teammate Derrick Baity is on the team too. He is also huge standing an inch taller than Johnson. Though I didn't see a ton of his reps he had some success in a few team reps and forced one wideout come down with a ball out of bounds that would have not been a catch.

Johnson is obviously on the team but his former teammate's journey to be his teammate again is something to watch.

Duke Ejiofor's career on hold

The Texans announced second-year linebacker Duke Ejiofor was placed on injured reserve. He had a shoulder injury before last year's draft that caused him to drop and he also got injured with the Texans last year. Bill O'Brien addressed Ejiofor's placement on IR.

"It's been unlucky. Duke's a great guy and he just has had some bad luck. He'll be back, though. He'll be back at some point and he'll have a chance to be a good pro football player. He's a good guy, he can do a lot of different things, he's a versatile player. It's just one of those things. It's tough. It was a fluky thing. It's just bad luck really, to be honest with you."

Longshot to roster spot

It is early to be thinking about an undrafted player making the roster but Bill O'Brien laid out Friday there are plenty of Texans players who started as undrafted free agents.

"So, really the message is – the draft is important," O'Brien said. "Like, don't get me wrong. But it's a small portion of the roster building. You have seven draft picks, you have 35 guys out here. So, if you're on the 90-man roster, I think we've proven as an organization that it's what you do when you get here. It's not how you got here, it's what you do when you enter the building from that point forward."

The Texans entire special teams unit is made up of players that weren't drafted. New safety Tashaun Gipson carved out a role in the NFL after his name wasn't called. Brennan Scarlett and Brandon Dunn were two defensive role players who started as free agents who didn't get drafted.

Here is my early longshot to roster spot player: Chris Johnson, safety, North Alabama.

He ran a 4.42 at a regional combine. He flashed a little today with play recognition and athleticism. He will likely do most of his work when the pads are on and he can showcase a little more of what he brings from the safety spot. There is room in the defensive back room for someone to contribute right away on special teams.

Day two of the work for the team as their spring work is well underway

11 observations from Texans OTAs

SportsMap/Cody Stoots

Here are my 11 Observations from the second day of work for the Texans during OTAs but their first open to the media.

First round, first taste for Tytus Howard

The Texans top draft pick from this year's class doesn't look out of place with other offensive lineman. His body is there. He did have some rookie moments and a couple of welcome to the NFL moments at the hands of Whitney Mercilus.

Howard said he doesn't mind the work at various positions he is getting. The Texans have been known to throw a lot at their rookies but especially their offensive linemen. Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien have made no secret they want to see where Howard and fellow draft pick Max Scharping fit and how they can help the team different ways.

"He learns well," Bill O'Brien said. "He's just getting acclimated to the speed of how we practice over the last two days. For every rookie, that's a big jump. But I think he's a guy that, if he continues to work the way he works, he'll get better every day."

Lookout for Lonnie

It isn't hard to find the Texans second round pick Lonnie Johnson Jr. The Texans haven't had a cornerback in his mold probably in the entire time Bill O'Brien has been the coach of this team. He towers above most his defensive back teammates. His base is a lot more solid than you would think for someone who has such good length to his body.

He diagnosed some plays pretty well today and even when the rep looks lost his makeup ability is clear. He looked like he was going to get beat on a play today and the next thing you know he knocked the ball down. It will be interesting how much the Texans trust him early in his career and his development from now through training camp will be something to watch closely.

"He's a real big kid," Justin Reid said. "He's a big kid. Almost bigger than me. You see it when he plays. You see it on the practice film. He knows how to use it as well, which is one of the good things about having good corners, is they know how to actually body receivers, especially if they're going against a big guy. He's someone that we can see as a potential matchup for those type of situations."

Coutee right where he left off

Keke Coutee was one of the most dynamic offensive weapons the Texans had last season. Unfortunately injuries plagued his rookie year limiting his time on the field and his production. If he is healthy, my goodness.

Coutee never had a defender around him very long. He looked every bit the key piece he did last season. He is going to be a fun watch and will be a great matchup for the Texans defensive backs to work against.

Warring showcasing skills

Watching a handful of reps for Kahale Warring it is clear why he is here. He played at a school that didn't throw the ball much and when they did the talent throwing the ball wasn't great. He was the best pass catcher they have and oh by the way he has only played football for a few years. You can't tell that's the case.

I will be anxious to see more of him. He looks fluid and smooth in his movements which often indicates he is picking things up fast and not thinking much. Blocking when the pads come on will be something to watch, but watching him run routes is fun. Athletes aren't usually moving as well as he does at that size. These tight ends might be pound-for-pound the most athletic group on the team.

Lots of bodies catching lots of passes

​Johnnie Dixon showed off in rookie camp but there are plenty of other players to watch in the quest to make this time as a wideout. Tyron Johnson from Oklahoma State as well as Dixon both earned kudos from quarterback Deshaun Watson.

They join names like Steven Mitchell Jr., Isaac Whitney, Floyd Allen, Jester Weah, and second-year wideout Vyncint Smith among others vying for a spot on the team. There will be plenty of reps to go around as Will Fuller continues his recovery from injury and if Deandre Hopkins has his work load managed similar to last preseason. It might come down to who can help the most on special teams as well.

Special Adviser to the Head Coach and General Manager Andre Johnson was on hand helping out with the wide receivers.

It's a long name but worth learning

Briean Boddy-Calhoun is a veteran trying to make the Texans at cornerback. His previous stint was with Cleveland where Browns fans were surprisingly a little sad to see him leave this offseason.

He was all over the place today. His experience with pass defense packages will be key in his efforts to make the team. He also has experience playing safety as well. He was talking to all the defensive backs from safeties to rookies and veterans and corners. Being a veteran sponge will help him stick.

Mercilus begins contract year

If they Texans had to play a game tomorrow without Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus lined up across from J.J. Watt as the other pass rusher it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Mercilus was all over the field in the workout. He looks to be in great shape, but of course he always is, and he wasn't winded at any moment.

He is in the final year of his second contract and most NFL players don't see a third. Certainly not with the same team. Mercilus will have to have a nice year to reach that situation after a year lost to injury and a down year statistically. He is a veteran and a leader on this team and should the team not have Clowney at any point Mercilus can pick up some of the pass rushing slack.

Do your job, make the team, stay on the team, repeat

Peter Kalambayi was a little bit of a surprise to make the Texans last year to me. He ended up on the team as a do-it-all linebacker and played pretty well in his special teams reps. He looked really good today.

His name was called out for accolades on one play and he found himself around the ball in the reps. He also showed off good basics and movement in a drill against skill players who were trying to shake defenders. There is absolutely room for him on the roster and his contributions can be even more than last year with his rookie year under his belt.

D'Onta Foreman 2.0

D'Onta Foreman looks like a totally different guy. I have been seeing the hard work on social media but until you see them in person you aren't sure if it is paying off. It paid off. His body looks different and the burst, albeit in a low-to-no contact environment, looked solid. He has more wiggle than he has previously shown.

He has to be good for the Texans and the lack of investment in the position shows the team's faith in him. He and Lamar Miller, who looks to be in great shape as he was a year ago maybe even better shape, will have to guide the ground game. There is too much uncertainty behind them and even at this point a new face would need to do some catching up.

"I think he's had a very good offseason," said Bill O'Brien. "He's worked very hard. Sometimes it takes time, especially when you're injured your rookie year with a significant injury. You have something you're dealing with like he did with the Achilles. It takes a while to come back from that. Young player, getting used to pro football, then you have that. So, I think he's had a really good time away from us, when he wasn't with us, and that has parlayed into a good spring."

If boxing classes paid off like this for D'Onta Foreman I need to get me some gloves.

Speaking of body transformations...

Martinas Rankin looks a lot different. Slimmer in the lower midsection and maybe even thicker up top. Remember, he had a foot injury that slowed his time on the field before the season got started last year. He is a potentially key offensive lineman with his versatility. It will be a fun watch when the pads come on to see what Rankin brings to the table.

Jordan Thomas is another player who looks to be in even better shape than last year as well. Watching him run still feels like a sleek bouncer chasing down an unruly patron. I say that with the most possible endearment I can. He's a crazy good athlete.

Justin Reid...more like Justin Leader...

Justin Reid has seen the field as a member of the Texans more than any other safety on the roster. Now, that's not to say the second-year player has the most experience, but he has the most experience as a member of the Texans. That seems wild for a second-year player to have that designation but it is the truth and a testament to how well Reid played last year.

"The room is a little bit different now but we have phenomenal guys like T-Gip (Tashaun Gipson Sr.), (Bradley) Roby, (Briean) Boddy(-Calhoun)," said Reid. "The guys that we've brought in, the rookies, have been doing well. I'm impressed with how they've played these last two days. So, we've been building as a unit and our chemistry has been getting better every day."

He and Tashaun Gipson have formed a close bond already. Reid said he feels like he has known his fellow safety for a long time when they haven't actually been teammates that long. Reid mentioned they almost feel interchangeable in their skills and is excited to play with the former Jaguars safety.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome