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Football Hors D'oeuvres: Texans Minicamp

The Houston Texans have completed their first minicamp.  Really wishing I was there to see it all in person, but there are really some interesting football nuggets to be gleaned from reading the interview transcripts. 


Friday : Day 1 (link)


Rick Smith

(on draft picks being surprised by the speed of the NFL game) "Well, you can’t simulate that, and that’s the obvious biggest difference from the collegiate level to the professional level. And we try to practice (fast); that’s one of the things that Gary (Kubiak) really emphasizes. We want to be a fast football team and so we practice that way. Everything that we do, we do with speed, and so it doesn’t surprise me that they feel that way. They’ve just got to get used to it."

Explosive tackling.  Explosive running.  Texans swarming to the ball.  They're going to look like fire ants out there in Battle Red.  What better way to welcome opponents to Texas! 

Smith definitely built for speed this offseason with players like Kevin Bentley, Steve Slaton and Antwan Molden.  Watching this team run a two minute drill this year should be fun.


Gary Kubiak

 (on if "protect the ball" and "take it away" are battle cries for the team this year) "Well, you know, I told you guys last year I was screaming and hollering it every week and I thought if they had to look at it every day, maybe it would help. It’s all over the locker room, it’s all over their pants and if we’ve got to put it anywhere else, we will. But if our team protects the ball better, we’re going to be a better team."

(on if putting that on the back of shorts is the best place for it) "Well, I know offensively they all have to look at it when they get down. I don’t know about defensively. We’ll see. I don’t know."

I'm glad he's choosing this as a motivational tool rather than the infamous "choppin' wood" .  This is an expression of Kubiak's frustration with the turnover battle last year.  Kubiak doesn't say much about what goes wrong, but he repeated over and over last year that he'd love to see what the team could do if they didn't turn the ball over.  I wish I could have been at that brainstorming meeting where they came up with this idea.  Just Kubiak and the equipment manager or the entire staff?

What do you think?  Will this message sink in?  It's all over the field and facilities.

protect the ball

take it away

Andre Johnson

(on how this offseason is different coming off an 8-8 season) "I don’t really think it’s any different to me. It may be different for some other people, but I looked at it as, ‘Yeah, we went 8-8, but at the same time we packed our bags at the end of the season.’ I’ve been doing that since I’ve been here. Hopefully, I won’t have to do it this year."

Andre Johnson was hyped coming into last year.  Always professional, but he seems a little more down.  There are certaintly some differences.  He signed an extention last year that surely made his outlook brighter.  Then he dealt with the injury all season that probably brough him down.  I hope that he'll be more excited after training camp.


Matt Schaub

(on if he watched the 2008 NFL Draft) "I wasn’t one of those guys that just sat in front of the TV all weekend, but I definitely paid attention to who we were getting and who the other teams in our division and our opponents were getting. I’d leave the TV on and walk by to see who the last 10 picks were, but I wasn’t going to just sit there and stare at the screen."

Now that's leadership.  This is a QB that loves football and knows his job.  Do you remember when he came to the Texans last year and reached out to the team?  One question I'd really like to ask him is what he thinks of Harvey and Groves chasing him this year.  He'd probably say something like, "My guys will keep me clean."


(on the new zone run scheme courtesy of assistant head coach Alex Gibbs) "Well, there was a difference in our run-game install this morning. There’s definitely another voice, a louder voice, out here getting after the guys. He brings a high level of intensity and knowledge of the game that’s unparalleled."

I love in-your-face coaches.  You know a coach cares about you if he takes the time and energy to get in your face.  Now the Texans OL has Alex Gibbs, Kyle Shanahan, John Benton and Frank Pollack all "getting after" them.  This is going to be a very motivated unit, especially with guys fighting to come back from injuries.

  zone blocking

A thought on the zone blocking being installed: Look at the O-line's arm placement.  Very Shaka-Zulu .  They're moving in tandem.  Last year the OL improved, but at times it seemed that they came of the ball at different times and in different directions.  It's looking like this year, from the start, they'll be moving and hitting as one unit.


Charles Spencer

(on if he had butterflies in his stomach after being out for so long) "No. I don’t get butterflies, man. I ain’t scared of nobody. I just gave it my all today, and we’ll see later this afternoon."

(on the importance of offseason workouts) "This is huge, because I went from a starting role to not playing to playing behind guys right now, so I’ve got to work hard to get back in that starting lineup. I can’t sit on no bench."

I love Big Nasty's attitude.  This guy is a competitor.  Everyone, including me, wondered how he'd be mentally when he came back.  He still seems like Big Nasty to me.  The best part is that the team has gotten better around him while he was out.  Now he's fighting to get back onto the field.  He's going to be extremely pissed off when he lines up across from Dwight Freeny or Albert Haynesworth (wherever they end up putting him).

Saturday : Day 2 (link)


Gary Kubiak

(on the Texans’ linebacker corps) "We’ve got some good guys out there battling for a job. You start with Zac (Diles). I really wish I would have played Zac late in the year last year and got a lot of reps under his belt. He’s battling for a job. With (Kevin) Bentley, (Chaun) Thompson, (Xavier) Adibi coming in, we need to get better as a group in there.

Look out world.  This is exactly what Kubiak said about Kevin Walter last year.  And we all know how well that story turned out.  I've come to trust Kubiak's "hunches" about his players.  I expect Diles to come in and solidify the LB corps.  With a talented and speedy bunch behind him, it should make for some interesting nickel and dime packages.

(on the coach-to-defender helmet communication) "We’ll start messing with it in May, so DeMeco (Ryans) can get used to it. We’ll put it on DeMeco and maybe Will (Demps). They’ll probably be our two guys right now who we put it on. It’s a great advantage as a coach, but sometimes there are players who don’t like that, to be honest with you. You sit there talking to them. So we have to get (DeMeco) used to (linebackers coach) Johnny Holland, or whoever else is going to talk in his helmet. Not bothering him, so to speak, but helping him on the field. We’ll start to mess with it here in a couple weeks."


Does this mean Kubiak is a technophobe on the field or does he just have better things to worry about right now?  I guess he's leaving it in Johnny Holland's hands.


(on LB Xavier Adibi’s hamstring injury) "It’s not going to set him back drastically far, but it is a setback because all of a sudden there’s going to be guys that have about 200 reps under their belts before we get through this weekend, and he’s just watching. That’s part of it, but it’s nothing bad. So we expect him to go on the 19th (of May)."

I feel bad for Glenn Martinez (PR)and Mike Bell (3rd string RB).  Kubiak seems to have some hope for Adibi, but right now it looks like he might start out on special teams and maybe in nickel packages.  I know he's going to be tearing down the field on August 9th to knock Martinez' head off.  Adibi now has another reason to be looking to make big plays throughout the pre-season to establish himself.

The other really interesting tidbit is the number 200.  I'm wondering if that's the average number of reps they're getting over these three days.  I guess Adibi has already hit his next defining moment .


"But when he's on the field, he's strictly business. When he's in the weight room, he's strictly business. Anything to do with football, I don't see too many people outworking him."

Take last summer. Coming off a junior season in which he was a second-team All-ACC selection, Adibi could have chosen to stand on a pat hand. This guy doesn't operate that way, though. Instead, he all but took up residence in Tech's weight room, busily bulking up his 6-foot-2 frame from 219 to 236 pounds. The added muscle, parlayed with his already top-level speed, has transformed him into a better linebacker.


Dominique Barber

(on if anything has surprised him yet) "No. You know, it’s been fun. Talking with my brother (Cowboys RB Marion Barber III), I knew kind of what to expect. The speed’s a little different, it’s faster, and the pace of the learning system, also. But things are going well, and I’m happy to be here."

(on if he is a big hitter) "You know, I try to think I’m a big hitter, but I guess we’ve got to see when we get the pads on."

This is one of those things I'm really looking forward to in Week 3 of the preseason.  I'd love to see Dominique and Marion collide.  It would be even better if if he could knock the ball loose.  Marion has set the standard of being a late pick that became a starter.  Here's hoping Dominique shows the same tenacity.


Fred Bennett

(on senior defensive backs assistant Ray Rhodes) "Ah, great guy, man. Coaching-wise, he’s giving me little tips here and there. When I mess up, he pulls me off and he talks to me and he lets me know, ‘Hey, we’re going to take your game to another level,’ and I’m ready to accept that."

(on if the whole team is buying into Rhodes’ message) "Yes, everybody’s just buying in to what he’s talking about; him and coach (Jon) Hoke back there. Two great DB coaches. When you have two great DB coaches and both of them are spitting their knowledge at you, you don’t have nothing to do but get better."

Alex Gibbs on the offensive side and Ray Rhodes on the defensive side of the ball.  This is awesome.  The secondary seems really high on what they're being taught.  I can picture Gibbs and Rhodes walking around practice having one-on-one sessions with players.


Morlon Greenwood

(on the linebackers calling themselves "playmakers") "That’s our natural breakdown every day. We say, ‘Playmakers on three,’ because you have to drill it in your mind to be a playmaker in order to do it on the field. Definitely, it’s our natural state of mind."

I enjoy knowing little things like this about the team.  I hope that "Playmakers" gets picked up when Texans players are miked.  Everything on the sidelines or in the huddle makes for great football.


 Jacoby Jones

(on his punt returning) "I want to take something to the house this year. I got hot in preseason and cooled off in the regular season, so I want to put something in the end zone."

And look at him go...look at him go...he could go all the way!  Reliant is going to erupt when Jacoby takes it to the house.  We all want him to be the game-breaker he was becoming before he was injured.  The Texans will play their games this year with crazy momentum when Davis and Jones are taking returns back for TDs.


Chris Myers

(on if the linemen have been joking around with one another) "Yeah, we crack some jokes on each other. It’s definitely going to be that way during the season, too."

Watching Dwayne Bowe get taped to the goal post on "Hard Knocks" last year was classic.  I wouldn't want the Texans to deal with the distractions of a TV crew in camp, but it would be great to here about their antics from time to time. 


Jacques Reeves

(on the opportunity to start) "Oh, yeah. Big opportunity. I’m loving it, man. I’m with a group of young, hungry guys that try to get better every practice, man. I’m loving it."

(on if the secondary is ready to step up this year) "Oh, yeah. From what I’ve seen, like I said, they’re hungry, man. They want to get better. They’re ready to get better, and they’re working to get better. So we’re trying to get there, man."

Hungry. Every single Texan should be.  This quote makes me more excited about the team than any other.  Hungry teams win.  I want to see every player, even the waterboy, playing as hard as Dunta Robinson.  Then they'll show that they're hungry.


Sunday : Day 3 (link)


Gary Kubiak

(on DT Frank Okam getting more reps because of DT Travis Johnson’s wedding) "Well, we’re impressed with him. I mean, he’s a very big man. He’s 345 pounds. You normally don’t find guys that size that are athletic, too, you know, and he’s got a lot of ability. He’s very smart, so he picked up what we’re doing real quick. Local kid, so it’s very exciting for him to be playing in the state of Texas. We’re counting on him. Travis’s wedding was his gain. He got a lot of reps."

Congratulations to Travis Johnson on his nuptials.  However, Kubiak is saying good things about the guy gunning for your job.  DT is going to be a great battle in training camp.  Okoye, Johnson, Okam, Maddox, Zgonia and maybe a UDFA.  However it shakes out, it's going to be a great rotation. 


(on DE Mario Williams’ improvement) "That light went on for Mario somewhere last year about Week 7 or 8. Everybody saw it, and if you watch practice right now you see him at another level. I think the sky’s the limit for him. I don’t want to sit here and say too much; I just love the way he works. I love the way he handles himself. Football is very important to Mario, and he’s working his way toward a big, big year."

Super Freakin' Mario!  Peyton Manning--be afraid.  Be very afraid...