Your Houston Texans officially opened Training Camp yesterday, with the public and media in attendance, meaning we got our first glimpse of the players competing for roster spots on this year's squad. The atmosphere was the equivalent of a " Football Easter Sunday," with fans camping outside the gates of the practice facility as early as 12 a.m. Sunday. That's right--Texans fans were lined up more than eight hours before practice started. Practice. Not a playoff game, not a regular season game, not a preseason game. Practice.
Although an injury has him sidelined, J.J. Watt made an appearance with a brave young heart transplant patient. If the "eyeball test" is remotely accurate, Watt will be back to embarrassing opposing offensive linemen sooner rather than later. Watt reported that the surgery he had on his back was successful. He still has stitches and has to limit his physical activity to walking, but in two weeks, he will be able to start working out again.
As for the guys on the field, let me briefly state the Battle Red Blog philosophy before continuing: The only "Bull" that will receive support on our site is the group of guys who play on Kirby Drive and Toro himself. I don't have the nerve to feed our followers "bull" and embellish the first day of camp into more than what it actually is. The goal for the first day of camp is to see where the players are individually and as a team.
Conditioning, timing, accuracy, fundamentals and communication are the key observations that I focused on while watching players, because we know that NFL games are not won in half-shell pads and shorts. Here are some highlights that I observed by position group:
Quarterbacks: Brock Osweiler's arm strength is even more impressive in person than on film. This guy has a bazooka attached to his shoulder. He effortlessly spins the football 50+ yards and peppered the field with every throw that you can ask a quarterback to make. It's pretty clear that the time that he spent with the receivers in the offseason has helped. Brock did make a mistake and was picked off by Andre Hal, but it was purely a timing and communication thing. Brandon Weeden and Tom Savage worked closely with Brock; after each session, they stopped to give each other feedback.
Running Backs: Perhaps the most difficult group to evaluate without full contact. All that I can say here is that the group collectively looked good when running short routes. Alfred Blue did fumble during a drill, but that's why camp exists, right? The wrinkles will get ironed out as we progress towards the first preseason game.
Receivers/Tight Ends: As mentioned before, the wide receivers worked a ton with the quarterbacks. Obviously, not having DeAndre Hopkins in camp was awkward. Nonetheless, the guys worked hard and ran tons of routes. Quenton Bundrage had some excellent catches. The tight ends didn't get many reps during practice, but Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage stayed after practice to throw exclusively with them.
Offensive/Defensive Line/Linebackers: I'm putting all of the big guys together because unfortunately there isn't much to discuss without contact. As you know, Derek Newton suffered a hamstring injury. Christian Covington, Devon Still and Brandon Dunn all spent time at both defensive end and defensive tackle. Coach O'Brien mentioned that when making evaluations, the ability to play multiple positions definitely helps. Brian Cushing has the physique of a cartoon superhero. It's obvious that he has been working hard in the gym during the offseason.
Defensive Backs: Without the benefit of pressure on the quarterback, my analysis of the clouds' coverage of the hot Houston sun would be more accurate. What I did observe from this group, more than anything else, was communication. Mistakes happen in coverage when defensive backs are not on the same page. The safeties and cornerbacks did a good job of relaying information to each other. Fans were wowed by some of the catches made, but remember the defensive backs aren't allowed to jam. It's almost impossible to actually cover without some contact. What we saw on the field was basically a series of footraces to the spot where ball was thrown.
Special Teams: The kicking and punting units did not work. Additional emphasis was placed on the return teams, and they worked heavily on blocking the gunners. Nothing else to report here.
Day 1 of Training Camp was a good start. The biggest play of the day, however, actually came after practice ended, when DeAndre Hopkins announced that he is ending his holdout and will be back at camp going forward. Now that all of the pieces are on the field, it's time to start putting the puzzle together. We will continue to provide you with updates as training camp progresses.