Houston Texans' training camp thoughts: Day Three

By John Harris
July 28, 2013

Photo: The_Brit2

Just a few observations from practice over the past three days…

  • OLB Sam Montgomery in an ankle boot is both distressing and expected, which may actually be more distressing.  The former LSU Tiger came to camp out of shape, got a talking to from veterans, finally passed his conditioning tests to be able to practice -- and then rolled his ankle within 25 minutes of the first practice.  The inability to prepare and take care of business are what teams heard in the off-season, and it's unfortunate that it's come to fruition with him now in Houston.
  • Hopefully, this team will get something out of its third round selections, but T Brennan Williams hasn't done much of anything at camp after injuring his knee during OTAs.  He sure looks the part, as does Montgomery, but to have nothing but negative buzz coming from these two third rounders is a shame.
  • That said, the four six rounders have all performed admirably and it wouldn't be surprising to see one or maybe even two of WR Alan Bonner, DT Chris Jones, T/G David Quessenberry and TE Ryan Griffin make a contribution to this team this season.  Bonner has made plays down the field and caught the ball well.  Jones, well, DL coach Bill Kollar is on him like stink on a skunk every day, but that's because he sees his potential.  Quessenberry has played nearly every position on the line in three days of camp and handled them all very well.  Yet, Griffin is the one taking advantage of a golden opportunity.  With Owen Daniels as the only healthy tight end in camp, Griffin has gotten a ton of looks and gets open against all of them.  He's made a ton of plays early in camp and continues to impress.
  • Quessenberry stepped over to left tackle during Sunday morning's practice due to injuries and the sort and he fared well.  Now, to be fair, he played LT in college and is most comfortable at that spot.  In pass rush drills, though, he faced OLB Whitney Mercilus and shut down Mercilus' inside rush attempt.  So, then Kollar asked for OLB Willie Jefferson to rush the former SJSU captain and Quessenberry finished the protection by slamming Jefferson on his back.  Quessenberry will have an integral spot on this team, given his versatility, and he's been impressive through the first three days.
  • Jefferson is a complete and total unknown, but the coaches love this guy.  Well, when I say that coaches love a guy, it means he's getting coached up as much as, or more than, any other defensive player.  The former receiver at Baylor transferred to Stephen F. Austin and turned into a pass rushing demon.  During Saturday's morning practice, he got matched up on All-Pro Duane Brown.  What happened next I thought was an aberration, but Jefferson started at Duane's outside shoulder then WHOOSH back underneath him without Brown getting a hand on him.  The defensive players whooped and hollered while the OL all look at each other like "holy sh--, that's not supposed to happen".  Kollar and Wade Phillips consistently preach to him about finishing and going hard every play, but if there's an UDFA to keep an eye on during preseason, it's Jefferson.
  • Another UDFA that has been fun to watch is former Syracuse WR Alec Lemon.  It's easy to see why he was undrafted - he can't get true separation, but then again, it's easy to see why he was Ryan Nassib's go-to guy last year - he can catch a BB in the dark.  He's made at least three highlight reel catches the last three days, but the problem is that he's having to do that because he can't run from DBs.
  • All-Pro DE JJ Watt is nowhere near resting on his laurels.  In fact, I think he's crafted critics to keep in his head, Bobby Boucher-style, to keep playing at his level.  There isn't an interior lineman that can block him effectively during pass rush drills and he's chasing ball carriers 40 yards downfield during team drills on the first day of practice.  
  • Much has been made of the progress CB Kareem Jackson has made and it's all true.  It's the best he's looked since I can remember watching him.  He feels at home and comfortable and he's in the hip pocket of each and every receiver he covers.  But, Jackson isn't the only one in the secondary.  This is the best the secondary has looked, as a unit, since I've been here.  And, that's without Ed Reed too.  That said, I'm still waiting, as are the coaches, for Brandon Harris, a former 2nd round pick, to step up his game.  He'll make a play and then get beat on the next one.  Roc Carmichael has outperformed Harris thus far as the two battle for perhaps one of the final DB roster spots.
  • Speaking of safeties, rookie DJ Swearinger will be the chess piece we all thought he would be.  He's comfortable playing LB in the Texans' dime coverage, and by comfortable, I mean he can play the run and pass equally well in that role.  He hasn't unleashed the beast, even though pads went on today, but there's no question that his impact is being felt.
  • Rookie OLB Trevardo Williams is getting plenty of looks with Brooks Reed nursing an ailing foot in practice.  But, he's been slow off the ball and doesn't have much in the way of pass rush acumen.  If he can improve his "get off" and find one pet move, then look out.  But, that appears to be well off in the distance at this point.  However, he has tremendous speed, never quits and will be a demon on special teams at a minimum
  • A fourth rounder like Williams, WR Keshawn Martin, now in his 2nd year, has made a ton of progress from this time last year.  He's catching everything, playing with confidence and looks like a completely different player.  I try to keep it all in perspective early in training camp, but he just looks different.  In a much better way.  If he can be Matt Schaub's outlet and Schaub can trust him, this offense will have another layer to it.
  • I've watched S Ed Reed work out on a side field, rehabbing from his hip injury and I'm not buying the fact that he'll be ready in week one.  And, in all honesty, that's not the goal.  Beating San Diego and having the whole gang together isn't the goal.  Sure, we all want to see him in this lineup but not at 85%.  He winced when doing defensive back pedal and turn drills and didn't look comfortable doing anything other than running straight ahead.  He'll come back at some point, but it doesn't HAVE to be week one for Reed to be a key figure for a championship team.
  • DT Terrell McClain, third year guy from USF, has flashed on occasion throughout camp playing over the nose.
  • The gaggle of UDFA RB is getting plenty of work with Pro Bowler Arian Foster on the shelf.  I still say the most impressive one is former Arkansas product Dennis Johnson, who bounces off of big hits but keeps his balance in the run game, catches the ball well in the passing game and can return kicks too.  He made a one handed catch during team in the bubble during Sunday's practice.  Foster and Ben Tate won't need much help between the two, but Johnson is pushing hard to be that No. 3 guy at this point.
  • The tackle position is sort of a disaster right now for the Texans.  Derek Newton and Williams are limited, while Nick Mondek is banged up and out of practice for the time being.  The team would like to see Andrew Gardner step up, but that isn't going to happen, trust me on that.  But, if there's been a bright spot for the team early in camp, it has been veteran RT Ryan Harris.  He's not spectacular but he's steady.  He's been sound in pass rush drills and has been a solidifying force on an OL that right now has many moving parts.  I know the team wants Newton to take over that spot and let Williams push him for playing time, but Harris is going to make it tough on the coaching staff to forget about his role on that right side.
  • The punters and kickers were working out too.  But, I didn't care, so don't ask.

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