By Lance Zierlein
July 30, 2013
The Texans have been in desperate need of a WR2 who could threaten defenses down the field and who could be relied on to rack up catches when Andre Johnson was facing a touch matchup. Kevin Walter was workmanlike (sorry, Kevin... I know it sounds so stereotypical), Jacoby Jones was inconsistent and had too many drops, Andre Davis was a mistake as a free agent signing and DeVier Posey got injured last season before he could show the Texans what he had. Finally, it looks like the Texans have it right.
DeAndre Hopkins came into the draft as the WR whom I believed was the most NFL-ready of the early round players. "Nuk" has solid hands, has enough game speed to get behind defenses and he's showing that his ability to get out of his breaks is creating separation that the Texans didn't usually see with Kevin Walter. While it is very early into camp and the pressure will ratchet up, the thing that has impressed me most with Hopkins is that he looks very comfortable on the field and he doesn't appear to be pressing much at all.
In one-on-one drills against the CBs, Hopkins made an difficult grab in the corner of the endzone with Roc Carmichael hanging all over him. In the team portion down during redzone scrimmage against the defensive starters, Hopkins ran an out that shook Johnathan Joseph and created enough space for Matt Schaub to make a comfortable throw before Hopkins went out near the goal line. Hopkins ability to threaten defenses down the field, with quick-release fades near the end zone and over the middle should give the Texans as potent a passing attack as we have seen over the last 2 or 3 season.
For fantasy football owners out there who are devouring everything they can in preparation for their drafts/auctions, anything less than 50 catches for Hopkins would seem disappointing to me at this early stage. In reality, I think 52-60 catches is a very reasonable goal for Hopkins and I could see him with even more if Schaub continues to develop confidence in the young wideout throughout camp and in the pre-season.
Veteran NT Daniel Muir (#91), a six year veteran who has logged 24 starts with the Indianapolis Colts over four season with them, had a terrific practice. Granted, much of Muir did was against the Texans #2 and #3 offensive lines, but he showed terrific power and penetration in the team scrimmage portion. Muir isn't known as much of a pass rusher, but did have a terrific spin move win in one of his reps. Muir is bigger and stronger than the 1-gap NTs we usually see with the Texans and his power and experience will give him a shot to make the team.
There isn't a defensive lineman in the game who is better than J.J. Watt so I was expecting G Brandon Brooks (#79) to get schooled in one-on-one pass protection drills thanks to Watt's quickness, but that wasn't the case. Brooks had four reps against Watt over two sessions and he did a great job against Watt. During the first session, Watt tried to make an outside move to set Brooks up with an inside spin, but Brooks timed his punch perfectly and jolted Watt outside of the pocket. During the second session, Brooks used pure power to drive Watt to the ground on one of the reps. It is worth noting that fellow TSV writer, John Harris, told me that Watt has been getting the better of those reps up to this point in camp.
Tomorrow, I will focus much more attention on the secondary, the wide receivers and the QBs.