Hopkins Looks The Part Early On
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.
Old Dog With New Tricks
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.
Clash Of The Titans
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.
- I had a great football chat with former Patriots LB turned sports talk host Ted Johnson about the changing landscape of pro football. He and I both agree that Chip Kelly's tempo, much more than his offense, could change the way that NFL offenses operate in the future.
- Rookie T/G David Quessenberry looks so smooth and fluid during running plays. Quessenberry gets to the spot and gets guys walled off on the backside as well as any tackle the Texans have in camp and when he was at guard, he showed a seamlessness with getting up the 2nd level and getting his blocks on LBs. Quessenberry did struggle to stay engaged at times on the 2nd level on a couple of snaps. The one area that worried me during the draft and worried me today is that he has a tendency to get bull-rushed at times. It will happen to every lineman from time to time, but Quessenberry doesn't have as much core-strength as he needs and he really has to play with great technique and determination to battle stronger players.
- Former Oregon State ILB Cameron Collins (#90) stepped up and made me notice him on a couple of snaps where he stuck his nose in the hole and snuffed out running plays.
- During the run game portion of the practice, Case Keenum read the defense moving to a single-high safety look and audibled to an outside zone play that broke it open with undrafted free agent RB Dennis Johnson (#28) doing the legwork.
- I thought potential starting RT Ryan Harris (#68) really struggled at times in the run game portion of practice and with some of his pass protection. Harris has a tendency to bend and lean too much which causes him to get off balance. Backup tackle Andrew Gardner (#66) put together a solid practice.
- Rookie OLB Trevardo Williams continues to struggle in practice. Williams looked out of place in one-on-one pass protection drills today and didn't utilize his natural strength which is his quickness. Williams has been getting swallowed up against the run and if he needs to show much more as a pass rusher.
- Even if Jeff Maehl (#15) doesn't make it with the Texans due to getting caught up in a numbers game, I definitely think he has the talent to catch on with another team. as a WR5.
- RT Derek Newton (#75) had a nice practice today and was getting some reps with the starters today as well. If I had a gun to my head, my guess would be that Newton would open week 1 as the starting RT, but there is still plenty of camp to go.
- G Cody White had a completely forgettable practice today. He ended up on the ground too often, was beaten on more than one occasion by Daniel Muir during team scrimmage and got pushed all over the field during one-on-ones against the likes of Earl Mitchell.
- Former Texans DT Travis Johnson was in attendance and watching practice as a guest. At one point during defensive line drills when practice slowed down, Johnson and Bill Kollar had a friendly conversation going on from about 50 feet away with Kollar telling him to "get out here on the field" and Johnson imploring Kollar to "tell them to get me some pads". Thanks, but no thanks, Travis. I did, however, enjoy listening to him talk about pass rushing during pass protection drills.
Tomorrow, I will focus much more attention on the secondary, the wide receivers and the QBs.