The field was packed with 80 plus players working to understand the new concepts being brought in by new Head Coach Bill O’Brien.
The Texans are being held to a higher standard and they are being coached like it on the field from the entire staff.
Day One Review
Acclimation of the Rookies
Head Coach Bill O’Brien pointed out that prior to today’s first OTAs, the rookies and veterans had their first real contact in positional meetings earlier in the week. The rookies and veterans would lift weights separately from the veterans and their first real work together came on the field today during the first practice.
Xavier Su’a-Filo Absent
The rookie offensive guard Xavier Su’a-Filo was back in school at UCLA finishing up the semester where they were ending their last quarter. When Su’a-Filo finishes his classes for the year, he will be able to return to the Texans and start OTAs. NFL rules bar rookies from attending team camps other than one three-day rookie mini-camp until classes are finished.
Foster Looks the Part
Arian Foster looks lean and ready to go for the upcoming season and is moving well despite a back surgery from the previous season that landed him on the injured reserve. Foster looks primed to help once again in the running game and to be counted on in the passing game more.
He was very lively on the field with his teammates and even gave General Manager Rick Smith a hug while passing during drills. Foster is in every drill and looking like he has a firm grasp on what the new offense is asking from him.
Derek Newton Looks Ready To Go
Much criticized offensive tackle Derek Newton has arrived to OTAs in great shape and it is apparent he put in much work this offseason. He moves much better than before and has a better kick step with quickness in his pass sets. Newton had a major knee injury after 2012 that slowed him into 2013 and his added weight from the injury set him up for a below average 2013 season.
Day one at OTAs was a positive start for the right tackle and seeing him appear to be more focused for the season is a good sight.
Shane Lechler Still Has a Live Leg
The veteran punter Shane Lechler looks better than ever especially when he was asked to boom some punts down field for the returners to field. He was directional punting with ease and easily dropping punts over 50 plus yards indoors. One of the best punters in NFL history still looks like there is plenty left in the tank.
Bigger Bodies for the Defensive Line
The defensive mind-set has changed concerning their defensive line and with the additions of free agents Jerrell Powe (331 lbs.), Ricardo Mathews (300 lbs.) and rookies Louis Nix III (331 lbs.) and Jeoffery Pagan (310 lbs.) the message is apparent, stop the run. Pagan is still recovering from a shoulder procedure from the offseason but Powe, Mathews and Nix III are all good pieces for the defense.
Powe is a run stopping plugger at the nose tackle while Mathews showed today why he was brought in with his versatility on the field. Mathews can contribute at the nose tackle or defensive end spot but more impressive was his ability to move from the interior of the defense. He was chasing down plays and moving at a quicker pace than the rest of the interior and he will be one to watch as a situational player for the Texans.
Nix III is still learning the scheme and the position and getting him acclimated to the NFL is the number one priority of the Texans.
Alan Bonner Sighting
Alan Bonner’s season ended the week before the first preseason game on a pass to the sideline that caused a hamstring issue that eventually landed him on the injured reserve. Bonner came out and showed why he impressed early last training camp with his speed and hands from the wide receiver position.
Bonner has the ability to separate out of his breaks but him taking off from his wide receiver stance is tough to match up against. He showed he can create space in short areas with his quickness in tight spaces and is probably one of the fastest wide receivers of the group.
Mike Thomas Continues to Impress
Veteran wide receiver Mike Thomas has been one of the more impressive sights since the start of voluntary mini-camp at the beginning of the month and how he used that time to build on what he did today. He runs routes with confidence and his years in the league are showing on the field and has become a viable option for one of the wide receiver positions.
He has shown he can go vertical but he has looked good catching the ball in voids and working in space. Thomas has a real opportunity to make the team and with absent players from the position it has given Thomas more time to impress.
Jadeveon Clowney Has Work To Do
Jadeveon Clowney had his first real look at what NFL life was with the veterans and there is plenty of work for the number one overall selection of the draft.
His first step during his pass rush is electric and his ability to cover as much ground as he does will be a refreshing sight to a team that has lacked a real outside pass threat. Clowney has work to do with keeping offensive tackles away from his body and using his arms and hands better to create space to work. All of the skill level you want in a pass rusher is there with Clowney and Linebacker Coach Mike Vrabel was correcting the rookie on the run on what to improve on.
Brooks Reed Will Have to be Versatile
The idea of Brooks Reed helping at inside linebacker has come to a reality and it appears that he will be asked to help at that position. Reed was hot and cold in coverage today but seemed to have a good grasp on what was being asked from him on the inside.
Reed recognized that there will be some learning to be done with the position but there is still reason to believe he will be moved around to help in the edge when needed.
The Quarterback Group
All of the quarterbacks are getting equal work at practice and plugging away at the new offense and learning the nuances under O’Brien. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the “on paper” starter and he has looked what you want a veteran quarterback to look like by making smart and calculated throws with a quick trigger.
Case Keenum showed once again that his best ball is the deep ball outside the numbers to a streaking wide receiver running a go route and he dropped some in the bucket today.
T.J. Yates has looked better than expected and it looks like he has taken to what quarterback coach George Godsey is asking him to do, stand tall in the pocket and deliver the ball with a purpose. Yates had a feel about him today he has not shown since 2011 and he made some impressive throws up the seams and outside the numbers.
Understand that rookie Tom Savage has a long way to go, but his arm strength stands out compared to the other three quarterbacks. Savage gets the ball to his receivers in a hurry and made some nice throws, especially a back shoulder throw he made today to LaColtan Bester. It will be interesting to see his progression but his skill level is much more advanced than the group.
Quick Hitters From OTAs
- J.J. Watt batted the first pass of OTAs down. He is still good at what he does.
- Cornerback A.J. Bouye picked up where he did last year and showed some good coverage on wide receivers down field.
- Brandon Harris looks more comfortable on the field and looked very confident in coverage. He made some nice breaks on the football in the air.
- Rookie inside linebacker Max Bullough was introduced to the NFL game and the speed of the game will need adjusting too. The learning curve is high at the moment for Bullough and getting him adjusted in a hurry will be key.
- Safety Kendrick Lewis is very much a leader on the field and his experience playing under Romeo Crennel in Kansas City is showing.
- Offensive lineman David Quessenberry will be interesting to watch. He has the versatility to play everywhere on the offensive line but center.
- Brian Cushing and Johnathan Joseph did not participate in OTAs and Head Coach Bill O’Brien said “…Those guys will be back, I can tell you that. They’ll be back.”