Deeper Cuts from Houston Texans OTAs
Cornerback Denzel Rice had a key interception in the team session off a tipped pass going into the end zone. He was able to break out of coverage and locate the tipped pass to make a diving interception. Rice had a much better day than the start of OTAs last week when he had some trouble in coverage.
Robert Nelson appears to be positioning himself for big things in the Texans defense. It is early, no doubt, but Nelson’s confidence is clear. It's in the way he attacks the football in the air. Remember, the Texans scouted Nelson since he arrived to the NFL coming out of Arizona State, but it took a couple of stops before Nelson finally gave the Texans a chance to sign him. The team brought Nelson in late during the 2015 season to give him a chance to compete for a roster spot heading into 2016. Now, with the exit of A.J. Bouye and with Kevin Johnson still working his way back from off-season surgery, Nelson is taking full advantage of his reps on the field. If there is one thing that carries over for the team, it is the play of defensive backs in these passing camps. Nelson has been one of the clear standouts early.
Rookie edge player Dayon Pratt is settling into his role, using the burst seen on film from East Carolina here at practices with the Texans. He has a lethal first step and can beat an offensive tackle before he even gets out of his stance. Pratt is like many edge rushers who the Texans covet as rookies. They are noticeably fast twitch players who can create some burst.
Related Links: Quick Hitters from Houston Texans OTAs
How in-depth does the Texans staff get when it comes to helping the team's players? Lamar Miller here (picture below) shows a clip from his Instagram account of him receiving kickoffs. Now, this is more about keeping Miller busy than actually thinking he will do it in the game, but the point is that the Texans employ handheld video cameras with which they record players in positions like this according to position groups. The technical side of what the Texans are trying to do is impressive and coaches are able to determine whether something is wrong with the way the player is receiving kicks. The Texans have another coaching tool to help out their players. This method has been used since O’Brien arrived but it shows the lengths the Texans go to help their players.
Speaking of coaching, the duo of wide receiver coach John Perry and assistant offensive coach Wes Welker is in position to earn dividends for a wide receiving group that needs another bump in coaching. Perry moved to the wide receiver group after coaching the Texans tight end group for three years, while Welker is in his first year of coaching but he is already being leaned heavily upon to help the players. Perry is a technician and is already using drills that have not been used previously. If anything, he pushes the receivers hard to be perfect. Welker is currently focused on sharing his knowledge of the offense, helping players become more fluent in a system that appears to take some time to master. DeAndre Hopkins and Braxton Miller have both been clear these first two weeks regarding how much Welker is helping each of them as a player and Miller is trying to take some key pointers from Welker since he is playing the same position as him. There is a difference between outside and inside wide receiver so it helps to have two coaches working the group. The early look from the coaches is exactly what the group needed.
Zach Cunningham is a presence in coverage and he needs to tighten up his knowledge of routes to cut down space. One thing is for sure, Cunningham can cover ground and he showed he can run with running backs and tight ends. He is finding out that NFL players' abilities to be technicians really set them apart. Cunningham can’t solely use athleticism to win. He will have to improve his own technique over these next few months to improve for the season. He is rough around the edges but it is easy to see the upward arrow he has as a player due to his ability.
Julién Davenport is getting some more work with the absences of Duane Brown (holdout) and Chris Clark (veteran rest day) at both tackle positions. It is clear that he is still trying to get accustomed to the speed of the game and that alone is giving him fits as a player. Like we mentioned before, Davenport's ability to hold up against NFL strength will be better known when the pads are strapped on in camp, but it is clear why they called him a developmental player.
Carlos Watkins is getting into the Texans way of life as a defensive lineman with a pass deflection resulting in an interception. If there are signs anyone wants to see from a defensive lineman in particular, those are the little things. Getting his hands up, lining up correctly, good get offs on the snap are all early signs that Watkins is doing well early. Watkins has been spending time with his good friend D.J. Reader, picking his brain on the Texans way of life. For Watkins, having Reader in house is making an early difference for him on the field.
Dylan Cole continues to make strides as a rookie at the inside linebacker position. Although he is not as tall as his fellow inside players, Cole continues to make strides in coverage, which is a good thing for a team that really has not had a player be that type of guy. Cole has a legitimate shot to be on the roster when all is said and done during the preseason.
The Texans rookie wide receiver group continues to be hot and cold and it all comes down to staying on the field. Justin Hardee, Riley McCarron, Shaquille Hill and Chris Thompson have all missed time for one reason or another. There is a chance for a receiver to take over the one of the final spots, but it is hard to make any noise if they can’t get on the field early in the process.
Avery Williams is a bulldog out on the field and is one of the players in practice who really needs pad to show what he can do. When it comes to special teams, Williams works his tail off to block players in coverage and he does not stop when given a task. If there is one way for a player like Williams to make the team, special teams is the way.
There has not been enough said on Ryan Griffin and the role he plays in the offense. The team's best option when it comes to a complete tight end in terms of blocking and receiving, Griffin is doing what he wants in routes and linking up with Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden through the air. Griffin is a much more polished route runner and has caught everything thrown his way early in the spring.
Bill O’Brien cut practice short today after Jaelen Strong went down in a collision with cornerback Dee Virgin. Strong walked off the field but it was enough for O’Brien to call of the remainder of practice. The team works hard to prevent injuries during OTAs. It appears the Texans survived a little scare with Strong, who has looked good early in OTAs, but it is important they protect each other out on the field.
Related OTAs Links: OTAs Update from Day Two: with J.J. Watt and David Quessenberry Returning | A Closer Look at Duane Brown's Holdout | DeAndre Hopkins Leaning on Wes Welker | Early Storylines After Week One
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