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Texans Training Camp Day 9 Notebook: Struggles & Flashes

It certainly was a mixed day from the Houston Texans on both sides of the ball.

HOUSTON -- Sometimes having a down day isn’t a negative, as practice is a learning lesson for teams to figure out where they sit in terms of development. 

The Houston Texans' Tuesday practice certainly could have been worse. It also could have been better. Quarterback Davis Mills seemed to have found his rhythm during 7-on-7 drills, going 3-of-5 on drives in terms of finding the end zone. 

Then came the two-minute drill. It's a set of reps Mills likely will want back. And while he did connect in the red zone with fullback Andy Janovich for an easy touchdown, he finished his turn going 9-of-17 in the process. 

Is it the biggest concern? For now, no. One thing that does have some pondering the status of the offense is Mills' lack of deep-ball throws. Last season, the then-rookie connected on 12 passes of 20 yards on more downfield and finished with four 300-plus passing yard games. 

Most of the new plays designs under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton have been more about dink-and-dump-off throws.

The one positive: Mills has built a connection with tight ends Brevin Jordan and Pharaoh Brown while working toward doing the same with second-year receiver Nico Collins and speedy slot option Phillip Dorsett.

This isn't to say Mills and the offense will be one-dimensional. Maybe Hamilton is looking for consistency from his starting quarterback rather than watching him play hero ball in practice. 

Meanwhile, hot temperatures at the Houston Methodist Training Center factored into the tempo of practice, so one off day doesn't mean the fans’ pitchforks must come out.

On Wednesday, Houston will want to respond well. Back-to-back subpar days never will bring praise to an organization — rebuilding or not. 

Tytus Howard Back 

Howard was officially activated off the COVID-19 list Tuesday, and it was clear he'll need time to catch his breath. As practice concluded, the fourth-year offensive tackle was visibly winded from working back in with the first-team offense. 

Howard, who is expected to be the starting right tackle Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, missed Friday's practice after being diagnosed with the virus. Houston had off days on Thursday and Monday, meaning Howard has missed five consecutive days and three practices. 

In place of Howard, rookie Austin Deculus worked with the first-team offense. Offensive line coach George Warhop has been pleased with the former LSU's grasp of the playbook, but is looking for more consistency. 

"That's just being young," Warhop said. "That's any rookie coming in. That's the hardest thing, just being like 'I have to line up and I have to block this dude. I have No. 55 (Jerry Hughes) sitting out there or No. 97 (Mario Addison) or No. 52 (Jonathan Greenard).' These are all really good players." 

Wallow Keeps Wowing 

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Garret Wallow made headlines when general manager Nick Caserio called him "the most improved player" on the roster after his rookie campagin. He kept fans’ attention when Texans coach Lovie Smith announced that "he'll have a role for us" at the start of training camp. 

The Texans would love nothing more than go 5-of-5 in starters from Caserio's first draft class. Mills, Collins, Jordan and defensive lineman Roy Lopez all are expected to see meaningful reps in 2022, but Wallow is still finding his footing. In large part, it's due to the depth of the position as the 23-year-old can't break into the starting lineup. 

Linebackers coach Miles Smith is the latest to praise Wallow for his maturity and growth in the offseason. One thing that separates the TCU product from some others is his versatility. Throughout training camp, Wallow has seen reps at all three linebacker spots. 

Wallow spent the offseason working with strength-and-conditioning coach Mike Eubanks. A year in the same system has also helped him in processing plays in a quicker fashion.

Houston is expected to start Christian Kirksey in the middle, but the two outside spots seem up for grabs. And with Wallow being one of two linebackers under contract through 2023, perhaps the Texans give him first crack and either the SAM or WILL ‘backer spot. 

QUICK HITS

- Safety Jonathan Owens has been mixing in with the first-team defense along with veteran Terrance Brooks. On Tuesday, Owens made one of the better plays, breaking up a pass intended for receiver Chris Moore. 

Last season, Smith praised Owens' growth from being a practice squad member to part-time starter. 

- With rookie linebacker Christian Harris missing time due to a lower body injury, former New York Jets special-teams star Blake Cashman has filled the void with ease. Smith praised the 26-year-old's progress, stating how he "came out of nowhere" but has consistently been making plays. 

On Tuesday, Cashman broke up a pass intended for tight end Seth Green in coverage. He also picked up what would've been a sack on Mills during 11-on-11 drills. 

- The loss of rookie slot receiver John Metchie III created competition inside among five receivers. It's looking like Dorsett might be the best option. Twice the speedy receiver hauled in passes and picked up gains of over 10 yards downfield. 

Since returning from injury, Dorsett has been the team's most consistent weapon inside, often utilizing his 4.3 speed to his advantage.

- Harris missed the second consecutive practice, joining fellow rookie guard Kenyon Green, wide receiver Chester Rogers and tight end Antony Auclair. Defensive end Rasheem Green returned to practice in full pads after missing the previous three practices. His status for Saturday's preseason matchup remains unknown.


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