Heading into week two and OTA #4 for the Houston Texans, all of the news centered around the exit of one key offensive starter during practice.
The Memorial Day weekend and the Texas heat and humidity set some players back during practice, mainly the younger players. It was a sluggish practice that had its moments of good football being displayed, but it's only OTAs and everything is not going to be perfect.
- Veteran Tim Dobbins and Ed Reed were once again absent from practice. There have been no talk to the two returning for OTAs but they should be available for the opening of training camp.
- Tight end Phillip Supernaw and defensive tackle Sunny Harris were both sidelined with foot injuries they sustained on the first day of OTAs. Supernaw was in a cast with crutches while Harris was fitted with a walking boot. They both will be out for an extended amount of time but no timetable has been set.
- Starter Arian Foster had a scary moment on the opening of the team session when he took a hand off and after two steps came up limping. After being tended to by trainers, Foster went to the sideline and immediately was fitted with a big ice bag on his calf. He was not taken into the locker room but he watched the majority of practice from the sideline. His teammates including Ben Tate, Wade Smith, Duane Brown and Andre Johnson all went to check on him, but none seemed too concerned with what they saw.
Foster was taken in towards the end of practice with other members of the Texans staff and equipment from the field. He gave a peace sign to the onlooking media and, with a towel over his head to keep the sun off, Foster was driven to the locker room.
Head Coach Gary Kubiak labeled Foster's injury as a "calf strain" and if that is what they say it is consider it a moral victory. More news will come out in the coming days about Foster but early signs point to rest and rehab should have him healthy for training camp.
- The defense had four interceptions on the afternoon from the arm of each quarterback today.
- Kareem Jackson played DeAndre Hopkins well and undercut an in route to pick off Matt Schaub. Hopkins could have helped Schaub to come back to the football and Schaub could have done a better job of putting the ball in front of Hopkins. Jackson plucked the ball out of the air and turned it into a pick six the other way.
- Rookie safety Orhian Johnson made a diving interception on a ball that sailed on Case Keenum. Johnson was playing centerfield and made a good break on the football with the wide receiver cutting underneath him.
- T.J. Yates was picked off by D.J. Swearinger on a pass intended to a slot receiver. Swearinger made a break on the ball from the middle of the field as a deep safety which would have resulted in a touchdown.
- The play of the day came from rookie outside linebacker Willie Jefferson when he pulled the J.J. Watt playoff interception in practice. Jefferson was rushing from the outside and stopped and jumped in the air to intercept a Stephen McGee pass. Just like Watt in one motion, Jefferson ended the play in the endzone and finished the practice on a high note for the defense.
- The rookie linebackers of Willie Jefferson, Justin Tuggle and Evan Frierson make catching the ball look easy in drills. We know they are linebackers and should be looking forward to seeing them hit other players, but they showed some skill in ball drills. They look natural and it is not often you see defensive front seven with their athletic ability.
- Guard Brandon Brooks is one that people should be looking forward to seeing in pads. Today in pass protection drills he was able to deliver punches with his hands that had some serious force behind it. Brooks who weighed in at 6-5 and 325 lbs. looks much more comfortable with the offensive protection schemes and is able to answer questions from offensive line coach John Benton without hesitation.
- We talked to DeVier Posey after practice and he said he was close to being able to be cleared by team doctors to start running. Posey who is coming off an Achilles injury from December looks to be progressing nicely in his recovery.
- Ben Tate looked much more focused after Foster went out with his injury today. He ran hard and looked like the 2011 Tate on the field. He showed patience in the running game and made some defenders miss in the open field. Being a contract year, there should be some much added incentive for Tate in the 2013 season.
- Case Keenum made some solid throws today and looks comfortable with wide receiver Keshawn Martin. He made a nice throw on an out route to Martin that he had to get passed a diving Roc Carmichael. Keenum has showed some good signs of progressing in the offense and making some NFL type throws.
- Rookie wide receiver EZ Nwachukwu keeps doing little things to get noticed. Today he showed some vertical speed to get passed the cornerback and the safety trying to help. Even though the ball was over thrown, Nwachukwu has shown some good attributes for a wide receiver. He has quick feet, some deceptive speed and nice catching ability. He will be another to watch moving into training camp.
- Bryan Braman has slimmed down to 242 lbs. and looks lighter than ever before. Braman who is a key piece in the Texans special teams unit has been working to establish himself on defense. There has been a call for the third year player to contribute on defense. The only problem is there are three more than capable outside linebackers who are in front of him in Trevardo Williams, Whitney Mercilus and Sam Montgomery. Also add in when Brian Cushing comes back, there is a good possibility Reed will be moved back to the outside. That means Braman will be buried in the depth chart and he will be a special teams only player.
- The Brian Cushing update: Today Cushing ran full speed for about 50 yards without breaking stride and showed no ill effects of a bad ACL. Cushing has been working and attending every OTA session doing drills, working on becoming his old self. Early indications are all pointing to the right direction and an appearance on the first day of training camp.
- This was the first time in OTAs where wide receiver Lestar Jean has really put together a solid day on the field. During team drills, he worked inside and outside the formation and caught the ball with confidence. He went deep in between the safeties and caught a nice deep ball from T.J. Yates. Jean also went across the middle and worked the opposing corners for some nice catches. It was good to see some life out of Jean in the second week of OTAs.