The end of the second week and the 6th OTA workout for the Houston Texans, the team ended the session on a high note. The players seem to have an extra gear in their step when the weekend approaches and today was no different. The weather was good once again with a strong breeze for the players not to melt in the Houston heat.
One of the good signs is the rust coming off of the offense, especially through the air. The defense looks like they are ahead of the offense, but today the offense looked the best they have of the six sessions.
- Starting quarterback Matt Schaub looked the best today that he has all off season. Schaub threw some nice passes into tight spaces that only his wide receivers could catch. His best throw came on the sidelines when he threw a strike to Keshawn Martin over two defenders 30 yards down field on a sideline route. It was a throw that we haven't seen him throw often, but he was looking for Martin on the field to tell him nice catch. It was the first day Schaub looked really focused and actually showed emotion on the field after completing passes. He pushed the ball down field just out of the reach of Lestar Jean, but threw the ball effectively otherwise. Schaub's knowledge of the offense is impressive to watch and it is evident when he goes through his progressions on the field. He makes it look easy compared to the other three quarterbacks.
- It will be interesting to see what happens when Ed Reed returns, but there is a good competition between Eddie Pleasant and Shiloh Keo for one of the safety positions. Pleasant has taken a solid step in his progression as a safety and even knowing what the defense is asking. Pleasant has quick feet and has shown he can play against the better offensive players on the field. Fellow teammates like Brandon Harris and Johnathan Joseph have talked about Pleasant and the early impression he has made in OTAs.
- As for Keo, he has shown some growth on the field and does a good job of covering underneath routes. When receivers make him run with them is when he struggles some in the coverage game. This is a big season for Keo in his third year and he will have to show he can contribute on defense and special teams. He did have an interception off a tipped pass today, which he was providing some good safety coverage on a crossing route.
- Alan Bonner had the catch of the day when he went high and elevated over a defender in traffic to haul a pass in from T.J. Yates. There was some positive chatter from his teammates watching from the sidelines. Bonner has shown his athletic ability like this more than once and today was another example.
- Rookie wide receiver Andy Cruse had his best day of OTAs and rookie mini camp. Not a burner on the field, but with his 6-3 frame he is a big possession receiver who made some nice catches today. He made a solid double move route to beat A.J. Bouye on a diving catch from the arm of Stephen McGee. Cruse is solid in ever facet of his game but he will have to step up his on field performance against his current competition.
- One player who has slowly come on is rookie Jawanza Starling. Today during team session, he had some good moments. In position drills, Starling has some good feet and is really taking to Coach Joseph's teaching and it has paid off. He plays fast on the field and understands his run fits from the safety position. He has the ability to cover but he has had his hands full versus the Texans' tight ends. Starling is 6-0 and 206 lbs. and sometimes looks like former Texans' safety Glover Quin when he is on the field. It may be the #29, but their playing styles are very similar.
- Runningback Dennis Johnson always displays something new on the field. Today he showed patience to wait for the zone blocking to develop, then he hit the second gear in an instant to get into the secondary. His feet move so fast when he is in tight spots on the field and somehow he always gets out of the piles untouched. He fits the mold of a nice change of pace back for the Texans and his play making ability has been impressive to watch.
- The positive talk surrounding nose tackle and new starter Earl Mitchell is for the most part the truth. Mitchell has turned himself into a technician and he is always going against one of the best in center Chris Myers. Mitchell has one thing that Shaun Cody could not bring to the field, speed and quickness. Built similar to Cody at 6-3 and 301 lbs., the former college fullback in Mitchell can turn and run well from the interior. He plays solid with his hands to keep offensive lineman off of him but his footwork is what sets him as the starter.
- Quarterback Stephen McGee is an interesting player for the Texans. He throws a good football but he is behind the rest of the quarterbacks trying to learn the system. McGee throws a tight spiral and is very athletic for a quarterback, and he has made some solid throws on occasions. It will be good to see what McGee can do when he gets the offense down because he has all the skills to be a good piece to the team. He has some game experience for the Cowboys so there is something there for the 27-year-old to prove.
- Cornerback Brice McCain sat out today's practice, resting his foot he injured last season. It seems like he is still not 100% and after a full day of practice on Wednesday, there was a day off in order for McCain. There is still plenty of time for McCain to get 100% for training camp but expect the Texans not to push him too fast to come back.
- The idea of Deji Karim in camp should be a telling sign on how the Texans view their three rookie running backs in training camp. Karim gives a veteran presence that can play every special teams unit's coverage team and also help in returning kicks. Karim will be in a good position battle with rookies Dennis Johnson, Ray Graham and Cierre Wood.
- Ben Tate has really looked good since Arian Foster has gone down with his calf injury. Tate looks like his 2011 version with his fast running style, but most importantly making defenders miss in the open field. Tate will be under a microscope this season being his contract year and after a disappointing 2012 season that was rumored to be centered around being in the dog house of the offensive staff. Tate has all the ability to help the Texans but the real question is which Tate will be there when the season starts.
- We talked about Garrett Graham yesterday and today once again was a go to target for the offense. He catches the ball so good and gives the offense another threat in the middle to go along with Owen Daniels. He has some of the best hands on the team and today on a crossing route without breaking stride he caught a pass from Schaub with a defender draped over him. Graham does a good job with his body to keep defenders off of him and give his quarterbacks a good target to throw too.