HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- If there are a half-dozen or so figurative “Christmas mornings” on the sports calendar, days where you anticipate them for weeks leading up to them and then the anticipation explodes into joy when it arrives, the first day of training camp’s padded practices is one of those days.
And this year, certainly more than any other in my time covering the Houston Texans, it just felt different. Friday was a speedball of joy, relief, and anxiety — joy of where we are, relief from where we were, and anxiety over where this is all going.
Let’s start there with my quick hit observations on this historic training camp, a camp at which I am fortunate enough to be one of just 10 media members allowed to attend:
1. Everything being done over at NRG Stadium is being done with the dark cloud of COVID-19 hovering over us. For us, as media members, we are tested EVERY day for the coronavirus, and we wear sensors around our neck to ping us when we aren’t social distancing properly.
For players, it means makeshift locker rooms, no community water jugs, frequently swapped out footballs, and lots of prayer that we make it to Week 1, much less Week 17. It’s super strange, man.
2. From a football standpoint — and let me preface every football thought in the post with “I get it, it’s one practice!” — I’m gonna go ahead and say it… running back David Johnson LOOKS THE PART!
Physically, he is a specimen, and on Friday there was a fluidity to his movement and an ease in catching the football that were all part of the advertised David Johnson package (assuming the ads ran in 2017).
It’s been three seasons since we saw peak David Johnson, and Bill O’Brien is counting on his return to make this offense run at maximum efficiency, and make the DeAndre Hopkins trade justified.
3. Here are the list of players that Seth Payne and I listed as guys whose body types would intrigue us on Day One of practices (along with my observations):
* Jordan Thomas - was fat in camp in 2019, but looked much slimmer and made some nice plays in drills and 11-on-11
* Nick Martin - he stole gym equipment from the stadium during COVID so he could stay in shape, so I expected washboard abs. Unfortunately, he was wearing a t-shirt under his cut-off jersey, so I guess it’s TBD.
* J.J. Watt - Anthony Weaver said last week that J.J. looks huge. I can confirm. He looks huge.
* P.J. Hall - the newest Texan, was overweight for the Raiders, was not suited up on Friday, so also TBD.
4. By the way, Watt was suited up in pads and uniform, but did very little at practice. He’s fully healthy, they’re just taking it easy on his 31-year-old body.
5. Jack Easterby essentially serves the same function that Rick Smith used to at practice back in the day — big picture guy who works closely with the head coach in constructing the roster.
Smith used to lay back by himself at the far end of the field and silently observe. Easterby is the exact opposite. He is bouncing around from group to group, clapping, back slapping, and basically running for office.
I’m not saying one is right or wrong, but it’s certainly reflective of Easterby’s personality and the tour de force he’s become behind the scenes with this franchise.
6. For what it’s worth, there is nobody wearing DeAndre Hopkins’ old number 10 jersey number in this camp. We will see how long that goes.
7. Will Fuller was practicing and looking healthy. I’m not sure what this says, but he is easily the biggest of the three top WR’s for this team, noticeably taller than both Brandin Cooks and Randal Cobb. This is not a physically imposing wide receivers group.
8. Romeo Crennel appears to still be very involved in the overall operation, despite being moved into a more consultative style role with Anthony Weaver being promoted to defensive coordinator. This makes some sense, after O’Brien revealed on Friday that, if he were to have to be quarantined with COVID-19, Crennel would be the logical person to temporarily replace him.
9. Plays that got the biggest oooh’s and ahhh’s on Friday:
- Carlos Watkins tackle for loss where he beat two blockers and decimated a running play to the right
- Jordan Thomas catch-and-run in 11-on-11 late in the practice
- Stevie Mitchell beating Gareon Conley on a short crossing route and taking it to the house
- Back at it on Saturday morning. Talk to all of you then!