HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610) -- For the fifth straight practice, the Houston Texans took their talents outdoors, once again in pads for a spirited Sunday morning of rehearsal football.
We are officially at the halfway point of the 14 allotted practices that the owners and players agreed to in this COVID-altered preseason, so the season openers is not imminent, but you can see it on the horizon.
Kind of like driving to Vegas from Los Angeles, where you can start to see the bright lights rising over the desert. Same exact thing!
So let's get to it, here is my report from Practice No. 7 on Sunday morning:
1. ATTENDANCE REPORT -- J.J. Watt was back! Oh, and he was in pads! Oh, and he was moving quite nimbly through stretching exercises, and was cheerfully chatting up his teammates and his head coach.... and then, he went and worked out off to the side.
Look, I have my doubts that we are going to see Watt do anything football-related until Sept. 10. It shouldn't be a concern, he is fine physically. It's just in this wonky offseason, this is the safest plan to ensure his health.
2. For the record, Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, and Gareon Conley were all suited up, as well, with only Fuller leaving practice to work out on the side field.
Conley and Cooks were full participants. In fact, let's stick with that...
3. We haven't seen Brandin Cooks do much in practice thus far, other than individual wide receiver drills for the first 20 minutes each day. Sunday marked the first padded practice where he's participated in 11-on-11, and man, if this is the Cooks the Texans are getting for 2020, it's going to be a pretty exciting season watching what Fuller and Cooks can do to pressure a defense.
In an early 7-on-7 drill, Cooks beat Vernon Hargreaves on a crossing route, and then went up over Bradley Roby on virtually the same route to make a phenomenal contested catch. Impressive for a smaller guy.
4. Cool moment during 11-on-11 -- rookie Isaiah Coulter ran a go route down the right sideline and was blanketed by CB Anthony Chesley. The pass fell incomplete, and Coulter really was never in position to make a play.
Cooks called him over, and went through a two-minute coaching session with Coulter on what looked like little tricks to free himself up or draw a penalty. Cool moment.
I always respect veterans coaching rookies who are there, ostensibly, to take their job in a couple years. You can see why Bill O'Brien and Jack Easterby are so fond of Cooks.
5. Zach Cunningham is on the verge of getting a big contract. Bill O'Brien loves him. We know these things.
However, if there were one area where Texans fans would like to see improvement from Cunningham, it would be in pass coverage. There were a couple encouraging plays on that front today.
Cunningham had a PBU covering David Johnson in a 3-on-3 type drill (three pass catchers versus three cover defenders), and he had another one later in practice, in a similar drill, against Jordan Akins.
6. Speaking of Akins, he might be having the best camp of anybody on the offensive side of the ball (not named Watson).
Whether it's tight end screens or patterns down the seam -- he had an amazing snag of a ball Deshaun threw a little high in situational drills at the end of practice -- Akins appears to be poised to make that Year 2 to Year 3 jump.
7. Kenny Stills was doing his first work in situational drills, and was doing a nice job of finding soft spots in the defense in the two minute offense.
There was one play where he zigged and Deshaun expected him to zag (ball fell incomplete), probably a sign of rust between the two.
8. There was a moment in practice O'Brien stopped a drill where ball carriers run directly at a tackler and have to make the tackler miss.
O'Brien was having a coaching moment with the tacklers on technique, and then the first rep after resumption of the drill, poor Jonathan Owens (a safety on the bubble to make the team) had to go against Duke Johnson. Very unfair!
9. Kahale Warring was out there for the full practice, getting plenty of reps with A.J. McCarron's offensive unit.
In a 3-on-3 blocking drill, there were several ... let's just call them "teaching moments" going on with Warring and the staff. He still appears to be a ways off from threatening the top three guys on the TE depth chart (Fells, Akins, Thomas).
10. O'Brien has said repeatedly that, in this strange season, the things that will lose you games more than ever early in the season will be silly mistakes -- penalties, turnovers, mental errors.
If that were the case, the situational offense as a whole would not have been winning a football game on Sunday.
Several false starts, including one from Nick Martin on what would have been the final play of a game, with the clock running, and the Texans inside the opposing five-yard line. It was sloppy at times on Sunday.
11. Lonnie Johnson had the lone interception in 11-on-11, on about a 25-yard, "last play of the game" desperation toss from Deshaun Watson to a double covered Stevie Mitchell in the back corner of the end zone. Hargreaves tipped the ball, and Johnson secured it.
Next practice is Monday morning, as the season is less than three weeks away! We got you covered here on SportsRadio 610 and SportsRadio610.com.